How Scotland has been encouraging England to improve transgender equality

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​James Morton believes Scotland's progress with transgender rights is a model for the rest of the UK 

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26th July 2017 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

When people talk about transgender equality, they often use three very similar sounding words: gender identity, gender reassignment and gender recognition. These actually mean distinct things.

Gender identity is your deeply felt internal and individual experience of gender, which may or may not correspond with the gender you were labelled at birth.

Trans women self-identify strongly as women despite being labelled male at birth. Trans men self-identify strongly as men despite being labelled female at birth.

Non-binary trans people self-identify strongly as neither solely women nor men, instead their gender identity is more complex and falls outside of those two binary boxes.

Gender reassignment means the personal process of transitioning away from the gender you were labelled at birth - everything from first coming out as trans to other people, to decisions about whether to take hormones or to have any surgeries, to decisions about whether to change your name and pronouns.

Anyone who proposes to make any of these kinds of changes has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment under the Equality Act 2010.

Gender recognition is the very specific narrow issue of how your government records your gender identity on your official documents, particularly your birth certificate.

Over the last 10 years, Scotland has been positively influencing England across many transgender equality issues: 

In 2009 Scotland was the first part of the UK to extend hate crime laws to cover transphobic hate crime and this helped push the UK government to do likewise in 2012.

The Scottish hate crime law was also the first piece of legislation in the UK to specifically acknowledge and include non-binary gender identities and therefore has helped increase visibility of non-binary people’s existence.

In 2012 NHS Scotland was the first health service in Europe to create a Gender Reassignment Services Protocol providing access to hormones and surgeries in line with the latest evidence-based international guidelines from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

NHS England has been using the NHS Scotland Protocol since 2013 while it works on developing its own protocol (expected to be completed later this year).

Gender recognition is the very specific narrow issue of how your government records your gender identity on official documents

The trans-inclusive policies and practices of Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and also the Scottish Prison Service, have been leading the way for English single-sex services.

The Equal Recognition Campaign to make it easier for transgender people to change the gender on their birth certificates resulted in the Scottish Government committing to reform the Gender Recognition Act in line with international best practice. 

This has helped encourage the UK government to announce last weekend that it too will consult on reform of gender recognition law. 

We hope that the advanced stage of discussion about allowing non-binary gender recognition in Scotland will help inform and encourage similar discussion in England. 

While there’s still a lot further to go, a key reason for the quicker progress in Scotland is the long-term close partnership working of the Scottish voluntary sector.

SCVO members can be rightfully proud of their roles in advancing transgender equality and the positive influence this has on progress in England.

James Morton represents the Scottish Trans Alliance 

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