Nicola Sturgeon pledges gender recognition law reform for trans people

SNP leader’s vow includes pledge to ensure Scotland legislates for non-binary gender recognition if party wins Holyrood election

Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to radically reform gender recognition law for trans people, including those of non-binary gender, if the SNP is re-elected in May.

Campaigners welcomed Sturgeon’s declaration at an LGBTI leaders’ hustings in the Scottish parliament on Thursday night that legislating for non-binary recognition would be as important in her next parliamentary term as equal marriage was to the last.

The commitment to change gender recognition law, which would make Scotland only the third country in Europe, after Malta and Denmark, to recognise people who identify as neither male nor female, has been the number one legislative priority for LGBTI equality groups at the Holyrood election.

Sturgeon’s vow to reform the devolved legislation to “bring it in line with international best practice” will allow transgender individuals to change their birth certificate and other official documents to recognise their gender status without having to appear before a tribunal of psychiatrists.

The reforms are also expected to offer legal recognition to younger transgender people, allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to change their birth certificate without requiring the permission of their parents.

James Morton, the manager of the Scottish Transgender Alliance, called on other parties to match the proposals. “We are very pleased to see the SNP pledge to reform gender recognition law for all trans people, in line with international best practice,” Morton said.

“That would mean enabling people to change the gender on their birth certificate without intrusive medical diagnosis, recognising trans people as the experts on their own identities. It would allow young people to legally change their gender, with parents’ support if under 16. It would also mean the law recognising that some people have a non-binary gender, that is, they are neither men nor women.”

Welcoming the proposals, Jenny Kermode, the chair of Transmedia Watch, said: “It’s very important that people are able to say ‘this is my gender’ without having to go through a panel of psychiatrists. It means that people are no longer pathologised.”

Kermode, who is based in Glasgow, noted that the Scottish government had already been swift in recognising transgender rights, for example through hate crime legislation that offers more protection than is given in the rest of the UK.

Kermode said Sturgeon’s pledge to train all police in the investigation of hate crime was also essential: “Although we’ve had the law, we’ve not necessarily had the police sensitivity or education in the past.”


Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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