Transgender people exist no matter what their legal documents may say about them. We talk to our friends and sometimes our family about our experiences, and we go about our day-to-day in the world. We go to schools, we fall in love, we get jobs, we go on holidays, and go out to nightclubs.
Though, our lives would be so much better if our ID caught up.
Yet trans people continue to be used as political weapons by the government – especially when it comes to official gender recognition. In January, the Tories blocked Scotland’s progressive and potentially lifechanging Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which would, among other things, allow for 16 to 18-year-olds to legally change their gender.
In December 2022, the Scottish Parliament passed several amended changes to the current law to make it easier for transgender people to access gender recognition certificates, by 86 in favour and 36 against. However, it was blocked by the UK government in a first act of veto against the Scottish Parliament in January, 2023, essentially shelving the policy for now.
A gender recognition certificate is a piece of paper that helps those who identify as trans to change their legal ID such as a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport. Right now, in the UK, to get your hands on that certificate, you have to go through two severely intimidating steps.
First, you must wait for two years to go to talk to two “gender specialists” on the “Gender Recognition Panel” and then prove evidence of gender dysphoria (the feeling of existing in the wrong body) which must be diagnosed by a psychiatrist.
If the proposed changes to the bill were to be passed, several modifications would be made. These would involve eliminating the Gender Recognition Panel altogether, doing away with the obligation to provide proof of gender dysphoria, and reducing the waiting time for the application process from two years down to six to eight months. It would also allow for 16-year-olds to apply.
Critics argue 16 is too young to mess about with this “woke nonsense”. Of course it isn’t. No one suddenly wakes up one morning and decides that they are transgender. They go through years of self-reflection and discovery.
I have been looking into how to change my legal documents for years, and this is how far I get into the process every time: I type into Google “how to change my name and sex on my passport in England.” It ominously displays an extensive inventory of government advice and documents that must be submitted. I immediately close the website window. Admin is overwhelming when it’s against you.
Only recently am I properly starting to take on the process of changing my first name with the help of my mother continuously telling me to “just do it” over our afternoon tea. She’s got my back.
I’m aware not everyone is able to have that support system in place, with someone to encourage them to just start looking at how to change something.
It would be incredible to make the process of acquiring new gender marker ID more accessible to learn about, let alone apply for.
Obtaining a gender self-identification certificate can lead to several other important changes for transgender people: encouragement to change a legal name, changing a passport, and any other form of ID.
Importantly, in the UK it could pave the way for neutral identification, the famous X gender marker, to be legalised. It is currently not recognised on any government-issued ID documents including driver’s licenses, birth certificates, and passports.
Taking a page out of another country’s book, Canada: it already has all of these measures in place (self-identification, progressive trans policies, the X gender marker) and has recently seen universities introduce their own self-identification mechanisms in classes or on exam papers.
That is an example of government policy influencing everyday practices for the better of its people.
Do not underestimate what a new ID, which looks like you, can make you feel like. It’s a moment of pride and ecstasy, sometimes tears of joy. Mental health would improve, we wouldn’t be stared at in passport control, we would feel recognised, seen and accepted. We would carry our ID around confidently and think: “if someone ever questions me, I have the proof, I belong here.”