Gender dysphoria diagnosis requirement is 'real barrier' to trans people

MSPs heard evidence on plans to reform gender recognition legislation at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

Gender dysphoria diagnosis requirement is ‘real barrier’ to trans people, MSPs hear iStock
MSPs heard evidence regarding the Gender Recognition Reform Bill at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

The requirement for trans people to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria is a “real barrier” to them seeking a gender recognition certificate, MSPs have heard.

At the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday, evidence was gathered over new legislation which will simplify the system through which people who are trans can gain legal recognition.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill will amend the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to enable changes to be made.

Obtaining a GRC means a trans person is legally recognised in their acquired gender and can obtain a new birth certificate showing that gender.

Holyrood’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee heard from Ellie Gomersall, the president-elect of NUS Scotland.

“I think that what we’re seeing around the world in international best practice is that there is no requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria,” she said.

“That doesn’t match the experiences of a lot of trans people and I think it’s really important that we acknowledge that actually that doesn’t necessarily fit into our experiences.

“But equally, that requiring that diagnosis is actually the reason why I’ve not sought a Gender Recognition certificate myself yet.”

Ms Gomersall explained that she has been waiting for several years for an initial appointment.

“I’ve been sitting on the waiting list for the gender identity clinic in Glasgow for just under four years now,” she told MSPs.

“I have no sight of when my initial appointment will be – that’s just an initial appointment, that doesn’t necessarily mean that anything will happen at that appointment.

“And I don’t have the money to be able to afford to go down that private healthcare route of getting doctors’ letters and things like that, and paying a significant cost.

“So, that can be a real barrier to trans people.”

Ms Gomersall also indicated that waiting periods for applicants to live in their acquired gender can cause “significant distress” to trans people.

Under the legislation being proposed, the waiting time will be reduced from two years to three months.

Gomersall said: “Those waiting periods cause significant distress and harm to trans people and having that requirement of gender dysphoria is essentially another huge waiting period, often of over four years because of that requirement to go down that medical route.

“I think the other thing of course as well is that the medicalisation of the process is again quite arbitrary.

“Not all trans people will have a desire to medically transition, and so that requirement to go down any sort of medicalised process, again it doesn’t fit in with our experiences.

“And it can cause stigma and can be a little bit dehumanising actually to require us to be diagnosed with a mental health condition, for instance, in order to obtain that certificate”.

Children and Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson also gave evidence to the committee.

And he agreed with plans to move away from pathological assessments in order for gender recognition certification.

“Internationally, there’s a clear move away from the pathologicalisation in terms of it being a mental disorder by world health organisations and other international health bodies,” he said.

“Allied with strong calls from international human rights bodies on the need for reform as well.”