The United Kingdom has various laws to protect and support people who wish to change their gender identity.
Gender Recognition Act
At present, the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 (found here) allows people to gain full recognition of their acquired gender. This legal recognition enables people to obtain a new birth certificate that shows their acquired gender enabling them to adopt almost all of the legal rights which are afforded to that sex, including equal marriage rights. However, the law continues to allow sports organisations to exclude transsexual people from certain sporting competitions if they have evidence that the participation of that person would put other competitors at risk or impact on the principles of fair competition.
A birth certificate which is issued in response to a Gender Recognition Certificate should be completely indistinguishable from an original birth certificate in style. The holder’s original birth certificate will continue to exist, but will only be able to be accessed by certain authorised agencies. The general public will have no access to the original copy of the birth certificate which was assigned at birth.
In order for a Gender Recognition Certificate to be issued, a person must present evidence to the Gender Recognition Panel. This panel can refuse to issue a certificate if they feel that the required criteria have not been adequately met.
The applicant must be at least 18 years old when the application is submitted. A person must have transitioned at least two years prior to their application for recognition. Gender Reconstruction Surgery is not a requirement of a Gender Recognition Certificate. There is a fee of £140 for every application. Support for this payment is available for some people who are on a lower income.
If a person is married at the time of the application, they may only be able to apply for an Interim Gender Recognition Certificate, unless their partner signs a statutory declaration to say that they are happy to remain married to the person who is transitioning. If both partners do not agree to sign the declaration or if they do not wish to continue with the marriage after the person transitions, then the Interim Gender Recognition Certificate may be used as grounds for an annulment. If this route is used, a full Gender Recognition Certificate can be issued after the annulment has been granted. These provisions have been widely criticised within the trans community, as they are felt to give spouses an unfair level of power over the process. These provisions, which are known as the “spousal veto” can result in a lengthy delay in gaining formal gender recognition.
In order to support an application for gender recognition, a trans person must provide proof that they have been living as their acquired gender for at least two years. Applicants are expected to produce a passport, driving license, payslips and utility bills which show their acquired name and gender, and which span a period of at least two years. In addition to this, the applicant must provide two medical reports (one from a GP and one from a registered gender specialist) giving details of their Gender Dysphoria. These should include information about any treatments that the applicant has had. There are slightly relaxed requirements for those who have already received gender recognition overseas.
In 2017, the government announced its intentions to review the Gender Recognition Act to evaluate whether it might be possible to improve the process for trans people.
Since 2002, the government has clarified that transsexuallism will no longer be classified as a mental illness. However, people who are suffering from Gender Dysphoria may receive mental health care treatment from the National Health Service. This treatment is primarily designed to help people to deal with the stress, anxiety and depression which may be caused by a patient’s personal gender identity concerns.
The Equality Act of 2010 lists gender reassignment as one of its protected characteristics. This means that people must not be discriminated against based in physiological reassignment of attributes of their sex. This covers people who have undergone, plan to undergo or are presently undergoing some sort of reassignment. It has been proposed that the definition be expanded to cover all transgender people, regardless of how they choose to express their gender identity.