NATIONAL LGBT organisations in Scotland have welcomed the publication of the Scottish Government’s gender recognition reforms.

Scottish Trans, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland, Stonewall Scotland, and LGBT Health and Wellbeing all said the bill’s proposed reforms will be greatly beneficial to trans people in Scotland.

The bill proposes reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which since 2004 has enabled trans people to change the sex listed on their birth certificates.

However, some groups have said the current system is complicated and invasive.

Explained: The key facts about Scotland's Gender Recognition Act Bill

Many trans people, as well as equality and human rights organisations, have criticised the current procedure as being slow, outdated, and unfair, saying that it falls well below international best practice for legal gender recognition.

But some campaigners have also raised concerns about how the new law will impact on women's rights. They have voiced fearss that the proposals could erode women's sex-based rights, including access to women-only spaces and services.

And the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) previously urged the Government to halt the reforms for further consideration.

The Scottish Government has said, however, that the move will not weaken women's rights.

And the EHRC was hit by a backlash from politicians and LGBT groups, with the Equality Network accusing it of being a "UK Government appointee" which is "failing to stand up for equality for trans people".

Four out of five of the main political parties in Holyrood are backing reforms.

When the UK first introduced the GRA in 2004, it was a world-leading piece of legislation, the organisations say.

But in the past two decades, they say many countries and territories around the world have significantly improved their laws, with nine states in Europe alone ahead of Scotland in this area.

The Scottish Government has previously run two public consultations on how the GRA should be reformed.

In both of these consultations, the majority of respondents in Scotland supported the proposed reform to simplify the process and to move to a system of statutory self-declaration.

The Scottish Government’s bill proposes to make the following key changes:

• Move to a system where a trans person makes a formal legal statutory declaration confirming the sex in which they have been living for at least 3 months and their intention to continue to do so for the rest of their life, rather than having to wait until two years after they have permanently transitioned to apply.

• Introduce a three-month "reflection" period before a gender recognition certificate would be issued - meaning a trans person will have had to live in that sex for over 6 months before being able to change their birth certificate.

• Remove the current requirement to provide a psychiatric report containing intrusive details such as what toys trans people played with as children, their sexual relationships, and how distressed they were before transitioning.

• Remove the current requirement to provide a medical report describing any hormonal or surgical treatment they are planning or have undergone, or confirming they do not intend to undergo such treatment.

• Allow 16 and 17-year-olds to apply for a gender recognition certificate.

The LGBT groups say these are very important reforms.

They say current requirements stigmatise trans people by linking legal recognition of who they are to a psychiatric report, and deny them their right to privacy over personal choices they have made about medical treatments.

Trans people can already change their name and sex on identity documents such as passports and driving licences, and can access a wide range of single-sex services and spaces without a gender recognition certificate. The groups say the reform will not affect this.

In their manifestos for the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, the SNPLabourGreens, and LibDems all committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act. This means 97 MSPs (75% of the total 129 MSPs) were elected on commitments to pass reforms.

Scottish Trans, Equality Network, LGBT Youth Scotland, Stonewall Scotland, and LGBT Health and Wellbeing are calling for the debate on this bill to be conducted respectfully and without personal abuse.

Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans Alliance manager, said: “We welcome the proposals in this bill, that would see a massive improvement in how trans men and trans women in Scotland are able to be legally recognised as who they are.

"The current process is difficult, stressful and expensive, and it reinforces harmful stereotypes about trans people: that who we are is a mental illness, and that our choices about our bodies are not our own to choose to share with others. While the proposals fall far short of a law that would enable all trans people in Scotland to be legally recognised as who we are, this important step forward is one that we hope that all MSPs across the Chamber can support.”

Sarah, a 66-year-old trans woman from Aberdeenshire, said: “These changes would mean so much to me. I am a woman. It’s who I am, to my core. It’s how I’ve lived most of my adult life, how I am seen by friends, and how I have been loved.

"To know for so many years that that has not been, and could not be, recognised, has been painful. I hope that these reforms will pass, so that who I really am, and not who I might have been, can finally be legally recognised.”

Tim Hopkins, Equality Network director, said: “We are united in calling for respectful debate. Social media is now often a horrible place for trans people, because of the unrelenting abuse. Many others, including MSPs, and in particular women and those on both sides of this debate, experience that abuse too. We should all speak out about the unacceptability of personalised abuse or threats in political debate in Scotland.”

READ MORE: Scots support gender reform but reject some proposals – the polling results in depth

Colin Macfarlane, Stonewall Scotland and Northern Ireland director, said: “It has been six years since the Scottish Government pledged to make this reform.

"In that time we have had two major public consultations, endless discussion about trans people rather than with trans people about their lives along with daily misinformation about what these proposals will actually do.

"Recent polling suggests a majority of Scots are in favour of the proposed changes. It is now time to get on with the process of legislative scrutiny, which should be done in a respectful way based on evidence and fact.

"We look forward to working with MSPs across all parties to ensure the bill passes so that trans people can be free to be themselves.”