Church of Scotland backs removal of dysphoria diagnosis as part of gender law reform

The Church of Scotland has backed government plans to discontinue mandatory physiological assessments for trans people looking to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). 

However, the church has not shown equal support for measures that would lower the minimum age for a certificate to be obtained from 18-years-old to 16-years-old.

The Church of Scotland today (Monday 6 June) gave evidence to the Scottish parliament’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee regarding government plans to reduce barriers for trans people looking to obtain a GRC.

A GRC is needed for trans men and women in the UK to amend their birth certificate and change their legal sex and is done so through the Gender Recognition Act (GRA). Non-binary people are still unable to change their sex on their birth certificate.  

To obtain a GRC trans people must first get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria which can take years due to the painfully-long waiting times at NHS gender clinics. However, drafted legislation from the SNP proposes that trans people in Scotland should no longer have to receive this diagnosis before receiving their GRC and having their identity legally acknowledged. This move comes as part of the country’s ongoing discussions around reforming its gender recognition laws

Church of Scotland representative David Bradwell said religious leaders are “convinced of the evidence that the removal of the medical diagnosis is needed”, according to The Herald Scotland

“In the light of the past 18 years of experience, we think it is right that Scotland should consider a new approach to the process, one which puts greater emphasis on the pastoral and emotional needs of the person applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate,” Bradwell said. 

He also noted that removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria will “reduce stress and have psychological benefit for individuals applying”.

“The current long waiting times at NHS gender identity clinics means waiting for a diagnosis can prolong the period that someone has to wait for an outcome.”

While the church seemed in favour of ending the current requirement for a dysphoria diagnosis, Bradwell suggested that leaders were split when it comes to lowering the minimum age of receiving a gender recognition certificate to 16.

“There will be many in the church who would feel that application for a gender recognition certificate is similarly serious and a level of maturity is expected, and that in our society it is commonly understood that reaching the age of 18 years is the point at which people become responsible for decisions,” he said. 

“However, there are other members of the church who would see the issue as one of prioritising the reduction of harm, and the risks for a trans 16 or 17 year old denied eligibility on the basis of their age could result in mental ill health, increasing the risk of loneliness, self-harm and suicide.”

Bradwell concluded by inviting the committee to “carefully consider these arguments” as it continues to gather evidence on the potential reforms.