I’m a trans man in a country where self-ID is a reality. The sky hasn’t fallen in

On the left is a picture of Ruadhán Ó Críodáin, a trans man, wearing a cap and a white t-shirt outdoors in a sunny location. On the right, Ruadhán is pictured outside a Dublin restaurant holding his Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) application.

One day in December, Ruadhán Ó Críodáin applied for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) over noodles in a Dublin restaurant. Eight days later, it arrived.

That’s because in Ireland trans people can self-declare their own gender under the Gender Recognition Act 2015. There’s no need for a medical diagnosis or doctor’s reports, nor is there a panel of experts who get to decide if you are who you say you are.

Instead, trans people simply fill out a form, have it witnessed by a solicitor or another official, send it to the government, and wait to receive their GRC in the post.

“It was pretty simple for me,” Ruadhán tells PinkNews. “I was very fortunate in that I have a friend who works as a solicitor who was willing to come and witness it for me, for free. She witnessed and signed the document, but also – helpfully – walked me through it so I knew exactly what to fill out and where, and so that I understood everything on the form.” 

Self-ID, as it’s often known, has been a quiet, everyday reality for trans people in Ireland for more than seven years. And as Ruadhán points out, “the sky hasn’t fallen in”.

None of the baseless fearmongering pushed by those who describe themselves as “gender critical” has come to pass. Instead, all self-ID has done is make the legal system a little bit more compassionate.

You may like to watch

Ruadhán Ó Críodáin, executive director of ShoutOut, an Irish LGBTQ+ charity. He is pictured wearing a green shirt and a black t-shirt with a gold chain around his neck. he is standing against a dark red background.
Ruadhán Ó Críodáin, executive director of ShoutOut, an Irish LGBTQ+ charity. (Supplied)

Living in a country with a simplified gender recognition process means “nothing and everything all at once” to Ruadhán. The whole thing was “a bit of an afterthought” to him when compared to the more complicated aspects of transitioning, such as coming out and navigating Ireland’s “mess” of a healthcare system.

But it’s also true that having self-ID was exactly the reason getting a GRC wasn’t much of a concern – he knew it would be straightforward.

“It was pretty emotional when the certificate came in the post. It felt like a huge relief,” he says.

“I’m really grateful to live in a country where it is so easy, and I know it’s all thanks to the long, lonely battle of Dr Lydia Foy [a trans woman who fought for 20 years for the legislation] and her fellow activists.

“We’d be tempted to pat ourselves on the back for that here in Ireland but Dr Foy fought 23 years for this legislation. Every trans person here who gets a GRC only has one thanks to her.”

UK gender recognition process is ‘paternalistic and unfair’

Still, Ruadhán knows how lucky he is when he looks at the UK, where anti-trans figures often baselessly claim introducing self-identification would put women and girls in danger.

The culture war reached a fever pitch in December when the Scottish government passed its own reforms to the Gender Recognition Act to ensure trans Scots could self-declare their own gender.

The UK government swiftly invoked Section 35 of the Scotland Act to stop the bill going for royal assent. Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to challenge the decision in court, and the row seems certain to fuel the devolution movement.

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon wears a blue jacket as she stands at a podium during a press conference
First minister Nicola Sturgeon vowed to fight back after the UK government decided to block Scotland’s gender reform bill from becoming law. (Getty)

Watching on from Ireland, Ruadhán can’t help but feel angry. 

“I’m devastated to see the UK government has decided to block it. It’s infuriating on a political level to see the UK government interfere with Scottish political autonomy for a bill which would affect such a tiny community, and to further fan the flames on this ridiculous debate,” he says.

Ruadhán adds: “The current process for getting a GRC in the UK is brutally paternalistic and unfair.

“Why should a panel of strangers decide if you deserve a GRC or not? Why make someone go through two years of social transition before being eligible? Why is a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or proof of surgery needed? 

“Trans people are the authorities in our own gender. We know who we are. Transition is already difficult enough without adding further barriers. And crucially, being trans isn’t an illness.”

Ruadhán Ó Críodáin with a giant "R" balloon in a bar.
Ruadhán Ó Críodáin with a giant “R” balloon. (Supplied)

Self-ID should be seen as a basic human right – Ruadhán just wishes all trans people were trusted to know who they are.

“I’m grateful for my GRC, and how easy it was to obtain, but I’m also entitled to it.

“No politician, no legislator, no change in public opinion, can take it away from me. This is who I am, and I shouldn’t be expected to live any other way.”

Please login or register to comment on this story.