Gender recognition is about love and respect, not prisons and bathrooms

Illustration of a person wearing a hoody holding their partner, whose legs are wrapped around them

On a visit to the Scottish parliament with their partner, Samuel Harvey, ambassador for LGBTQ+ young people’s charity Just Like Us, was struck by just how wrong politicians have got gender recognition.

Standing in the vast debating chamber in the Scottish Parliament building, you get the sense that this is the place where things happen. Changes are made here that affect millions of people, ideas and views are put forward, democracy is in progress.

I was in Edinburgh with my partner to celebrate our second anniversary as a couple, and we wanted to make a point of visiting this building, and in particular this room. Recent events mean it has suddenly become a place of very special significance to the both of us.

This was the spot where a landmark piece of LGBT!+ legislation was passed: the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, which aimed to make it easier for transgender people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). My partner is non-binary, and though this bill didn’t specifically address their needs, it represented a step forward for the rights of all LGBTQ+ people.

If you’re asking what even is a GRC – well first of all, it isn’t a free ticket into the women’s loos, as anti-trans voices would have you believe.

A GRC basically allows a person to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, and be recognised properly in civil partnerships, marriage and death. That’s it.

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The effects of a GRC are so simple and inconsequential to anyone besides the person it belongs to that it’s confusing that such a fuss is being made.

A picture of Samuel Harvey.
GRCs are incredibly inconsequential and simple in the grand scheme of things. (Just Like Us)

As I stood there in parliament with my partner on the day of our anniversary, it made me think: when the time comes for me (or them) to get down on one knee, and when we eventually get around to planning and throwing a wedding, and when I finally get to say “I do”, do I want to sign my name on a marriage certificate that doesn’t record my partner as their authentic self on their own wedding day?

They will be forced to sign a false, hollow document because of some outdated law surrounding gender markers.

And that, in reality, is what the GRR bill represents. Not bathrooms, or prisons, or sports, but love and legitimacy. It means allowing the trans community the dignity to live their lives as their authentic selves – to travel, to marry, to be grieved, and to be remembered as they truly are.

When the bill was blocked by Westminster, it was a heavy blow. But standing in Scottish Parliament, I tried to remember that the LGBTQ+ community has withstood blows like this before, and we will continue to do so.

Societal change isn’t brought about solely by politicians passing bills, but by collective community action. Change happens when we band together in support, and attempt to heal divides within the community. We all have a part to play in remaining visible and vocal, whether that looks like writing to your MP, starting a petition, forming a local support group or volunteering, as I do with the LGBTQ+ young people’s charity Just Like Us. Progress only stops when we let it.

On our tour, we learned that Scotland’s Parliament was founded on four principles: openness, accountability, the sharing of power and equality. I think it’s time that we shared that power and equality with trans people, too.