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Scotland and Spain Move to Simplify Legal Gender Changes

​Trans rights demonstration
Aldara Zarraoa for Shutterstock

Trans rights demonstration in Madrid. Spain and Scotland will simplify legal gender changes moving forward.

The legislation in both countries, awaiting final approval, will remove medical requirements and ease the process in other ways.

Scotland and Spain have both advanced legislation making it easier for transgender people to legally change their gender.

Both bills require further steps before they become law. Scotland, as part of the United Kingdom, needs royal assent for its bill, while Spain’s legislation has been passed by one house of its Parliament but needs the approval of another, something that is expected.

Scotland’s Parliament voted 86-39 Thursday to ease the process of obtaining what’s called a gender recognition certificate, the BBC reports. It will lower the age for application from 18 to 16 and will require applicants “to have lived in their acquired gender for three months — or six months if they are aged 16 and 17 — rather than two years,” according to the BBC. Also, applicants will no longer need to have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Scotland is the first nation in the U.K. to make a legal gender change easier. However, the U.K. government has expressed reservations about the legislation and may try to block royal assent or even file a legal challenge. But a spokesman for Scotland’s government said that “any attempt by the U.K. government to undermine the democratic will of the Scottish Parliament will be vigorously contested,” the BBC reports.

Some opponents of the legislation claimed it could allow predatory men to pretend to be trans and invade women’s spaces. However, Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said, “Trans rights are not in competition with women’s rights, and as so often before, we can improve things for everyone when those discriminated against act as allies, not opponents,” according to the BBC.

If the bill is not blocked, it will become law sometime next year.

Under Spain’s bill, anyone 16 or older will be able to change the gender on their legal identification documents by simply declaring their gender, the Associated Press reports. Previously, they had to have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria by several doctors, and “in some cases, they also needed proof they had been living for two years as the gender they identified with — or even records showing they had taken hormones,” the news service notes.

The legislation will also allow 12- and 13-year-olds to change their gender with the permission of their parents or guardians and a court, and 14- and 15-year-olds with parents’ or guardians’ permission only, according to Agence France-Presse. It will further ban conversion therapy, promote LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination policies, and call for improving the situation of trans women, who tend to be the most marginalized people in the nation.

The lower house of Spain’s Parliament approved the bill Thursday, and the upper house — the Senate — is expected to approve it soon, after which it will become law.

Like the Scottish legislation, the Spanish bill attracted some opposition. “The state has to provide answers for transgender people, but gender is neither voluntary nor optional,” said Carmen Calvo, a member of Parliament and former deputy prime minister, according to several media outlets.

But Irene Montero, the government’s equality minister, said that “trans women are women” and that opponents are acting out of transphobia. As in Scotland, some of the opponents expressed concern about women’s spaces, but Montero said “the feminist majority” supported the measure, AFP reports.

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Trudy Ring