LGBT+ and the law: what rights do trans people have?

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In 2018 and 2019, our Associates Academy and family law team took part in Transgender Awareness training with the Diversity Trust. The overall aim of the training is to help organisations improve the services they deliver to transgender people.

In this blog, we look at the current law regarding trans people and children, and family law Associate, Georgia Holmes, answers some questions about how this training has helped improve the service our family solicitors provide to the LGBT+ community.

What does ‘trans’ or ‘transgender’ mean?

The term ‘trans’ describes people whose gender is not the same as the sex on their original birth certificate. Trans people may describe themselves as transgender, non-binary, or gender queer, amongst a wide variety of other terms.

Transgender people identity as a different gender to the one they were given at birth. When a baby is born, their sex is recorded as either male or female. This is done so based on male or female physical characteristics. In some cases, babies are born with chromosomal or other physical differences, and they may be referred to as intersex.

Gender is different to sex. Gender is based on the behaviour, expectations and presentation typically associated with a person’s sex.

Gender identity is based on how an individual sees themselves. For example, someone whose sex is male might identify as a female.

Those who describe themselves as non-binary do not consider themselves to have a solely male or female gender identity.

The medical profession refer to people who experience a difference between their sex and gender as having ‘gender dysphoria’.

How did the Transgender Awareness training help improve your service as a family lawyer?

“It was very useful and enabled us to empathise with clients whose experiences are vastly different to our own. As society evolves, our client base does too, and it is important that we make an effort to educate ourselves.”

What issues are LGBT+ people currently facing when it comes to the legal system, if any?

“There are many issues, most of which I hadn’t even considered before the training. Largely, these revolve around discrimination and legal recognition. The Gender Recognition Act, which allows people who have gender dysphoria to change their legal gender, came into effect in 2004, and yet many transgender individuals still find that there is misinformation regarding their rights and a lack of legal recognition of non-binary identities.

There are also difficulties when it comes to interacting with social care authorities and schools, largely down to a lack of education or awareness.”

Can you change the gender on your birth certificate?

Yes. If you want to make your acquired gender legally recognised in the UK, you will need to apply to the Gender Recognition Panel for a Gender Recognition Certificate.

There are three different ways to get a certificate, depending on your situation. You can read more about this here, but in summary, to grant a Gender Recognition Certificate, you must satisfy the panel that you:

  • have/have had gender dysphoria;
  • have lived in your true gender for two years before making the application; and
  • intend to continue living in your true gender for the rest of your life.

What is the process if a transgender person/child wants to change their name?

A transgender person does not need a Gender Recognition Certificate to legally change their name. As long as the chosen name is not offensive or contains numbers, you can change your name at any point.

The process of changing the name of a child, whether transgender or not, is always a little more complicated to changing it as an adult.

A parent can change their child’s name, which enables them to get all of the child’s official documents and records (including the school register and their passport) changed to reflect their new name.

The name change documentation can also be modified so that it is gender neutral, for example, the terms ‘daughter’ or ‘son’ can be replaced with ‘child’.

Georgia has recently prepared a change of name deed for a 16-year-old child who was beginning their gender reassignment journey. “I would recommend to anyone under 16 seeking to change their name that they use their new name as a practice before committing to it. Although possible, changing a child’s name is complicated, and so as with any other legal decision, it is worth taking your time and not rushing the process.”

Further information

If you would like advice regarding changing your gender or name, our specialist family solicitors can advise you on the process and your options.

Our family lawyers can also advise on alternative family law, including surrogacy, donor conception, adoption and fostering for LGBT+ people, and Civil Partnerships and same sex marriage. Call us on 0117 325 2929 or fill out our online enquiry form.


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