Subscribe to Holyrood updates

Newsletter sign-up


Follow us

Scotland’s fortnightly political & current affairs magazine


Subscribe to Holyrood
by Staff reporter
24 July 2023
UK Labour rules out self-ID in revamped plan for gender reform

Anneliese Dodds

UK Labour rules out self-ID in revamped plan for gender reform

Labour’s shadow minister for women and equalities Anneliese Dodds has said self-ID no longer forms part of the UK party’s plans for gender reform, putting it at odds with Scottish Labour.

Writing in The Guardian newspaper, Dodds criticised the Scottish Government for taking a “cavalier approach” when pushing through its Gender Recognition Reform Act (GRR) last year, adding that if Labour wins the next general election “we will not make the same mistakes”.

“The requirement to obtain a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria remains an important part of accessing a gender recognition certificate,” she wrote.

“That’s especially the case now that gender dysphoria is no longer classified – and stigmatised – as a psychiatric disorder.

“It can help refer trans people into the NHS for support services – nearly a quarter of trans people don’t know how to access transition-related healthcare.

“Requiring a diagnosis upholds legitimacy of applications and confidence in the system.”

Dispensing with the need for a medical diagnosis of dysphoria so trans people could obtain a gender recognition certificate by self-identifying in their chosen gender was a key part of the Scottish Government reforms. The Scottish Labour party whipped its MSPs to vote in favour of the changes.

The UK party’s 2019 manifesto said that “Labour is committed to reforming the Gender Recognition Act 2004 to introduce self-declaration for transgender people” and its leader, Keir Starmer, has said on several occasions that he is in favour of self-ID.

Earlier this year Starmer distanced himself from the commitment, noting that the situation in Scotland – self-ID was a key issue for opponents of the bill and where the legislation has been blocked by the UK Government over fears it will interfere with the UK Equality Act – had made him “reflect” on Labour’s plans.

“I think that if we reflect on what’s happened in Scotland, the lesson I take from that is that if you’re going to make reforms, you have to carry the public with you,” he said.

“And I think that’s a very important message, and I think that’s why it’s clear that in Scotland there should be a reset of the situation.”

At the time, a party source told Sky News that “there are ways the gender recognition process can be improved but self-ID is not going to happen under a Labour government”.

In her article, Dodds wrote that the process of obtaining a dysphoria diagnosis needs to be improved but that it should remain medicalised.

“The current process also requires a panel of anonymous doctors to decide something of momentous significance, based on reams of intrusive medical paperwork and evidence of any surgery,” she said.

“This is demeaning for trans people and meaningless in practice. A diagnosis provided by one doctor, with a registrar instead of a panel, should be enough.”

Scottish Labour Social Justice spokesperson Paul O’Kane told The Herald newspaper that the Anas Sarwar-led party remains committed to self-ID.

"Labour is committed to modernising and reforming the outdated and intrusive Gender Recognition Act, as well as ensuring exemptions in the Equality Act are upheld,” he said.

“Scottish Labour continues to support the de-medicalisation of the process in Scotland.”

The Scottish Greens, who made pursuing the GRR a condition of signing the Bute House Agreement that brought them into government with the SNP, said that "trans rights must not be discarded as part of Keir Starmer’s campaign to get into Downing Street".

Green equalities spokesperson Maggie Chapman said that Dodds had shown "a total lack of understanding about what has happened in Scotland" and that wht she is proposing "would go against the fundamental principles of self-identification".

"Trans rights are human rights. Yet, over recent years in particular, we have seen some of the most vicious and disgraceful disinformation and smears used against our trans siblings," she said.

"This is a time for pro-equality MPs and MSPs from all parties to speak out and stand up for what is right. Instead, Labour is threatening to U-turn on basic equality legislation that is already used around the world.”

Holyrood Newsletters

Holyrood provides comprehensive coverage of Scottish politics, offering award-winning reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Staff reporter - Digital Health and Care Awards celebrate Scottish technology expertise.

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox

Get award-winning journalism delivered straight to your inbox


Popular reads
Back to top