If you want to legally change your gender in the UK, first you have to be diagnosed with a mental illness.
A transgender person needs a doctor to say they have gender dysphoria.
Only then can they be considered for a new birth certificate – which gives their true gender.
But all that might be about to change, because since July 2018, people have been able to have their say on whether these rules should be updated.
And these changes would make a huge difference to people like Rory Darling.
“I want the government to recognise me for my gender identity,” says the 19-year-old trans man.
“No-one should have to face such a dehumanising process just to be seen for who they truly are in the eyes of the law.”
A ‘gruelling and intrusive’ process
Rory is in the early stages of applying for a birth certificate (or Gender Recognition Certificate, as the government refers to it online) that recognises his transgender identity.
He needs to show medical evidence of treatment, that he’s lived for two years as his chosen gender – and had a gender dysphoria diagnosis.
The application is then considered by a panel who judge whether a transgender person should be given a new birth certificate.
Rory says it shouldn’t be down to a “panel who don’t know you, to decide if a person is trans enough to warrant legal recognition”.
“It’s severely outdated and the process itself is very gruelling and intrusive.”
‘Trans people should be treated with respect’
A statement from the government equalities office about the consultation says that “trans and non-binary people are members of our society and should be treated with respect”.
“This consultation simply asks how best Government might make the existing process under the Gender Recognition Act a better service for those trans and non-binary people who wish to use it.”
Rory believes that gender, like sexuality, is something people should be able to determine for themselves.
“It should be something where people can say: ‘This is what I am’, without having to justify themselves to people, without having people interrogate them to find out whether they are actually trans,” he says.
Rory, and campaigners for changes in the Gender Recognition Act, want a system similar to Ireland, where application for a new birth certificate is as simple as applying for a new passport.
But there is opposition to reforming the act, with anti-trans campaigners recently paying for a full-page advert in The Metro newspaper in an attempt to persuade people not to support proposed changes.
The advert claimed changes would pose “serious consequences to women and girls”.
‘Gaining equality doesn’t take equality away from anyone else’
Rory believes statements like these are “ridiculous” but worries it could sway the results of the public consultancy on reforming the Gender Recognition Act.
“A group of people gaining equality doesn’t take equality away from anyone else,” he says. “We just want equal human rights.”
“They seem to have misunderstood and misrepresented us as this very backward movement of people who want to erase women and homosexuality – when that’s really not the case at all.
“We just want to live normal lives.”
The Gender Recognition Act was introduced in 2004 and – says author Juno Dawson – was a “world-leading” piece of legislation at the time.
“It just needs modernising. It’s 14 years out of date now,” says Juno, who recently released her book Clean.
Her driving license, NHS records and passport all name her as Juno but the “dehumanising” process to get a new birth certificate means she hasn’t applied to the Gender Recognition Council – despite how important that final document would be.
“It would mean the world to me,” she says.
“It would be nice to just have it for me. Nobody else is interested in seeing my birth certificate, when was the last time anyone even got out their birth certificate?”
She says anti-trans campaigning around reforms to the Gender Recognition Act has confused the conversation.
“This really is just about applying for a birth certificate and nothing else.”
The British public can make their voice heard on potential reforms to the GRA until Friday 19 October 2018 and Rory hopes the LGBT community and its allies will show their support.
“Several decades ago it was gay people in the same situation,” he says.
“Now it’s our turn to be supported and we really just need as many allies as possible.”