Government to begin research into how to provide gender recognition for transgender children under 16

Research follows on from review of Gender Recognition Act 2015

The Government is to begin research into how gender recognition should be provided for transgender children under the age of 16.

The 2015 Gender Recognition Act allowed adult trans people to self-declare their own gender identity and be legally recognised. A more onerous process was introduced for 16- and 17-years-olds which requires parental consent.

Following a review of the Act in 2018, it was recommended that mechanisms be put in place to address trans children aged under 16. The programme for government in 2020 committed to researching the issue.

The Departments of Children and Social Protection have now asked for applicants to carry out research into how other countries have approached the issue. This will result in a research document that will inform future legislation and procedures. The departments are expected to spend about €40,000 on the research, which is expected to take about seven months.

“The departments now wish to examine and learn from other countries that have enacted legislation, supported and engaged with gender recognition for under-16s,” a tender request document states. The research, it said, will also “provide practical advice on establishing mechanisms to recognise the preferred gender of children aged under 16 in Ireland”.

The topics to be examined include the appropriate legal process for recognising the gender of under-16s and if it should involve the use of family courts, tribunals or panels of experts. The research will also examine what representation and support is provided to children in other countries who go through the application process.

The Government wants to determine the consequences of “providing and of not providing recognition of children who are under 16 years old”. It also wants information on the role of parental consent in other countries and the extent of third-party involvement, such as medical or psychological experts. The research will also outline procedures in other countries for reversing legal recognition of a child’s gender.

The final report will be written in plain English “to ensure accessibility to a wide audience”, it said.

During the review of the 2015 Act, a public consultation was carried out and 54 submissions were received on the issue of gender recognition for under-16s. “The majority of submissions were broadly supportive of extending provision for gender recognition to children under 16 years,” the request for tender states.

The review recommended “a system of gender recognition should be introduced for children of any age” where there is parental consent. There should also be a legal process for cases where parents do not give consent or if it is not possible or safe to seek parental consent. It said it should be possible to complete the process by applying to the Department of Social Protection, without going to court or seeking medical reports or diagnoses.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times