New legislation to make it easier for teenagers to change gender

Review finds current requirements ‘too onerous’ for children aged 16 and 17

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty said the review had found that the current legislation is “too onerous” for children aged 16 and 17 years. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty said the review had found that the current legislation is “too onerous” for children aged 16 and 17 years. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

New legislation will make it easier for teenagers between the ages of 16 and 17 to change gender legally.

Currently 16- and 17-year-olds have to go to court and have their gender change certified by two medical practitioners.

Children at that age will now be able to self-declare if they wish to be recognised as a different gender provided they have the support of their parents.

If they do not, they will have recourse to third-party mediation on a voluntary basis. This will happen through the services of the family mediation service of the Legal Aid Board.

A review of the 2015 Gender Recognition Act was commissioned by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

It looked at the legal aspects of gender change alone and not the medical procedures involved.

The review concluded that no changes should be made to the arrangements for children aged under 16 years.

Arrangements for children under 16, the review states, are “more complex and will involve balancing the rights of children, the rights and responsibilities of their parents and the role of the State in protecting vulnerable children.

“Consideration would need to be given to a child’s capacity to make a decision of this nature and what third-party supports may be appropriate for such children and their families.”

‘Too onerous’

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty said the review had found that the current legislation is “too onerous” for children aged 16 and 17 years, as it involves a court process and certification by two medical practitioners.

She now plans to introduce new legislation to lessen the burden on teenagers who wish to change gender.

“The measures I am proposing today aim to reform this process to reflect the fact that the legal recognition of a person’s gender is separate and distinct from any question of medical intervention, and should be facilitated with parental consent and a simple revocation process,” she said.

Transgender Equality Network Ireland welcomed the publication of the review but said it was “deeply disappointed” that the Government did not take into account all the recommendations of a previous review in June 2018.

It also said that the failure to recognise non-binary individuals (people who do not identify as either male or female) “ delays the inclusion of legal gender recognition for what is an indeterminable time period”.

“This has the effect of denying the rights and facilitating the mis-gendering of persons whose gender does not conform to the gender binary and who wish to secure legal recognition of a change of gender,” it said.

“Families, schools and medical professionals across Ireland are already offering care to transgender and non-binary individuals, we need the Government to show the same commitment.”

Disappointment

Free Legal Advice Centres chief executive Eilis Barry also expressed disappointment that 16- to 17-year-olds will still need their parents’ support to have their gender recognised.

“Further, leaving children under 16 with no avenue to gender recognition entirely dispenses with what may be in their best interests and breaches their human rights,” she added.

She also stated that “minimal” progress has been made in affording legal recognition to non-binary individuals.

Amnesty International chief executive Colm O’Gorman said the new approach for 16- and 17-year-olds was “more in line with children’s human rights”.

He added, though, that clearer provision should be made in law to respect the right of children to express themselves and take into account their own views regarding what is in their best interests.

“This is especially important regarding older children, in light of their evolving capacities,” he added.