Devil in the detail on thorny issue of children changing gender

Minister for Social Protection keen to produce heads of Bill ‘as fast and as efficiently as I can’

A recommendation has been made  that all children under the age of 18 should be allowed to change their gender if they have consent from both parents. File photograph: Getty Images

A recommendation has been made that all children under the age of 18 should be allowed to change their gender if they have consent from both parents. File photograph: Getty Images

 

There are issues that need to be teased out before legislation regarding children changing their gender can be introduced, Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty has said.

A review of the 2015 Gender Recognition Act was brought before Cabinet on Wednesday, which recommends a number of changes to the current legislation.

Ms Doherty said the departments of social protection, justice and children will go through the report in September and seek the Attorney General’s advice, before producing the heads of a Bill to go before Cabinet.

“My ambition is to do this as fast and as efficiently as I can,” said Ms Doherty.

The Meath East TD said in particular the legal status of those who identify as non-binary and providing third-party support to the child and family during the decision making process had to be examined.

Under the existing legislation, children under the age of 16 are prohibited from accessing gender recognition, while teenagers aged 16-17 must go through a medical and psychiatric process before changing.

The report recommends that all children under the age of 18 should be allowed to change their gender if they have consent from both parents.

It states that courts should only become involved in adjudicating gender recognition applications for children when a parent does not give consent or there is a concern about their mental health.

The report contains a recommendation to produce a straightforward process if the child wishes to reverse that decision at a later stage in their life. It also recommends the State recognise those who identify as neither of the male or female genders. Currently, those who identify as non-binary are required to declare as the gender assigned to them at birth.

“We have to go through all our current legislation and see if we did introduce a third prefix to denote your gender or non-gender, how that would impact on current legislation and what would need to be changed,” said Ms Doherty.

“The recommendations also suggest there should be third-party support for the child and the family during the decision-making process. The reason I think it’s as vague as it is because the working group potentially couldn’t agree on a prescription so now I have to discover what the prescription is going to be.”

Moninne Griffith, executive director of BeLonG To and author of the report, said its implementation would “change the lives of trans, non-binary and intersex young people in Ireland”.

“Young trans people do not just wake up one morning and decide that they want to change their legal gender. This happens after a period of social transition, living in their preferred gender,” she said.

“What is clear from the young trans and non-binary people that we work with is . . . that having access to legal gender recognition will have a hugely positive impact on their lives, self-esteem, self-worth and wellbeing.”