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Laws to make it easier for teens to change gender

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Transgender equality group chairperson Sara Phillips

Transgender equality group chairperson Sara Phillips

Transgender equality group chairperson Sara Phillips

Laws to make it easier for people aged 16 and 17 to legally change their gender will be introduced by the Fianna Fail-Fine Gael-Green Government.

The deal, struck by the three parties, also committed to examining the arrangements for children under 16 who may wish to change gender.

A Fine Gael policy paper has already proposed legal changes that would allow under-16s to change their gender with parental approval.

The programme for government commits to amending the existing Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for teenagers aged 16 and 17 to change gender legally.

At present people of this age must go to court, have their gender change certified by two medical practitioners and obtain parental consent.

However, the document states that the proposed new government will "remove the need for a person aged 16 and 17 years to have two specialist reports before they can apply for legal gender recognition, by providing for self-declaration, with parental consent and by making mediation available on a voluntary basis".

The outgoing Fine Gael-led Government made a similar proposal last year after a review of the Act commissioned by the Department of Social Protection which said the regime for 16 and 17-year-olds was "too onerous".

The programme also commits to commencing "research to examine arrangements for children under 16".

A report drafted by Fine Gael's LGBT committee has already called for laws to be changed to permit children aged under 16 to legally change their gender.

Cautious

The committee includes Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and its 15-page report was submitted to the government formation talks between Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Greens in May.

Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) chair Sara Phillips said while the proposal for 16 and 17-year-olds was welcome, the commitments on under-16s were "very cautious" and also called for legal recognition for non-binary people.

Ms Phillips said research on the under-16s issue had already been carried out as part of a review of the Act, which was introduced in 2015. "It's very cautionary and it's hard to understand why," she said.

On the current debate on gender issues, she said: "We need to focus on the reality of trans people's lives, lots of people shouting at each other on social media is not helpful."

The programme also committed to completing interdepartmental work on legal recognition of non-binary people, ensuring departments and public bodies use correct pronouns, and to creating and implementing a general health policy for trans people based on best practice.