Legal Recognition of Sex and Gender

Anyone, transgender or otherwise is entitled to change their name at any time.  You can opt to change your forename and/or surname, add names, or rearrange existing names.  There is no set legal procedure to change your name, but a statutory declaration is what is most commonly used to demonstrate a change of name.  Otherwise, you can simply start using the new name, and it is entirely legal for someone to use two different names and to have some documents in each name, as long as it is not for any fraudulent purpose.

So when someone talks about ‘legal sex’ or ‘legal gender’, they can be talking about different things.  Some transgender people can live in one gender role despite being recognised legally as another and others can be recognised by the law as both female and male in different ways.

Sex and gender may be legally recorded in the following ways:

  • Birth Certificate:  All babies are assigned a gender on their birth certificate.  Usually this is in line with the sex of their genitals, though in the instance of intersex children, doctors usually determine which sex should be assigned.
  • Identity Cards:  Identity cards such as passports and driving licences record gender.  These can be used as proof of gender for many purposes, such as opening a bank account or taking out insurance.

Changing your gender on your passport or driving licence does NOT change you legal gender.  This is tied to your birth certificate.

Birth Certificate

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 created a process to enable transgender people to get their UK birth certificates and legal gender changed.  The transgender individual applies to the Government’s Gender Recognition Panel for a Gender Recognition Certificate, from which you can draw a new birth certificate.  This is the SOLE purpose of the GRC.  The Birth Certificate drawn in this manner is indistinguishable from any other birth certificate, and will indicate the new legal sex and name.  It can be used wherever a birth certificate is used, such as for a passport.  The birth certificate showing the previous legal gender continues to exist, and will carry no indication that there is an associated Gender Recognition Certificate or alternative birth certificate.  Certain authorised agencies, with court permission, may have access to the Gender Recognition Register showing the links between these certificates, but the link will be invisible to the general public.  This is the same way in which birth certificates drawn from the Adoption Register work.

See the Gender Recognition Certificate section for details on how to obtain this.