Transgender people should be able to change their gender without a medical diagnosis, the British Medical Association (BMA) has said.
To legally change your gender in the UK, individuals must currently have a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and a report detailing any medical treatment from a registered doctor.
But on Tuesday doctors supported a motion at the BMA’s annual general meeting which called on the Government to allow transgender and non-binary individuals to gain legal recognition of their gender by a witnessed sworn statement.
Requiring a witnessed statement, rather than a medical diagnosis, is seen as a “simplified” version of the process.
Such models are already in place in countries such as the Republic of Ireland, Malta, and Denmark, according to a background briefing on the motion published by the BMA.
In the Republic of Ireland, individual’s must also have a “settled and solemn” intention of living in the preferred gender for the rest of their life, understand the consequences of the application, and make the application of their own free will.
Critics of the motion could argue doctor’s with experience working with those with gender dysphoria “may enable discussions about emotional and physical wellbeing that may be helpful to the trans person”, the BMA briefing added.
The BMA motion also affirmed the right of transgender and non-binary individuals to access healthcare and "live their lives with dignity" including having their identity respected.
Two clauses of the motion - which called on the Government to support the witnessed sworn statement model and to ensure under-18s are able to access healthcare in "line with existing principles of consent" - were both passed by narrow margins.
The motion also called for trans people to be able to receive healthcare in settings appropriate to their gender identity and ensure trans healthcare workers were able to access facilities appropriate to the gender they identify as.
Dr Helena McKeown, chairman of the BMA representative body, said the passing of the motion meant that the union had a BMA-wide policy giving specific attention to the needs of transgender and non-binary people for the first time.
She added: "We oppose discrimination of all kinds and are committed to ensuring universal access to healthcare for all on the basis of clinical need.
"Receiving any medical treatment can be stressful for patients and so it is important for individuals to receive healthcare in settings they feel comfortable with. "This applies to transgender as well as cis individuals.”
Under the Gender Recognition Act, to legally change their gender a person must also provide proof they’ve lived for at least two years in their chosen gender, declare they intend to live as that gender until death, a payment of £140, and, if married, their spouses consent.
Under measures drawn up under Therasa May’s government, the act was due to be updated to make it easier for a person to legally change their gender.
But following a backlash from opponents, the current Government could allegedly be dropping the plans, as first reported by the Sunday Times, which caused widespread anger from LGBT groups.
The proposed measures by Mrs May’s 2018 consultation included removing barriers, such as the medical diagnosis requirement, to the process.
It would have also given recognition to non-binary people who do not identify as any gender. Commenting on the potential scrapping of the plans, Nancy Kelley, chief executive at LGBT rights organisation Stonewall said the changes would be “extremely disappointing” if true.