By Vic Valentine

DO you know a trans person? Perhaps your cousin is a trans man. Maybe one of your colleagues is a trans woman. Or your daughter’s best friend at school is non-binary. Lots of you will have family, friends and colleagues who you know are trans.

But some of you may not have knowingly met a trans person before. Or you just aren’t too sure about what all of the terms, acronyms and language mean.

Over the last year or so, as there’s been more and more coverage in the media of trans people, it can often seem like things are getting more confusing, rather than easier to understand.

But when it comes down to it, being an expert on language isn’t important. Trans people just want to be accepted for who we are, like everyone else. We want to get to be ourselves when we go to work, go to school, or visit our GP.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy – trans people can still face discrimination in the workplace, bullying at school, and difficulty accessing the right kind of healthcare and other services.

One of the reasons we can face these problems is when we don’t have ID that properly matches who we are. That’s why it’s so important for trans people to be able to change our names, and update things like our passports, driving licences and medical records.

Once a trans man or trans woman has settled on a name that feels like a better fit, and has started living their day to day life as the man or woman they know they are, they can update these documents swiftly and simply. For lots of trans people, seeing our new name printed on our driving licence, or being able to hand over a passport that has switched the “F” to “M’ when ordering a drink in a pub can help us feel more happy and confident doing normal, everyday things.

Although updating most ID is straightforward, one thing that remains hard to change is a birth certificate. Although you don’t use a birth certificate often, when you do need to dig it out it’s often at times that really matter –starting a new job, getting married, or your family, partner or friends may need to provide it when you die.

At these meaningful moments in life and death, many trans people are forced to hand over something that doesn’t match who we are. This can feel scary, upsetting and stressful. That’s why we want the law about how we can update our birth certificates to be changed.

We think it should be simpler to change the sex on our birth certificates as well – in a process that’s more similar to the ones we have been using for all our other ID for decades in Scotland.

It’s true that a trans man with an “M” on his birth certificate or a trans woman with a “F” on hers might have bodies that are different from most men and women. For the vast majority of our everyday lives, this makes no difference – we’re just trying to go to the gym or buy some new clothes like anyone else. And being able to do these things doesn’t rely on what’s on our birth certificates anyway – so making it simpler to change those won’t affect our existing everyday routines. But what it will do will make those important moments where we need to show our birth certificates a whole lot easier.

Vic Valentine is policy officer with the Scottish Trans Alliance