Understanding gender identity and transgender

Information for SQA staff and centres

These web pages raise awareness of gender identity and transgender and provide guidance on updating SQA's transgender learners' personal information.

SQA is deeply aware of its responsibilities towards all learners and we place equality at the heart of our work. We have recently reviewed our procedures for updating and amending SQA records for trans learners. In partnership with schools and colleges we aim to ensure every learner can update their record quickly and easily.

Gender identity

Given the complexity of gender it may be helpful to read this useful glossary of gender identity terms in use across Scotland.


A transgender person is someone whose perception of their own gender identity does not conform to the sex they were assigned at birth. 'Trans' is the term often used for transgender people. A trans person might have identified with the opposite sex from an early age and some people describe it like being born in the wrong body. Most trans people do not feel comfortable with the terms gender identity disorder and gender dysphoria as they feel these suggest a mental condition which may make it more likely for others to make negative value judgements.

Some, but not all, trans people decide to undergo gender re-assignment surgery (to transition from the gender they were assigned at birth, to become the gender they identify with). If a trans person elects to have and is accepted for surgery, they will have to live as a full-time woman/man for a minimum of a year before the surgery. It should be emphasised that it is not a requirement that a trans person undergoes surgery or other medical treatment to receive protection from the law.

It is widely recognised that there is limited evidence on the population and experiences of the trans community in Scotland. At present, there is no official estimate of the trans population in Scotland. The England/Wales Census and Scottish Census have not asked if people identify as trans. The Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) in their recent Home Office funded study estimated the number of trans people in the UK to be between 300,000-500,000 (Reed et al 2009).

In 2017, LGBT Youth Scotland undertook a survey on Life in Scotland for LGBT young people, aged 13-25. LGBT Scotland's Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People: Education Report reveals that LGBT young people identified education as the environment where they face the most discrimination.The 2017 survey revisited many questions from the previous (2012) survey and added questions about types of bullying experienced, views on positive mental health, opportunities and barriers for LGBT young people, as well as aspirations for their future.

The report presents the key findings of the survey in respect of education issues and highlights that:

  • 46% of LGBT young people and half (53%) of transgender young people rated their school experience as 'bad'
  • 71% of LGBT young people experienced bullying in school on the grounds of being LGBT. This is a rise from 69% in 2012 and 60% in 2007
  • 82% of transgender young people experienced bullying in school on the grounds of being LGBT. This has risen from 77% in 2012
  • transgender young people are now more likely than they were in 2012 to rate their university experience as 'good', with an increase from 37% to 60%
  • 9% of LGBT young people and 27% of transgender young people left education as result of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in the learning environment

Your feedback is important to us

We welcome your feedback at any time. Please contact us by completing the form.