On Tuesday 23 April, Scottish Trans Alliance, Stonewall Scotland, Equality Network, Amnesty Scotland and LGBT Youth Scotland brought trans people and MSPs from across the political spectrum together at the Scottish Parliament.
The event gave trans people a unique chance to tell their stories, so the MSPs who represent them could hear about the difference trans equality would make in their lives. So often, discussions about equality for trans people are had without their voices being included.
It was clear from the discussions between trans people attending and the MSPs that the current toxic public debate is having an enormous impact on the lives of trans people. Respectful discussion that help people understand each others’ experiences and viewpoints are critical in making Scotland more accepting. But it’s crucial these discussions start from a place that recognises the validity of trans identities and does not make them the subject of debate.
There is a need for public figures to speak up when they see intolerance or harassment of trans people, in the media or online.
To see so many MSPs from different parties come to listen to trans people’s experiences and needs shows the support within our Parliament for trans rights, and a growing understanding of why reform of the Gender Recognition Act is so desperately needed. The current system medicalises trans identities, and does not include recognition of non-binary people.
These barriers mean that many trans people live without the critical legal paperwork that shows the state recognises who they are. Changes like the ones we’ve seen in Ireland, which now allows people to change their legal gender by making a legal declaration, would be life-changing for so many trans people in Scotland.
MSPs we spoke to are aware of the positive changes this would have. They are keen to make the case for it, and to stand up for trans equality.
It’s now been more than a year since the Scottish Government’s consultation on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act closed. Two thirds of people in Scotland who responded backed the proposals, showing great support from the Scottish public for trans equality. But despite this promising start, the Scottish Government has yet to respond to the findings or detail their proposals for legislation.
This silence has allowed misinformation to spread, causing alarm in trans communities, as well as for those who are concerned their own rights will be affected. Last week saw Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary leading on these reforms, publish a statement reassuring trans communities that the Scottish Government is working hard to protect their rights.
Her support was very welcome, particularly at a time when there has been a great deal of hostility in the media towards trans communities. But this reassurance needs to be followed by action.
It’s important to take time to get any legal changes right, but the longer the Scottish Government wait to release their response, the more opportunity there is for fear and misinformation to spread. Trans communities need their Government to be unequivocal in their support for equality. It is time for the Scottish Government to stand up for trans rights and publish their response to the consultation.
This blog was co-authored by Stonewall Scotland, Scottish Trans, Equality Network and LGBT Youth Scotland .
The UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee has published its report of its Inquiry into Transgender Equality. The report recommendations are wide-ranging and we are delighted at the strength with which the report calls for many key improvements.
In particular, we are delighted the report states categorically that the Gender Recognition Act must be reformed to a self-declaration administrative process. Such reform would enable trans people to change their birth certificates without the current red-tape nightmare of submitting intrusive medical and psychiatric reports and years of personal documents to a judicial tribunal panel. We are proud that our Equal Recognition campaign work and the evidence we submitted to the inquiry (both in writing and in person) have been central in helping to secure this recommendation. We call on the Scottish Parliament to lead the way in legislating on the devolved matter of gender recognition.
We are also very pleased the report recommends reforming the Equality Act protected characteristic from the narrow term of ‘gender reassignment’ to the more inclusive term ‘gender identity’. It is vital that all transgender people receive full protection from discrimination in employment and service provision. The Equality Act is reserved legislation so this change needs to be achieved at Westminster.
The report also recommends that once a trans person has changed the gender on their birth certificate, then single sex service providers and employers should not be allowed to exclude them or discriminate. This would bring the letter of the law closer to the good practice standard developed through partnership between ourselves, Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and the Scottish LGBT Domestic Abuse project.
The report is the first time any Westminster Committee has acknowledged the importance of addressing the needs of non-binary trans people (who do not identify simply as men or as women). The recommendation that people must be allowed the option to record their gender as ‘X’ rather than ‘M’ or ‘F’ on their passport is a positive first step forward. We look forward to continuing to engage in detail with both the Scottish and UK Parliaments to increase their understanding of the need to fully legally recognise the identities of non-binary trans people
While the areas of healthcare and hate crime are fully devolved and therefore the Committee could only look at the English systems, we will none-the-less be utilising the Committee’s recommendations to aid our ongoing work improving trans healthcare and hate crime services in Scotland.
We sincerely and warmly thank the members of the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee for all their hard work on understanding so many of the diverse problems faced by trans people and carefully developing achievable recommendations to begin addressing them. We also very greatly appreciate the dozens of trans individuals living in Scotland who helped shape the details of the STA evidence we submitted and the many trans, LGBT, trade union and women’s equality organisations who coordinated with us during evidence submission.