Response to Gregor Fisher Murray’s Resignation as Children’s Convener

Since our letter to the First Minister, the SNP Councillor Gregor Fisher Murray has resigned from his positions as Children’s Convener and Equalities Spokesperson.  However, he still remains as Councillor for Dundee and a member of the SNP.  See the article in the Courier of 10 August 2018.

This is our response:

It is a shame, if unsurprising, that it has taken Councillor Murray so long to realise that his offensive and misogynist outbursts on social media are incompatible with his role as children’s convenor for Dundee council.  It is also dispiriting to note the ineffective response of the SNP and the fact that Murray continues to hold his seat.

Mr Murray’s freely expressed contempt for women would be bad enough.  However, as children’s convenor, his behaviour and opinions on the subject of gender roles are downright disturbing and highlight the worrying implications of the recent Scottish Government’s proposal to teach children in primary one about “gender identity”.  Under these proposals, children will, apparently, be told that sex is what “a doctor tells you are” but “gender is what you decide”.

We believe passionately that sex-role stereotypes and gendered expectations are pernicious and harmful and we fully support the equality policies in our schools.  We welcome any drive to strengthen these existing policies and encourage children to look beyond societal expectations.  The notion that little girls can play football or that little boys can be sensitive should be encouraged.

Unfortunately, the positive nature of this guidance is rendered meaningless by the muddled advice that children can “decide if they are a boy or a girl”.  On what basis, do we suppose, very young children will make this decision other than a preference for certain gendered behaviours, dress or activities?  In effect, this reinforces rigid ideas of masculine and feminine traits.

Councillor Murray, it would appear, clearly believes in the power of gender stereotypes – so much so that, despite being a bearded biological male, he believes that a liking for ‘chick flicks’ and the occasional application of nail polish entitles him to claim “trans” status.  Not only is this deeply insulting to those who suffer from genuine dysphoria – reducing and trivializing their struggle – it encourages the notion that men and women should conform absolutely to a set of regressive expectations.  When this is built into the curriculum, it reinforces the belief that if a child fails to conform they are somehow not a ‘real’ boy or girl.  Ironically, the standard taunt of playground bullies is being given official sanction in the curriculum and is, no doubt, being cheered on by party members like Mr Murray with similarly backward and conservative views on male and female roles.

We are firmly committed to the principle of challenging any sexist or reductive expectations.  We would welcome any suggestions from individuals like Mr Murray that men, as well as women, can wear a variety of clothing, sparkles or paint their nails.  However, his ridiculous assertion that a minor transgression from restrictive artificial gendered behaviour is sufficient to override science and make one less of a man is deeply damaging to attempts to expand horizons for boys and girls.

Similarly, the advice in the proposed education reforms may be well-intentioned but by suggesting that a child’s behaviour and preferences determine gender it is also perpetuating this dangerous ideology.  We would, therefore, urge Education Scotland and the Scottish Government to reconsider the proposals.