Glasgow Life

The Herald article from 22 April 2019: “Cross-dress males to be allowed in women-only gym sessions in Glasgow

Following the justified uproar over details of its transgender inclusion policy coming to light in this newspaper article, Glasgow Life issued a statement on 24th of April which not only fails to reassure female customers, but exemplifies the problems local authorities create for themselves when they hand over policy making duties to partisan lobbying organisations.

In Glasgow Life’s case they deferred their legal duty to all users of their services to the politically connected non-profit organisation Leap Scotland. Leap does not appear qualified to dispense legal advice, however they do have an experienced and well-connected lobbyist on the board of trustees: Katherine Burrows, a transwoman who apparently also advises Police Scotland and the NHS as well as local authorities on trans awareness and has published “selfies” with various politicians on Instagram.

Leap makes no bones about the community it serves, with every one of its Aims being directed at increasing participation in sports for LGBTI people. This is laudable, but it is not at all appropriate that a Local Authority should give its policy making responsibilities over to an organisation which is not committed to consider the impact of policy on other sections of the population.

As For Women Scotland, Scottish Women, Women and Girls in Scotland, and others have repeatedly shown, trans organisations misstate the legal requirements on public bodies and the public in relation to trans inclusions. The trans guidance for schools which was reported to breach 11 children’s rights was produced by LGBT Youth Scotland, and it comes as no surprise that Katherine Burrows is also a Director of this organisation.

There is no obligation at all for self identified transgender people to be regarded as “the gender they chose”. The Equality Act only offers protection to transsexuals, specifically those individuals who are undergoing the process of transition that ordinarily would lead to an application being made in terms of the Gender Recognition Act. This is confirmed by the guidance Glasgow Life attached to their statement.

Glasgow Life’s policy specifically states trans status to be a wide “umbrella”, listing “cross dressing” as falling within the law protecting trans people. The Equalities and Human Rights Commissions’ guidance instead states only transsexuals are protected in law, and specifically excludes cross-dressers, except in those cases where they are mistaken for being transsexual and then, for example, ridiculed for transitioning. Clearly, under no definition, can cross-dressers be said to have a legislative right to access women’s changing rooms or all women sessions.

The policy also ignores the Equality Act’s single sex provisions, and even the European Court of Human Rights and our own House of Lords in finding that transwomen may be excluded from places where women would perceive that they were compromised and in the presence of a member of the opposite sex. This exclusion can even occur with transwomen holding a Gender Recognition Certificate who had formally changed “Sex” on official documents. Glasgow Life policy offers no guidance whatsoever to staff on this, which is to be expected when it was written by a trans focused organisation.

Local Authorities are obliged to carry out Equality Impact Assessments when changing policy, and it appears none of these were carried out, although some Freedom of Information Requests have been submitted and we can comment upon the content of them if they are produced. This is a legal obligation on a local authority, and part of it would have involved assessing the impact on other users of the services. This dereliction of duty could prove to be Glasgow Life’s undoing in any judicial review application of their policy.