Forwomen.Scot welcomes the further consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act. We hope that the process will be evidence based and transparent, and will take into account all stakeholders viewpoints.
We will be taking the time to read the consultation paper thoroughly before formulating a full response. It is of great concern that since the consultation announcement in June the Scottish Government has not met with any women’s groups, other than those it funds and who are broadly in agreement with the proposals. Alternative viewpoints and concerns on the issue of self-identification of sex have not been heard and brings into question the Cabinet Secretary’s wish to reach consensus.
Forwomen.Scot plan to publish advice and guidance on how to complete the consultation and will shortly be announcing a public awareness campaign.
In 2017, guidance for schools was published by LGBT Youth Scotland, entitled “Supporting Transgender Young People: Guidance for Schools in Scotland”. While its aim was to help schools support children who identify as transgender, the publication was heavily criticised for its failure to consider the specific rights and needs of girls and the negative impact that many of the recommendations made within the guidance would have on them. The production of the guidance was funded by the Scottish Government and it carries the Scottish Government logo prominently on its front cover. Despite this, the Scottish Government were reluctant to take any responsibility for the guidance stating, in response to the sustained criticism, that it would be inappropriate for them to review the guidance and that it had the full support of Ministers. However, in June 2019 the Scottish Government unexpectedly announced their decision to replace the LGBT Youth Scotland publication with guidance produced by the Scottish Government. This post explores the reasoning behind this decision, what we know about the development of the new guidance so far, and LGBTYS involvement.
The following blog post was contributed by an anonymous writer.
I have been involved in boxing for a long time, and it is a brutal, violent and dangerous sport. In a boxing match, there are two trained fighters in an enclosed space trying to hurt one another. The object is to score points, but let’s be realistic, in competition boxers try to hurt their opponent, break hearts, noses and ribs, to make the referee step in and stop the fight. Blood, broken bones and nasty injuries are a frequent occurrence. Serious injury is not uncommon, debilitating injuries are not infrequent, and death in the ring is not unheard of.
Over the years, efforts have been made to make boxing safer. There are weight categories and experience categories in competitions. You will not see an experienced boxer competing against a novice, and you will not see a heavyweight pitted against a flyweight. Boxers also undergo strict and consistent medical evaluation, but despite all of these measures boxing remains a dangerous sport.
When Nicola Surgeon stated that feminist’s concerns were “misplaced” at a United Nations conference last February we thought it would be an ideal time to try and arrange a meeting to address our concerns and put forward evidence that self ID policies represent a substantial roll back of women’s rights. When that was unsuccessful, we turned our attention to arranging a meeting with Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary responsible for reform of the Gender Recognition Act. After all, she had very recently published an article stating “Government has a duty to understand and seek to address the concerns being raised. This is something I have sought to do since taking this post and to which I commit to continue to do”, so we were hopeful of a meeting.
*** This is an urgent action for TODAY! We hope everyone, male and female, will join in – we’re aiming for a high number of people all sending emails. ***
The CTEEA committee will take evidence from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) in Parliament this Thursday, 12th September 2019.
We are concerned that, despite Parliament voting unanimously for a binary sex question in the census (male and female only, with no “other” option), the NRS is still testing for the guidance to advise answering on the basis of self-identification. If this were to go ahead as the final guidance it will mean that the census returns inaccurate information regarding the protected characteristic “sex”, and duplicate and confusing information on “gender identity” (as there will also be a voluntary question on this).
Yesterday I had the honour and the privilege of taking a beautiful banner, on loan from Magdalen Berns, down to the Lesbian Strength march in Leeds. I’d seen pictures of the banner previously, but it wasn’t until I saw it for real, up close, that I saw the love, the joy, the defiance, the humour, and the determination that’s been embroidered into its fabric. One of my highlights of the day was getting to meet the wonderful woman who made it as a gift for Magdalen. The banner pretty much sums up the feeling of the day for me – it was a day of lesbians coming together in friendship and sisterhood to say (and sing) out loud and proud that we intend to defend lesbian rights, and have some fun while we’re doing it.
We have some voices from Pride Edinburgh and accounts of the day:
The first person to scream at us was carrying a sign about getting corporations out of Pride. This is something she and I could have chatted about because we would be in agreement. Instead there were three instances in which she started shouting ‘terfs out’ to which we replied ‘women in’. A handful of people joined her. But this is what I thought was interesting. We were surrounded by different groups from financial services cos and law firms like Burness Paull, Ageon, Kames Capital and Black Rock. I didn’t see her shout at them once.
There was a moment when one young woman gave us the finger and started shouting ‘Fuck Terfs’ when we were standing directly in front of the Parliament and waiting to join the march. She got quite a number of people to join in. Some people made a point of taking photos of us. I don’t know why. Two police officers got near this woman just to be ready if something escalated. It didn’t and the chanting died down. Several blocks into the march in a different mix of people, the same woman came over & shouted that we were making people feel uncomfortable. I didn’t see any other group – either protesters on sidelines or participants in the march – targeted and shouted at. We heard the following: ‘transwomen are women’ ‘fuck terfs’ ‘terfs out’ ‘no terfs on our turf’ a lone ‘you’re an embarrassment to homosexuality’ and a lone ‘I’m a lesbian and you don’t speak for me’. We also had someone make a point of playing a cowbell as loud as possible and within the personal space of some in our group just to annoy us.
As we were waiting to march, we waited for the anti-capitalist ‘terfs out’ person and the group that joined in the ‘fuck terfs’ chant to pass before joining in the march. We purposely followed the ‘Scouts Pride’ group because they were respectful and calm.
One person in our group did make a point to speak to a police officer prior to the march – not sure what she said to him, but she came back to us and said ‘you can never be too careful’.
We pulled out of the march near St Giles Cathedral because some of us had to leave and they were concerned that the remainder wouldn’t feel safe in a smaller number. Rather than continue, the remainder of us — sevenish people– held our banner at the sidelines of the march. As the march wound down, we started to walk against the flow of traffic towards North Bridge. We managed to catch the Lothian Bus which had been the speaking platform for the speeches earlier–this was clearly an official Pride bus. We held up our two fabric banners: ‘Lesbian Equality’ and ‘Lesbian, not Queer’. A couple of people on this official bus gave us the middle finger.
Forwomen.scot was formed on the 20th of June 2018 and it’s rather fitting that, exactly one year later, Shirley-Anne Somerville’s statement in Parliament on the reform of the GRA gave recognition to many of the issues on which we campaign. (Video and official report)