On 17th December 2019 the Scottish Government announced the launch of a three month public consultation about changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Powerful government funded transgender interest groups were lobbying hard for full deregulation of the legal transition process to allow for any man to change his birth certificate on demand to say he was born female. In the two months prior to the statement about the GRA in June 2019 Stonewall Scotland had meetings in Parliament with 22 different MSPs, including several with the Cabinet Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville. Women’s groups were denied similar access or any input into the framework of the consultation, with Ms Somerville turning down our requests to meet until the end of February, three weeks before the end of the consultation period.
Despite the obvious conflict with female sex-based rights, the public consultation was set to proceed amid a climate of fear which has prevented many women speaking openly about their concerns. Our group has received violent threats for leafleting and our meetings often heavily protested, resulting in the need for an expensive security presence. One meeting at the University of Edinburgh was aggressively protested, resulting in a speaker being attacked by a transactivist. A subsequent meeting was indefinitely postponed as the University could not guarantee the safety of participants. It is perhaps unsurprising then, that unlike other public consultations, the Government did not plan on holding any public awareness meetings throughout the country.
It was against this backdrop that Forwomen.Scot decided to launch our own public awareness campaign to ensure that women’s voices were heard and listened to during the public consultation.
Thank you to each and everyone of you who turned out for a marvellously successful afternoon of demonstrating at the Scottish Parliament – all of you who didn’t let the wind, cold, short notice and the threat not only of protest but coronavirus stop them from showing up to protect Scottish women’s rights. #IWD20 #BinTheBill
*** 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.
The Tramway was hosting a star-studded event on 9th June so a small group of local women decided to go and raise awareness of the recent incident in their toilets, formerly known as Women’s, where a man had been hiding in a cubicle listening to women in the neighbouring cubicles. He jumped out scaring two young women, one of whom was a journalist. She wrote about the experience in an article, so we printed this out and handed the reference out with the Forwomen.Scot flyers.
Of concern was the section on gender in the level one guidance aimed at Primary One aged children. Despite a seeming ignorance about how sex is observed either before or after birth and by whom, this started off promisingly, telling children that they are not limited by their sex and that they can participate in any activities or wear any clothing. However, the guidance became muddled when it started to talk about gender, saying that “your gender is what you decide” and that sometimes when people grow up “they decide to change their gender so that they are happier with who they are, this is called being transgender”:
In June 2018, one of our/ManFriday members put Hostelling Scotland’s policy of “regardless of transgendered status, we will book an accommodation based on how our guests choose to be recognised” to the test by checking into Inverness youth hostel as a self-identified man. See our earlier report and the Inverness Courier article.
We are now pleased to report that Hostelling Scotland have recently confirmed that all their hostels provide female only accommodation. See the email reply to an MSP enquiry: