Today we bring you a special blog post by Sophie Bridger, Campaigns, Policy and Research Manager for Stonewall Scotland, on behalf of LGBT Youth Scotland, Scottish Trans Alliance, Stonewall Scotland and The Equality Network.
On Tuesday, Scottish Trans Alliance, Stonewall Scotland, Equality Network 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.