A letter to our MSPs

Yesterday the EHRC wrote to Cabinet Secretary Shona Robison, who will pilot Gender Recognition Act reform through the Scottish Parliament, telling the Scottish Government “more detailed consideration is needed before any change is made to the provisions in the Act”. It is a welcome and timely intervention because the draft Bill is expected to come before Holyrood in February. This is also the ideal time to write to your MSP expressing your concerns and citing the EHRC’s similar views. This letter was written in reply to a sitting MSP from a female constituent last year. We reproduce here with full permission. Please feel free to use any of the points made here in your own correspondence to MSPs

Gender (in practice, sex) self-identification is a sweeping social change that has been introduced across the UK by stealth and without any public discussion until very recently. What is being proposed is an enormous cultural switch that deserves careful consideration, widespread public consultation and consensus on the best way forward.

To ask for a consensus or discussion or to argue in favour of current law is not to be transphobic or to say trans lives are not real or insist that women’s concerns are not valid or any of the other claims made when proponents of GRA reform are challenged on its impact on other protected groups.

You say the rights of women and girls will not be impeded by GRA reform. However, gender self-ID has already had negative effects on women’s rights. It has expanded the definition of woman in Scotland from adult, human female to anyone who says they are one or “who lives as one”, as noted in the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018.

It has also impacted on the ability of service providers to offer single-sex spaces – for example, in women’s refuges, rape crisis centres, gyms and leisure centres and in women’s sports. In many circumstances, Scottish Government funding is dependent on organisations operating a trans-inclusive policy, meaning they cannot receive funding if they insist on sticking to single-sex services.

You note there have already been two consultations on this proposed reform. Yet, despite more than 17,000 responses to the most recent one, the Scottish Government chose not to publish its analysis of those responses, giving as a reason that the vast majority came from individuals. A public consultation in which we don’t know exactly what the public said or what concerns they expressed does not offer full confidence in any subsequent legislation and is profoundly undemocratic.

Those in favour of GRA reform argue, as you do, that being trans is not a mental illness. How does this square with the enormous increase in referrals of teenagers, particularly teenage girls, to gender identity clinics across the UK and in Scotland and the subsequent demand for hormone treatments such as puberty blockers and surgery such as radical mastectomy? This seems to be a circle that cannot be squared, and I am curious as to how we navigate this increased demand for NHS treatments with a new system that allows anyone to claim a trans identity. Perhaps you can enlighten me.

I have a series of questions that I would like you, as my MSP, to consider carefully and to interrogate thoroughly during the legislative process for GRA reform.

These are:

  • What plans does the Scottish Government have to build consensus and work constructively with critics of GRA reform OUTSIDE of parliament during the legislative process?
  • What evidence does the Scottish Government have for its repeated assertions that there will be no negative impact on women and girls in these proposed changes? Will this evidence be made public?
  • Are there plans for an equality impact assessment to be done BEFORE legislation is introduced into the effects of gender self-ID on women and girls in Scotland? If not, why not?
  • What evaluation has the Scottish Government done on ensuring any reform resolves the obvious conflict between the rights of those protected by the Equality Act characteristics of sex and gender reassignment? Protection in the Equality Act is premised on balancing competing rights and interests. There is no hierarchy of protected characteristics.
  • Publicly funded organisations in Scotland, such as the Scottish Prison Service, Police Scotland and NHS Scotland, already operate policies of gender self-ID. Will these open policies be scrapped after GRA reform?
  • What assessment has been carried out into the impact of gender self-ID policies in Scotland on women and girls since the introduction of these policies in publicly funded organisations? If none has been done, why not?
  • For safeguarding reasons and to ensure no inadvertent legal loophole can be exploited by those acting in bad faith, what steps is the Scottish Government taking to ensure any new legislation provides for an objective interrogation of all applications to obtain a GRC?
  • What mechanism will be put in place for an individual who changes their mind about a GRC and wants to return their official status to their birth sex?
  • What detailed evidence/research is available into the impact of gender self-ID on women in the countries you cite as examples of international best practice, and will the Scottish Government take this evidence into consideration when drafting legislation?
  • You note that surgery, hormones and other medical treatment are not required to obtain a gender recognition certificate currently. Does the Scottish Government intend to lower the age limit at which a person can obtain a GRC? If so, what plans are in place to ensure those under the age of 18 do not rush into any life-changing decision?

I am asking you, as our elected representative, and your colleagues in Parliament to do the most thorough job possible in scrutinising this radical legislation and ensuring that the consequences for all of us, intended and unintended, are taken into consideration. Thank you.

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