As Humza Yousaf prepares to stand down, Scotland's politicians should not forget trans community are 'ordinary people' too – Vic Valentine

Some of those calling for a focus on ‘ordinary people’ seem to be trying to send a signal to the incoming First Minister about the kinds of things they don’t think should be priorities

We’ll soon have a new First Minister. There has been much speculation since Humza Yousaf announced his intention to step down about what a change in leadership could mean for the priorities of the next Scottish Government. It’s still far too early to know.

One theme that did seem to be uniting people with a range of very different perspectives, and across different parties, from the moment of Humza Yousaf’s announcement, was the idea of using this moment as an opportunity for the Scottish Government and parliament to get back to focusing on what matters to “ordinary people”. It’s interesting to see this seeming consensus coming from people who likely have very different notions of what indeed matters to “ordinary people”, or what is needed to improve their lives.

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More intriguing is whether they all have a shared understanding of who “ordinary people” are. Surely, what and who is ordinary is a vast spectrum that depends on our own families, friends, communities and experiences? If it’s different for everyone, that makes us all ordinary, doesn’t it? Or are none of us ordinary?

Aren't we all 'ordinary people' at heart, asks Vic Valentine (Picture: David Silverman/Getty Images)Aren't we all 'ordinary people' at heart, asks Vic Valentine (Picture: David Silverman/Getty Images)
Aren't we all 'ordinary people' at heart, asks Vic Valentine (Picture: David Silverman/Getty Images)

Improving everyone’s lives

Maybe politicians to some extent rely on the fact that we probably all see ourselves as pretty ordinary. This means they can give the impression that they will do the things that matter to us all. But for some others, perhaps it’s a way of signalling the kinds of things they don’t think should be priorities. As a trans person, I have a hunch that a bit of both might be happening.

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No matter who the parliament elects as First Minister, and no matter which party is in power or opposition, there will continue to be a need for government and parliament to take actions to improve all our lives. Sometimes these will be on issues where it is easy to see how they affect everyone in Scotland, even if they’d make a bigger difference to some people than others. Things like ensuring people have somewhere safe, accessible and affordable to live, or that they can access high-quality healthcare as close to home and as quickly as possible.

A fair chance for all

But sometimes it will require action that focuses on making things better for smaller groups of people where they face unique additional barriers or difficulties to living decent lives. This might mean changes to the law. But more often, all it requires is simple changes in how law, policies and practice are carried out so that everyone feels their positive impacts.

It should not be beyond any government to manage to do both things. Nor should it be particularly controversial that organisations, communities, and individual people call for changes that really matter to them, even if they are things that don’t impact everyone. The need for such calls is often the result of those people who are affected not being the ones who come to mind when thinking of “ordinary people”.

We all want to have the chance to live ordinary lives (although, I suppose, some are more ambitious!) But not everyone has a fair chance to do so. Surely we can all agree that governments should take whatever action is needed to give everyone that same fair chance.

Vic Valentine is manager of Scottish Trans



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