Gender Recognition Act reforms must protect children – Murdo Fraser MSP

Politicians must ensure young people like Sinead Watson, who went through gender transition but later regretted it, are safeguarded, writes Murdo Fraser MSP.

Liz Truss has announced changes to the UK Government's policies on transgender issues (Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Last week the UK Government announced, after years of consideration, that it would be proceeding with limited reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. Liz Truss, the minister for equalities, stated that the process of changing gender would be made cheaper, but she rejected the principle of self-identification as a basis of changing an individual’s legal status.

It is an issue which has been the subject of a heated public debate, lining up trans activists against supporters of women’s rights, and one which the Scottish Government has kicked into the long grass until after the next Holyrood election, so divisive it has become within SNP ranks.

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The UK Government’s announcements included updated guidance issued by the Department of Education, instructing teachers that they “should not reinforce harmful stereotypes, for instance by suggesting that children might be a different gender based on their personality, interests or the clothes they prefer to wear”.

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This addresses real concerns that previous guidance seemed to push children down the route of gender reassignment, an approach which led to an explosion in the number of young people reporting with gender dysphoria.

This issue is potentially even more important than the question of reforms to the GRA. Some of the most powerful evidence I have ever heard presented in the Scottish Parliament came at an event held earlier this year from Sinead Watson, a young woman who underwent a transition to become a man, which she now regrets.

In her own words, she was “obsessively and sycophantically affirmed” in her gender choice as a teenager, when she should have been challenged by medical professionals, and instead offered counselling and support.

Having undergone testosterone injections for four years and a double mastectomy, her life has been ruined because ideology took the place of science. Studies suggest that the great majority of young people with gender dysphoria will, by the time they reach their 20s, have reverted to being comfortable in the gender in which they were born.

I was pleased to see the UK Government taking steps to try and address what has become a hugely serious issue. It would be good to see the Scottish Government now follow suit.

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