Humiliated over the case of the transgender rapist sent initially to a women’s prison then, following public uproar, moved to a men’s one, the First Minister should be reflecting seriously on her mistakes. Instead, comments like this only serve to inflame passions in a debate that is already past boiling point, as a recent placard calling for ‘Terfs’ – trans-exclusionary radical feminists – to be “decapitated” makes clear.
Furthermore, Sturgeon’s remarks damage the cause of transgender rights. The case of Isla Bryson, who raped two women while a man and started the transition process before being sentenced, demonstrates a fundamental point – that there is not an absolute right to self-ID.
Instead, it is a qualified right, as in some rare cases, it is not possible to treat a trans woman in exactly the same way as a so-called ‘cis’ woman because of a conflict of rights. In this case, a sex offender's right to be treated as a woman rightly lost out to female prisoners’ right to be protected from such a despicable individual.
Defining the boundaries of these qualifications is crucial to securing improvements in trans rights. The Scottish Government’s failure to do so led directly to the confusion over which prison Bryson should be taken to.
Instead of being the target of disgraceful slurs by the First Minister, the feminists and others who have raised potential problems with self-ID deserve to be given a hearing and taken seriously. There should be a respectful debate involving them and trans rights campaigners to find a mutually acceptable way forward.
This may seem near-impossible to both sides, but they have a duty to try. No difficult issue was ever solved by hurling abusive remarks.
Sturgeon’s unwarranted, over-the-top attack is also likely to backfire, as public sympathy and support may shift towards those being so unfairly traduced. She is entitled to her opinion, but to join the chorus of abuse suggests she has lost the plot. The First Minister should apologise forthwith or questions about her fitness to lead Scotland will multiply.