Gender reform Scotland: Who else will have the courage to protect our children in our mixed up world? - Susan Dalgety

As Nicola Sturgeon ponders the fall-out from Thursday’s stage 1 debate of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, where nine of her MSPs rebelled against the party whip, including a minister who resigned, perhaps she could spare a few minutes to think about the real-life impact of her ideologically driven legislation.

To listen to those MSPs who support the change – which will see 16-year-old children allowed to change their legal sex without proper scrutiny or support – you could be fooled into thinking that it is a meaningless tweak to current rules.

“It is now incumbent on all of us…to remember that what is proposed in the bill is simply a technical amendment to the law,” said Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

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Except it isn’t, is it Mr Cole-Hamilton? The bill, as it currently stands, will allow anyone over the age of 16 to change their legal sex by making a simple declaration to the National Records of Scotland.

If the bill is passed without amendment, it will be far easier for a 17-year-old girl to change her legal sex from female to male than it will be for her to obtain a driving licence. She will have no theory test to sit to prove she understands the life-changing commitment she is about to make.

She will not have to spend hundreds of pounds and many fraught hours learning how to steer her way through early adulthood as a man, when she was born female. All she will have to do is sign a form saying she is has lived in her “acquired gender” for three months, and after living in it for a further 12 weeks, she will be issued with a new birth certificate. He will have passed Sturgeon’s gender test at his first attempt, and his fulfilling new life as a man can now begin.

It all seems so straightforward, doesn’t it? With a simple technical amendment, girls will be boys and boys will be girls, and they will all live happily ever after in our mixed-up, muddled up, shook up world. In fact, MSPs claim it is so easy and there are so few consequences that one Green parliamentarian is keen that children have the same right to change their sex as adolescents.

“I am determined that appropriate gender recognition for under-16s and for non-binary people will be part of our shared future. To them I say, ‘You are not forgotten,’” Maggie Chapman told her fellow MSPs on Thursday.

Community safety minister Ash Regan resigned this week over Scottish Government plans to make it easier for someone to change their legally-recognised gender. Who else will stand up for children as the bill makes its way through parliament?, asks Susan Dalgety. PIC: National World.

Remarkable as this promise is to Scotland’s children, it is even more startling in its smug recklessness given that it came only hours after revelations about Sandyford, the Glasgow clinic where young girls can access medical treatment so that they can live in their “acquired gender”.

A consultant at Sandyford, home to Scotland’s only gender identity clinic for children, was reportedly recorded at an online NHS event in the summer saying work was ongoing to find “a robust evidence base for the treatment that we offer" with the “entirety” of a pre-treatment assessment based on the patient’s self report.

" We can only go on what they tell us,” the clinician says in the recording, which was leaked to a newspaper by a whistleblower. “It's not a forensic assessment where you're looking at social work and school and all of those things. You're basically just going on what they tell you. It is a massive concern, but it is what it is at the moment, unfortunately."

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According to the report, the consultant said its role was to “assess people for their readiness for treatment and to get them on treatment”.

Sinead Watson was “assessed” for treatment at Sandyford in her early twenties, and after taking testosterone for two years, she had a double mastectomy. As MSPs took to their feet in the chamber to argue that young people should be allowed to change their sex by declaration, Sinead tweeted, “They [Sandyford] simply asked ‘have you been living in your acquired gender for at least 2 years?’ I said yes and that was the end of the conversation. As far as I can tell, ‘living as one’s acquired gender’ simply means cross-dressing. But woman is not a costume. Man is not a costume.”

Sinead is now considering taking legal action against Sandyford and campaigns against the gender reform bill. “16 is too young,” she tweeted on Thursday. “A need for diagnosis and therapy is vital. 3 months is not long enough. But more importantly the whole thing is just bloody ridiculous because humans CANNOT change sex.”

But it seems many of Scotland’s MSPs know better than Sinead. They also know better than Dr Hilary Cass, whose interim review into gender identity services in England led to the closure of the Tavistock clinic, which provided the same services as Sandyford.

The know better than NHS England who this week issued guidance warning medics that most children identifying as transgender are going through a “transient phase”. And they think they know better than those desperate parents looking for moral and practical support, only to be told they are bigots.

The Gender Recognition Reform bill is not a technical amendment. It is a major change in the law. And laws have consequences. That is their point after all. If MSPs pass this bill without major changes, they will be sending a clear message to Scotland’s children and young people.

On Thursday, nine MSPs risked their political careers to expose the empress has no clothes. Over the coming weeks and months, we will discover if any more have the courage to protect our children.