Protecting women's rights is not transphobic – Kenny MacAskill MP

I’m not a guy who claims to be a feminist. An indulged son from an all-male family, other than my dear departed mother, probably ensured that.

The rights of transgender people should be protected but not at the expense of the rights of women, says Kenny MacAskill (Picture: David Cheskin/PA)

I have though set out to atone for my younger ignorance and sloth and have been kept on track by other women in my life, even if I still occasionally slip up.

But I do recognise women’s rights. Both the progress made and that has been fought for over the years and rightly first raised with me by my Mum. Yet, there’s a distance that still has to be travelled, as well as new threats that beckon.

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It’s not simply equal pay, a wound that shamefully still cuts deep today, or equality in representation with long overdue changes now coming through in candidates this election.

It also applies in single-sex spaces, but particularly for women where dignity and even safety can apply. And be under no illusion, this will become an election issue as the absurdities caused by recent identity politics come to be understood.

The rights of transgender people require protecting but that cannot come at the cost of the rights of women. New guidance and rules in the fallout from this new identity politics are causing mayhem as my mailbox shows. Issues from unisex toilets in schools through to the safety of women prisoners and the dignity of prison staff are now arising.

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It’s many years now since my auld Mum used to enjoy going to the women's session at the local swimming baths. Initially I jeered but soon realised that it was right and necessary to avoid testosterone-filled youths such as myself spoiling her relaxation.

Women’s sessions and women's only spaces are perfectly legitimate. Males should be excluded and simply pronouncing yourself female cannot suffice.

Yet now the direction is to bring in unisex toilets in schools. Frankly, I found the toilets intimidating places in my schooldays and the idea that a young girl should have to share that space with an older male youth is nuts. No wonder even relatively modest proposals in East Lothian are crossing a line for many parents and youngsters.

In Westminster, the justice trade unions are raising issues about self-identification in the women’s prison estate. A judicial review’s ongoing in the English courts after assaults perpetrated by a man self-identifying as a woman.

It’s not just the safety of prisoners but the dignity of staff that’s threatened. If female custody officers are required to carry out a search on someone self-identifying as a woman then that’s demeaning.

It’s not arisen to the same extent in Scotland but, as with school toilets, it’s coming, as I know from discussions with union representatives here.

Protecting the rights of transgender people is both right and necessary. But it cannot be at the expense of women’s rights and self-ID is an attack upon that.

Protecting women’s rights – rights which aren’t just about pay and political representation but the protection of single-sex spaces and services – isn’t transphobic. That’s equally important for women’s safety and dignity.

Kenny MacAskill is the Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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