MSPs under pressure to support self-ID for transgender people

Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network wants people to write to MSPs supporting changes to the Gender Recognition Act.
Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network wants people to write to MSPs supporting changes to the Gender Recognition Act.
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Pressure is growing on the Scottish Government to publish its proposals on changing the Gender Recognition Act, as a new campaign has seen more than 2800 emails in support of trans rights sent to MSPs.

Scotland's Equality Network - a charity which campaigns for LGBTI equality - has produced a pro-forma email letter for people supportive of the proposed changes to the GRA to send to their MSP. Since its launch on Tuesday, the organisation says 627 transgender people have sent emails, while a further 2255 have been sent by trans-allies.

The letter asks MSPs to "support trans people's right to be recognised equally in Scotland" and spells out the reforms to the GRA that the charity's equal recognition campaign is hoping to achieve.

The Gender Recognition Act currently allows trans people aged 18 and over to amend their birth certificates after a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and proof of having lived in their chosen gender for two years.

The letter says that MSPs should act to "remove the psychiatric diagnosis and other intrusive evidence requirements and move to a system of self-declaration, reduce the age at which people can get legal recognition of their gender to 16 - or under 16 with parental consent - and provide legal recognition for non-binary people who do not identify as male or female".

It adds: "These reforms would bring Scotland’s law in-line with international best practice, and ensure that trans people have an equal right to be recognised."

However, some women's rights organisations have raised concerns about the prospect of self-identification being written into law, believing it would undermine the Equality Act which allows for single-sex spaces to exist.

Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network, said: "The system lets people type in their postcode to find who their MSPs are and then sends the pre-written email to them - though we do encourage people to adapt it and write it in their own words.

"We decided to do it because a lot of people had written to us asking how they could help promote trans equality and support the proposed changes to the GRA and the email outlines our three calls very simply.

"Trans people have also been asking us what is happening with the GRA as there has been a significant delay since the government's consultation closed.It's been over a year now and I think the delay has, to some extent, left a space in which people get concerned."

Referencing the very heated debate over the issue on social media, he added: "We all know that Twitter is toxic as a platform for the debate and you get people behaving in toxic ways on both sides of the debate which is deplorable. I think once the government announces what it plans to do it will change the tone of the debate.

"The government was very clear last September that it would be in this year's legislative programme, so we are expecting to see it later this year - though it's not surprising people are want it to say sooner than that what it will do. We hope that the email campaign will certainly focus minds on the three calls we are making."

READ MORE: Delay in law change allows trans people to be viewed as ‘threat’, says MSP
The delay in bringing forward new legislation had previously been raised by Stonewall Scotland and by Scottish Greens MSP Patrick Harvie but 15 senior SNP politicians, including the chair of Holyrood’s equalities committee and three government ministers, warned against a “rush” to alter legislation they believe could change the definition of male and female.

Equalities minister Shirley-Anne Somerville has said she is undertaking a process of "due diligence" to look at the consultation responses and to "understand the concerns".