GRA Reform Scotland: 'Delays cause hateful discourse fuelled by misinformation', says Scottish Young Greens Chair

Delays to amending the gender recognition process in Scotland have "opened up a space for hateful discourse fuelled by misinformation", the chair of the Scottish Young Greens has said.

Ellie Gomersall, a 22-year-old trans woman, said she expected backlash as new legislation is debated in Holyrood, but insisted it is "pretty certain" the reform will be passed by MSPs.

In an SNP and Scottish Greens' power-sharing agreement last year, both parties agreed a Bill to reform the 2004 Gender Recognition Act (GRA) will be introduced to the Scottish Parliament in the first year of the parliamentary session.

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The GRA governs how trans people can currently attain legal gender recognition and the proposed reform to the GRA will make it easier for a person to change their legally recognised sex.

Ellie Gomersall, chair of the Scottish Young Greens, has said delays to the Gender Recognition Act reform has caused 'hatred fueled by misinformation' (Photo: Christian Gamauf).
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Proposed changes would mean applicants would no longer have to go before the UK Gender Recognition Panel or produce a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Yet despite push-back from groups and bodies, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the Scottish Government has said it is “committed” to bringing forward the changes to “improve and simplify” the process for a trans person to gain legal recognition.

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Ms Gomersall, the Scottish Young Greens chair, said: "We are part of the government and the Greens have the ability to make sure the government is really clear on the agreement around GRA reform.

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"There’s going to be backlash and there’s going to be toxic debates, even from people within the Parliament, but it’s pretty certain the bill will pass.

“It’s going to be a lengthy legislation to go through Parliament with amendments, but I’m very hopeful we will have a very clear idea by the summer what the new Gender Recognition Act will look like.”

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Although it is likely there will be majority support for the legislation in Holyrood, with the reform being tabled next month for Parliament, there has been fierce opposition to the Bill.

However, a recent Savanta ComRes survey indicated general support for making the GRA process easier in Scotland – with 57 per cent for and 20 per cent against.

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The poll of around 2,000 respondents also indicated younger people and women are more in favour of gender reform than older people and men.

The Scottish Conservatives say they are “determined to make sure the valid concerns of the Scottish public” are represented in the debate around GRA reform.

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Meghan Gallacher, Scottish Conservative MSP, said: “It is important we work to further trans rights, but we cannot allow that to compromise the rights of women and girls.

“Many Scots have concerns about the current proposals, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has raised serious questions over the human rights implications of these reforms.

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“Both the SNP and the Green Party’s approach to this debate has been deeply irresponsible from the start, and has left people with reasonable concerns feeling dismissed and looked down upon.

“We need to have a mature conversation about the proposed changes, which considers all viewpoints.”

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Many concerns expressed by groups form around the impact the legislation could have on women-only spaces.

However, such spaces would still be protected separately through the Equality Act 2010.

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Cheltenham-born Ms Gomersall – who moved to Scotland when she was 18 after coming out as trans – said: "Single-sex spaces such as toilets or changing rooms have nothing to do with the Gender Recognition Act and it’s created a toxic environment where misinformation is so rife that many people do not know what the Bill even does.

"In the same way as you saw there was a campaign to legalise gay marriage, you are moving towards progress and so naturally there becomes more friction as you move closer to that.

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"Push-back is not as prominent once reforms and law changes have occurred.”

However, Ms Gomersall said “the problem” with GRA is “the number of times it’s been pushed back”.

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She said: "It’s one of the most consulted on pieces of legislation in the history of the Scottish Parliament and as a result we keep on opening these same old arguments and what that’s done has opened up a space for hateful discourse fuelled by misinformation.”

The UK currently has some of the most restrictive gender recognition processes in Europe.

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Countries such as Portugal, Ireland, and Norway have passed laws in the last few years that made it possible for trans people to obtain legal recognition of their gender using self-determination only.

Ms Gomersall said: “When you look at other countries who already have self-ID we see how that doesn’t have a negative impact on all women and it moves the feminist movement forward for everyone.

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"I think people who are often opposed to trans rights have a genuine fear that it will move them back with women’s rights but the problem is they’ve been fuelled by a campaign of misinformation.”

Ms Gomersall said GRA is a "pretty small change” that will be important, however said there were other more important trans issues to look at: "Once GRA is done we can look at often significantly more important parts of the cooperation agreement around things like healthcare for trans people to make it easier to access services.”

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A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The proposals do not introduce any new rights for trans people or change single sex exceptions in the Equality Act.

“Our proposals were outlined in a draft bill published in 2019 and we consulted on that bill as well as on the principles of reform in 2017.

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“Over recent months, the Social Justice Secretary has met with a range of independent organisations that requested a meeting about the Gender Recognition Bill and no group that has requested a meeting has been refused.

“We appreciate the range of strongly held views on the Gender Recognition Act and have always been keen to seek consensus where possible and to work to support respectful debate.”

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