Transsexuals tell MSPs that act changes could have ‘horrific’ impact on women

Shirley-Anne Somerville attempted to heal the division by admitting women's concerns were not 'transphobic'
Shirley-Anne Somerville attempted to heal the division by admitting women's concerns were not 'transphobic'
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A letter from 14 transsexuals has been sent to all MSPs outlining their concerns about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, which they claim could detrimentally affect their rights as well as those of women.

The group has written ahead of a “Being Trans in Scotland 2019” event in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow that aims to give MSPs the chance to talk to trans people about their lives and experiences as well as organisations representing the trans community.

In the letter to all politicians on proposals which would allow people to self-declare their gender rather than receiving a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, they say they are “deeply concerned about naive proposals to weaken safeguarding protections in a misguided attempt to support a simplistic notion of inclusion”.

They also state that positions such as “gender identity is more fundamental to human society than biological sex ... can have a devastating impact in wider society and especially on the poorest and most vulnerable women”.

Their letter says: “As transsexual people we are horrified by the impact on women: their right to organise as a biological sex and their ability to protect their own boundaries.

“When women do protest they are accused of bigotry and transphobia, and dehumanised as TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists). We therefore understand why many women choose to remain silent despite their discomfort and outrage when biological males claim they are entitled to the rights and protections granted to women; take places reserved for women in politics and wider society; compete in female sport despite ongoing physical advantage; and put their needs above the needs of women.”

The letter comes after a week of internal SNP warfare, which has seen private concerns about Nicola Sturgeon’s views on trans people’s rights leaked by SNP staff. A social media row between SNP activists and politicians also developed, while equalities secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville attempted to heal the division by admitting women’s concerns were not “transphobic”.

The authors of the letter say they have written to express “solidarity with women who have aired reasonable concerns and then been attacked for doing so”, adding they fear a backlash will threaten their rights such as access to medical treatment to alleviate “the debilitating effects of gender dysphoria”, as well as “the right to express ourselves in ways more typical of the opposite sex or of neither sex and the right to be protected from discrimination, harassment and abuse”.

The intervention was welcomed by the SNP’s Joan McAlpine, who said it was “significant”. She said: “It shows not all trans people agree with the vocal and often aggressive extremists who condemn reasonable questions as ‘transphobic’.”

And Susan Sinclair, a feminist campaigner behind the Scottish Women blog, said: “I am grateful for their expressed solidarity with the women who have been attacked for voicing concerns over the negative impacts of the policies and practices from both central and local governments. I agree with their call to engage in meaningful and constructive dialogue in an attempt to move forward from where we find ourselves. A common-sense approach that considers the needs of all protected groups, and more importantly, works within the parameters of the law is crucial to all future developments.”

An SNP spokesperson said: “Nobody raising genuine concerns over women’s rights should face knee-jerk accusations of transphobia. However, transgender people continue to face prejudice in their everyday lives and deserve to know that their government is working to change that.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Reforming the 2004 Gender Recognition Act remains one of the Scottish Government’s key equality priorities, to ensure that trans people can enjoy access to an improved gender recognition process that is in line with international best practice.

“There were around 15,500 responses to the Scottish Government consultation on proposals to reform the Act. Ministers are currently considering the responses to the consultation and will make an announcement on the way forward in due course.”