Row over transsexual woman searched by male Holyrood guard

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THE Scottish Parliament has apologised after a transgender visitor complained about being searched by a male security guard.

An investigation was launched after the visitor, who was born a man and now lives as a woman, asked to be searched by a female security guard at the public entrance at Holyrood.

However, the female security guards on duty refused, as they understood the visitor was a man, and a male security guard carried out a search.

The visitor raised a complaint after being upset by the treatment she received.

She was visiting an event at the parliament organised by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights group LGBT Scotland.

The group lodged a formal complaint with the Scottish Parliament authorities on behalf of their guest and asked for procedures to be put in place to avoid a repeat incident.

The parliament has now apologised to the visitor and to LGBT Scotland.

Mhairi Logan, head of policy at LGBT Youth Scotland, said: "The complaint is under way and was made by ourselves on behalf of the person involved.

"The parliament have been very understanding and we are pleased with how they are treating the matter. We have received an initial letter of apology and we expect the issue to be resolved soon."

Ms Logan added: "There is a lot of ignorance about transgender people, not necessarily through badness, but just lack of knowledge. A lot of organisations don't have any guidelines in place, but things are changing. The police and prison service, for example, now have specific policies for searching transgender people."

After the complaint was made, parliament managers launched an inquiry, pulling in security guards who were present to question them about the incident.

It is also understood that clear directives on the searching of transgender visitors have been issued to security staff. A Holyrood insider said: "It was an unfortunate incident, but nobody in the security team believes they did anything wrong.

"The visitor was a man as far as the security staff could tell. In those circumstances, it was felt it was fine for a male security guard to search him before he came in.

"However, the visitor was adamant he wanted to be searched by a woman. The women on duty at the time refused, as they are not supposed to carry out body searches on male visitors.

"It created a bit of a stand-off, but nobody on duty knew exactly what they should do."

All visitors to the parliament are patted down by security staff if they set off an archway metal detector at the public entrance.

The incident took place during a visit to Holyrood by the National Youth Council of LGBT Scotland on 26 November.

A parliament spokesman said they could not discuss the complaint. He said: "While we cannot comment upon or confirm individual cases, we take issues of equality extremely seriously."