“As transsexual people we are horrified by the impact on women.”
A group of 14 transgender people sent a letter to all Scottish Ministers of Parliament on Monday speaking out about the negative effects on women of a proposed amendment to legislation intended to protect transgender and non-binary rights.
The Scottish Parliament is weighing changing the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to self-declare their gender. Currently, the law requires a diagnosis of gender dysphoria before allowing an individual to legally change their gender identity. The letter argues that the amendment is a “naive proposal” that is a “misguided attempt to support a simplistic notion of inclusion.”
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The letter said the notion that “gender identity is more fundamental to human society than biological sex” can have devastating consequences, most notably for the poorest and most vulnerable women.
“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,” the letter said.
“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 continued.
Scottish National Party member Nicola Sturgeon recently voiced concerns about some of the transgender rights language in the proposal, which led to spats between politicians and activists on social media.
Equalities Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville spoke out about the division, saying that women’s concerns about the proposed changes were not “transphobic.”
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The authors of the letter agreed, saying they “stand in solidarity” with women. They also argued that women have brought up “reasonable concerns” about the proposed changes but have been “attacked for doing so.”
Joan McAlpine, another SNP member, said the letter was a welcome inclusion to the dialogue surrounding trans rights.
“It shows not all trans people agree with the vocal and often aggressive extremists who condemn reasonable questions as ‘transphobic’,” McAlpine said.
An SNP spokesperson also agreed with the sentiments of the letter in a statement, saying women should not face accusations of transphobia for voicing their concerns.
“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,” the statement said.
Susan Sinclair, a feminist activist and blogger said she appreciates the letter from the transgender individuals.
“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 government,” Sinclair said. “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.”
Nevertheless, a spokesperson for the Scottish government said reforming the 2004 law in accordance with the demands of the transgender community remains a top priority for the government.
“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,” the spokesperson said. “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.”
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