Fairer Scotland

Transgender rights and equality

April 18, 2019 by 56 Comments

The debate about the rights of transgender people is becoming very polarised. As Cabinet Secretary for Equalities, I have a duty to try to change that and to encourage respectful debate. Setting out my own views and feelings on the matter – while  trying to better understand those of others – is a first step.

I am a strong supporter of trans rights and equality. I have met too many trans men and women, particularly young people, who struggle on a daily basis just to feel safe, secure and accepted for who they are, for me to be anything else. The hurdles they face and the damage they often suffer is immense. I want Scotland to be a place where we work to put that right, a country where they do feel safe, secure and accepted. So, I have no hesitation in calling myself a trans ally – and I hope trans women and men see me that way too.

But I am also a woman and a lifelong, passionate feminist – and I know that while the battle for women’s rights and equality has made great strides in recent years, there is still much more to do. I also know that, at times, the progress already made can feel fragile.

Just as the First Minister has herself said in the past, I personally don’t feel conflict between my support for trans rights and my support for women’s rights.

But I know that some do feel that conflict – and that the issues they are raising are not motivated by transphobia but by a concern, sincerely felt, that space hard won by women down the generations will be compromised.

Government has a duty to understand and seek to address the concerns being raised. This is something I have sought to do since taking this post and to which I commit to continue to do.

There is always a danger in over-simplifying complex issues and I am not intending to do so, but it strikes me in listening to some of the concerns raised that, at their core, it is not so much a problem with the rights of trans women but instead a fear of men who abuse women.

The fear is that some men will use trans equality as a Trojan horse to access women and do us harm.

And I understand that. But it means the problem we face is not one of trans women wanting to feel safe and accepted – it is one of how we protect and safeguard women against potentially abusive men. That’s not a new problem in Scottish or global society – nor is it one created by trans women.

If we are able to appreciate this and other perspectives, I believe we can work through many of these issues, address the concerns that are being raised, and make Scotland a place where everyone can feel safe. And do so while standing full square behind the rights of trans men and women not to be discriminated against.

It is also important to point out that Scotland would not be any kind of pioneer in this work, we would simply be catching up with changes that many other countries, including Ireland, have already made.

My last point is this. As I said earlier, people raising genuine concerns about women’s rights shouldn’t suffer knee jerk accusations of transphobia.

However, it is also impossible to deny that there is a considerable degree of transphobia in our society.

I hope, therefore, that – whatever views any of us may hold on the relationship between trans rights and women’s rights – we will all unite against transphobia, just as we do against homophobia and any other form of prejudice and discrimination.

Trans men and women are amongst the most stigmatized groups in our society. They deserve to know that their government is working to change that.


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Comments

  • Alessandra Asteriti says:

    I know for a fact that several women commented on this article, including me. That you have not published any of the comments reflects very badly on you indeed. It seems women do not have the right to speak in Scotland.

  • Katie says:

    Sorry, but attempting to shift the blame for cis male violence onto trans women makes one neither a “trans ally” or “feminist”. It makes one the antithesis of both and claiming to believe in equality whilst omitting one group of people from equal rights simply invalidates that claim to believe in equality.

  • Samantha Carpenter says:

    Dear Cabinet Secretary,

    It is obvious from your words that you support the trans community and I thank you. We need support at this time of unrelenting hate aimed toward us. I feel trans people, we just want to get on with our lives. Yes the GRC could be simplified but just from that has stemmed more targeted hate. On a daily basis we are vilified, made out to be rapists, paedophiles etc. when the reality is that myself, as a transgendered equalities advisor for a public body have , outside of work, been victim of nine sexual assaults and two cases of receiving a broken bone (this is in the last 25 months).

    So yes, hate hurts. It needs to be stopped before I lose any more of my brothers and sisters through suicide.

    I’m all up for balanced debate but what I don’t agree with is having my existence debated. I am me, fact. My rights are human rights and that’s all there is to it.

    Thanks for reading,
    Samantha

  • James says:

    It is wonderful to live in a country with a progressive government. Everyone should be able to live their lives in their own way!

  • David says:

    This is just absurd. Please can we also protect the rights of the vast majority i.e heterosexual population not all about the miniscule minorities. No mention ever of equality for the heterosexual populaton

  • Rachel Sheppard says:

    Yes trans equality may be used by some men to do women harm but that is a small concern compared to the fact that it will eradicate any chance of equality for women full stop.

    Not all trans men are predatory and out to do women harm but their very presence in our women only spaces means that woman are forced to feel the humiliation or outright fear of having to change, deal with their periods or use the loo in the presence of a male bodied person. Or, in the case of victims of sexual assault (1 in 3 women world wide) who would be traumatised by this and women who’s religion or beliefs forbid the sharing of these spaces with male bodied people, be unable to use these spaces and services at all.

    The equalities act prevents discrimination of our sex and had exactly these women in mind when it was written. Giving trans woman equal rights to enter women only, sex segregated spaces results in women, who for whatever good reason – trauma or religion – can’t share their privacy with male bodied people to loose their equal rights to be able to use these public spaces.

    Tran’s rights over women’s rights? Where’s the equality in that?

    The only fair way forward, that doesn’t result in women loosing their rights is for government to provide third spaces for trans people to use.

  • Helen Bunter says:

    let’s look at what is happening in Glasgow right now. They have reinterpreted the EA2010 to open up single sex spaces (which are a legitimate exclusion to meet an identified aim) to males, including cross dressers. No EIA or consultation has taken place. The impact on women from particular religious or cultural backgrounds, those who are survivors of abuse and women who just want to have a space which is free from men means that many women are effectively excluded now from taking part in recreational activities. We know that women are at increased risk in mixed sex changing rooms. Not a day goes by that we don’t read about men photographing women and girls in what should be private spaces. Everybody has the same human rights. Women deserve to be able to have single sex spaces when it has been clearly identified that they would not participate in public life without them. Males are being included in all women shortlists, being nominated for women’s prizes, taking part in women’s sports. Everything that women have fought for, everything that NGOs are fighting for on behalf of women in developing countries (such as single sex toilets) are being lost. Please listen to women.

  • Chloe says:

    I welcome your sensible and well thought out comments. Extreem voices on both sides are preventing a nuanced conversations, “transphobia” and “safeguarding” have become weaponized terminology, sadly diluting their meaning. The media isn’t helping, some terrible headlines, scaremongering again and again by the same authors. Trans rights are not in conflict with the hard won rights of women, and feminism is as important as ever.

  • Jo says:

    Most of us feminists look at what is happening in Canada and the US and shudder. Enshrining gender identity in law has been a massive mistake. It would be far better to protect gender expression. Why? Well we all want the trans community to be protected but what is the trans community?
    Do you think it’s the trans umbrella that Stonewall publish? Or do you think it’s a transsexual that has a meaningful transition?
    The definition of that is important when considering the intersection of those rights with those of women.
    And, whatever your definition of the community is, the definition of woman remains, adult human female. Females need sex based rights to access services, safe spaces and sports. Children need sex based rights to protect them.
    I honestly can’t believe that we have got this far about something that lacks a definition. Gender identity is undefined and unproven. Please don’t make any more bad law. We have seen the impact of this in Canada with predators getting lawful access to children and women, we have seen the he impact of this in the US with young males taking sports scholarships and titles that should be reserved for girls.

  • Anna says:

    I’ve been rolling this around in my head for a couple of days now, trying to compose something succinct enough that someone might bother to actually read and try to understand. But it’s not possible.

    There is not enough in your post to engage with here, what are ‘trans rights’? The right for any man to declare themselves female and access women only facilities? No. I will fight that all the way. Trans people should be treated with kindness and respect, but it’s a two way street. Trans rights must not come at the expense of womens safety, privacy and dignity. XX and XY are a reality.

    The insanity is that I never have had a single dialogue with someone from your side of the fence over this. All I ever get is silencing or abuse. I genuinely can’t understand how people, including our first minister (unfortunately) are able to ram this square peg into a round hole and *believe* that transwomen are women and that this poses no threat to women and girls. I wish I could see how or why people actually think this. The void fills with all kinds of cynical speculation. And it’s only people online I encounter like this. In ‘real life’ nobody is comfortable with gender neutral toilets etc. And we’re all too scared to say or do anything.

    So all that leaves is for me to remember to get a card in the post today for Joan McAlpine, who is getting a really tough time for speaking the truth, her treatment is incredibly unfair and she deserves support for what she is doing.

    I’m an SNP voter, always have been, hope I always will be, but I have to fight self ID.

  • Gail says:

    As a woman I find it utterly discraceful how easy the SNP fail to understand that sex and gender are not the same thing and totally undermines safeguarding because you want to be seen as “progressive”. Instead your party is willing to roll back women’s sex based legal protection for a group of activists who threaten women with violence and name-calling. I won’t be voting for the SNP because of this

  • Susan says:

    This doesn’t reflect my concerns. Amongst other things, I’m concerned that the current schools transgender guidance for Scottish schools suggests that a teenage boy, who self declares as a trans-girl can use the girls changing rooms, showers and dormitory. How is this respectful and safe for young girls? What is the point of having sex segregated facilities in the first place?

  • Derek Williams says:

    Thank you for this statement of commitment to equality.

  • Bronwyn Driver says:

    I thank you for your kind and measured response. I too understand the concerns that are being raised, and I feel there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the equality act in particular that is fuelling a sense of panic and fear amongst women.

    As a trans woman I would like to see the GRA streamlined, to that I have no doubt.

    But, the government needs to be very clear on what the current laws are in relation to access. I think the biggest problem in this whole polarised debate is the lack of clarity from the GEO. How does a GRC specifically affect a trans person’s right to access to services and spaces compared to those who do not hold one.

    The longer the GEO leave this question unanswered, the more those directly affected by these issues, particularly vulnerable cis and trans women will suffer.

  • Rosemary Aikman Bull says:

    I am English but have two Scottish granddaughters. I am very concerned about the transgender issue because it is likely to make things more unsafe for girls and women and more unfair.
    I completely agree this is an issue not taking place but being imposed. It is being driven by men and by trans women to the detriment of all women.
    My main points.
    1. There is a difference between sex and gender. This should be carefully differentiated on all government, NHS and local authority collection of data. If it is not collected it will become impossible to know the extent of discrimination against women.
    2. Retaining female only spaces is very important to protect women. I think that needs to include all spaces where women and girls are naked, go to the loo, are in hospital, women’s only refugees ie for abused women. I think this is especially important for vulnerable women. (For evidence see how many sex attacks are carried out in mixed sex changing room in swimming baths in comparison to the attacks carried out in single sex changing rooms. They are vastly different.)
    3. Lesbians need to be protected from trans women. They are regularly attacked – and some are quite frightened. No idea how you do that.
    4. Sexual predators and other sex offenders will take advantage of the ease of changing gender. The proportion of trans women currently in prison who are sex offenders is currently 50%. Imagine if 50% of men in prison were sex offenders! How this is policed and dealt with will be difficult – but must not be ignored. Another reason to have records which show sex and gender.
    5. Healthcare and hospital settings need both sex and gender information. Allowing trans women into female care settings will fundamentally change the way they operate – my experience as a patient in a mixed sex ward has shown me how frightened women become. I am also concerned that all the information about drugs and treatments vary between the sexes – and the differences should not be muddied.
    6. Child abuse carried out in the name of transgender children. In my opinion this is utterly dreadful. No child should have either drugs or surgery. When they are adults they can decide. But currently children are being made infertile (the stuff of Nazi Germany) and their brains damaged by drug treatments which delay puberty but also brain development.
    7. Women’s sport has a potential for being destroyed. Women’s sport should be for women only – amateur and professional. If not sport is not fair or safe for women. Trans women should not compete in girls or women’s sport – for lots and lots of reasons. I am sure you can find lots more information to support my statement – and lots of trans women who will pile abuse and unpleasantness on anyone who queries them.
    I completely agree more discussion should take place. There should be fairness for transgender people but not at the expense of the fairness and safety and discrimination against women. And I notice that it is a strong male lobby which is preventing that discussion.
    More information can be found here.
    https://fairplayforwomen.com/
    There is a lot of biased, inaccurate (possibly intending to deceive), lobbying (half-truths) information. A very public debate is important – and a final position where transgender people are not concealed in society. I think it is the concealing which will lead to more abuse.

  • Anon says:

    This debate isn’t about abusive men and it is a straw man argument to say so. With self ID, ‘woman’ becomes meaningless as any man can legally become a woman. We would be moving from a position where women are women because they are female and are protected by sex based rights put in place to address sex discrimination – to a position where a woman is anyone who ‘identifies’ as one – no doubt based on regressive sex stereotypes which we should be moving away from not enshrining in law. We’d be basing ‘woman’ instead of on the reality of sex, on ‘gender identify’, an undefined, unevidenced and highly controversial concept. How then do we address sexism and the structural reasons why women are disadvantaged in our society?

    Even without abusive men – and there will be those that abusive self ID – it has already happened eg Karen White, Katie Dolatowski – on what basis have we decided that single sex services are no longer required or desirable? Policy is moving ahead of the law in this area – and the debate has become so polarised – because of the vacuum where there should be balanced leadership, consideration and debate which takes account of women’s concerns, not just dismissal of them and framing these as minor administrative changes which only affect trans people. Instead this vacuum has been filled by demands from those advocating for an end to single sex exemptions. Already single sex facilties are being replaced with mixed sex facilities all over the country with no consideration for how most people feel about this, no consideration particularly for how women of certain faiths can use mixed sex facilities, and what the impact is for people with disabilities, whose essential facilities are increasingly being rebranded as a ‘gender neutral’ facility for able bodied people or a single sex alternative for those able bodied people who don’t want to use mixed sex facilities.

    I despair at the way in which this issue has been handled by Scottish Government and Scotland’s politicians and this intervention is lacking and far too late. The Scottish Government is failing in its duty to consider the needs of half the population to satisfy the demands of a vocal minority. This phenomenon has been termed as ‘policy capture’ which seems a very accurate description of what is happening, with issues such as Transgender Day of Rememberance being used for political leverage for such change when trans people in the UK have been shown to be statistically less likely to be murdered than people who aren’t trans, meanwhile 2 women are murdered a week in the UK by a partner or former partner.

    The lack of balance and leadership on this issue has meant that women have been denigrated for trying to keep hold of their existing rights, with claims of ‘transphobia’ a convenient cover for misogynistic views. The Scottish Government and its Ministers have been complicit in this in their failure to address the issues.

  • Bea Jaspert says:

    Trans rights are human rights.
    So are female sex-based rights.
    So are children’s rights.

    There are very serious grounds for concern over the impacts of trans activist/gender identity ideology upon female sex-based rights and protections and child safeguarding.
    (Note – this is NOT about transgender people themselves or the transgender community).

    Well meaning, tolerant, progressive people have been persuaded by a powerful and well-funded lobby to accept and implement policies based on a regressive oppressive ideology which flouts Equality Law by ignoring sex-based rights/protections and child safeguarding.

    School children are being taught that if they don’t fit regressive gender stereotypes they may very likely be “trans”. Teachers cannot question this or raise concernss. Health workers are pressured to affirm children who say theyre trans, without proper assessment/support.

    Girlguides admits males, inc to sleepovers, if the males “identify” as women/girls.
    Rape and domestic violence refuges, and female prisons, admit males who identify as women – even if they have convictions for raping women.
    Males are allowed to participate in womens sports.

    Anyone who questions/challenges is branded bigot, transphobe, “terf” – deplatformed, subjected to vile abuse inc threats, harassment, doxing, and even physical assault. Dissenters risk losing their livelihoods as well as Twitter bans, police cautions, even prosecutions. Women’s meetings to discuss concerns are harassed and threatened.

    Sex is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act.
    Legal sex exemptions exist that allow services to discriminate against male people (however they gender identify) in certain situations to protect female rights, equality, safety.
    These are being flouted, even by government.

    Child safeguarding policies that should prevent experimental medical procedures and ideologically driven unscientific education are being routinely ignored.
    Only ideological groups are permitted to advise, risk assessments are jettisoned, whistleblowers are gagged or sacked.

    UK politicians are silent. To my knowledge, only one MP, Scottish MSP @JoanMcAlpine, has spoken out on these very serious issues (and has faced harassment for doing so).
    Most political parties, major charities and women’s and children’s groups actively support the ideology which allows “no debate” or criticism.

    This ideology has massive support from gay rights orgs such as Pride and Stonewall, although it denies the legitimacy of same-sex attraction, and says eg females who are only attracted to females (and not males who ‘identify’ as women) are “transphobic, hateful bigots”.

    The policies and practice of gender identity ideology erase womens sex-based rights/protections, erase homosexual rights, and put children at serious risk of harm. Gender Identity lobby groups silence all dissent/challenge.

    This IS in fact a serious assault on child safeguarding and on the hard won sex-based rights and protections of women and girls.
    It is essential that a full and open debate is allowed about this infringement of the legally enshrined human rights of the legally protected groups women (sex) and children (age), with full consultation with women, particularly users of female single-sex services and facilities, and with women’s groups.

    Please start listening to women. Stop dismissing our concerns and smearing us as bigots and transphobes.
    To reiterate: we don’t hate trans people or oppose their rights.
    We support child safeguarding and the sex-based rights of women and girls.

  • Sarah Cummings says:

    The Equality Act grants everyone the same level of legal protection against discrimination.
    That does not mean that everyone has the same need or right of access to an adjustment made for a protected group.

    The Equality Act does 3 things;
    – It defines the protected characteristic.
    – It details the kinds of adjustment that can be made for people who share a protected characteristic.
    – It states that people who do not share the characteristic are not discriminated against if they are prevented from using the adjustment.

    There is nothing in the Act to prevent a third mixed sex space being created for trans people and those who are able to share with them.

    When we look at the reasons single sex services exist we are talking about issues such as safeguarding, recovering from trauma, managing male violence, privacy, the right to self organise.

    1) Sex and gender reassignment are two separate characteristics, because humans cannot change sex. Men never need access to the breastfeeding room at work. Men never need a cervical smear, or miscarriage support. Men do need prostate exams, women don’t.
    We have the right to use plain English to describe and meet these needs.

    2) Gay and lesbian are protected characteristics, becuase sexual orientation is based on sex, not gender presentation. Denying gay people the right to sexual preference is gay conversion therapy.

    3) Single sex spaces and services are wanted and needed by women, both for privacy and to reduce the risk of assault. Safeguarding is not a luxury.

    4) Many BAME women and those from conservative cultures cannot use mixed sex spaces and services, and will self exclude. For example, a woman who wears a hijab needs a women only space to adjust it. This affects Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and Romany women.

    5) Women in coercive and controlling relationships, women managing PTSD, cannot use mixed sex spaces and services and will self exclude.

    6) Disabled and elderly women are entitled to ask for carers who are the same sex.
    Women having a PAP test or other intimate exams are entitled to ask for female staff.

    7) Rape, domestic violence shelters, and other trauma therapy and support services are single sex because that helps recovery, while mixed sex services retraumatise survivors.

    8) Women need single sex hospital and psychiatric wards. Mixed sex wards have an increased risk for sexual harassment and assault.

    9) Women prisoners are a vulnerable gropup with much lower levels of violence than the male estate, with fewer sex offenders, and with high rates of abuse survivors.

    10) Sports are single sex where men have a physical advantage over women, this gives women athletes the chance to compete and win, and lowers the risk of injury.

    11) The law is being broken and it is women who are disproportionately affected;, risk assessments are not being carried out, women are being excluded form legal discussions that affect us, women only groups are being told to become mixed sex or be denied funding.

    12) The educators, gatekeepers and pressure groups pushing transgender ideology are often run by people without proper qualifications.

    13) Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, but women who stand up for their existing rights are being targeted and described as hate groups.

  • Ella Beech says:

    At the moment the legal definition of rape is that it is committed by a man with a member for penetration.

    Courts and health sector (despite the law) are accepting self id which has an adverse impact on statistics and data relating to healthcare and crime. The data and therefore perception of risk is skewed.

    How will this help health and social care planning or the perception of women if the rise in violent crime continues to increase. There’s a refusal to accept that trans people retain biological patterns of offending and to adequately manage the risk.

    Wait and see if something happens would never be good enough in any other circumstance, why is it acceptable when it comes to women’s issues and legally enshrined rights?

    The consultation is merely a tick box exercise and intends to pay women on the head and pressure us to be good little girls. The message is move over so men can tell you what to do and how to be. If you object you’re a transphobe who needs re education, notnthat we need to hear what you say incase there’s some merit to it.

  • Maggie Mellon says:

    Thanks for this attempt to answer some of the concerns about government policy direction re transgender ideology. A huge problem is that Government has raced to adopt policy based on some very odd arguments: chief among them being that biological men can be actual women (and vice versa). Govt policy is that organisations can’t get govt funding unless they accept this as fact and agree to include anyone who believes they belong to the oppose sex in their work. No impact assessments have been carried out to justify this. The Scottish Govt adopted an ideological position without any consultation with or consideration of the impacts. Women and all children are being affected in a range of ways both physically and psychologically. The guidance for schools which is endorsed and promoted by the govt was written by two people without any qualifications in education, the law, psychology, social work, and is based entirely on the need to accept their beliefs without question. There has been is a complete freezing out of discussion and challenge to some very bizarre claims.
    This is reckless government. When you demand that people ignore the reality of their own senses you create a very dangerous situation.

  • Aileen Mitchell Stewart says:

    Very well said. You identify the core of the matter precisely: those of us who are nervous about certain changes are not trans phobic, just wary of how some men may seek to use any changes with abusive intent. As a lifelong proud feminist I applaud the trans community for their bravery. But I am also aware that we still live in a world that is not safe for women, trans women included, and maybe particularly. Any legislation needs somehow to square the circle of trans rights and women’s safety. Both need to be taken into account, but in my opinion the safety of all women, born or trans, needs to be paramount.

  • Melanie says:

    Society has progressed so that homosexuals, male and female, are now able to be out and proud of being gay, and this is what we should be aiming at with the trans community too. They should be able to say ‘Transwomen are transwomen’ with pride, not ‘Transwomen are women’, which they’re not.

    Transwomen, by definition, are male; women are female and have fought long and hard for their own spaces free from the male gaze, whether benign or otherwise. I have a lovely brother-in-law, who wouldn’t harm a fly, but I don’t want to get undressed in front of him or any random male, trans or otherwise. You may not have a problem with that, but please don’t ignore or dismiss those of us that do, and please don’t undermine women and girls in their right to set boundaries, with regards to their privacy, their bodies and their right to say no.

    We should all be working hard to remove the stigma of being trans, but insisting society ignores science by stating blatant untruths as fact ie.transwomen are women, is undermining that aim.

    ‘Transwomen are proud to be transwomen’ would be a much better mantra.

  • Adult Human Female says:

    I only started learning about the transgender movement a few weeks ago. Before that I had never had a problem with transexuals and assumed that anyone calling themselves trans did so after an operation after the age of 18 then lived their life in their new gender.

    I have been deeply concerned to find out that this is now far from the truth, and that children are being given puberty blockers and encouraged to go down a route of irreversible life changing operations and a lifetime of hormones without even any sort of diagnosis. Children who have autism, ADHD and other conditions are now being convinced into thinking that ‘changing their gender’ will sort out their problems rather than being given the help and treatment for their legitimate mental health problems. This would never have been allowed up until recently and I am in shock that it is now considered the norm. Not only that, but 70% of trans women actually now keep their penis. I have spoken to several lesbians who have told me they have been kicked out of their LGBT groups because they refuse to date trans women since they are only attracted to women. These trans women, complete with male genitals, call themselves lesbians or transbians. The lesbians say they feel like they are being coerced and shamed into heterosexual sex and are losing their communities as a result of trans ideology.

    On top of that, a lot of young women who are lesbians are now being encouraged to transition into transmen. For this reason some lesbian communities feel that trans ideology is a new type of conversion therapy.

    As a woman who experienced domestic violence I have PTSD. Women only spaces have been absolutely vital for me. I always ask for female doctors because being in an enclosed space with a man can trigger a panic attack. I am still struggling to process that any male with a penis who simply ‘identifies as a woman’ can now just walk into a woman’s changing rooms or public toilet, get access to domestic violence refuges and work in said refuges. I absolutely acknowledge that the majority of trans people do not pose a threat and want to live their lives our peacefully. But the problem is this law opens a massive loophole for those who do pose a threat to enter our protected spaces, watch us, film is and even assault us if they choose to do so. If we object we are labelled TERFs, bigots, transphobes and investigated for hate crimes. We are shut down and silenced by the word ‘transphobia’ which is brought out at any opportunity by trans rights activists to vilify and silence us into submission.

    What happened to women’s rights? Do our voices no longer matter? What about boundaries? I have read so much about boundaries since experiencing abuse and have only just learnt to assert them. Now I am being told that my boundaries do not matter and it is offensive for me to even have think about having them. I feel completely confused, let down and gaslighted yet again.

    I think it is important to remember that regardless of how they feel, trans women are in fact biological men. That is the truth. It is not hate speech, and I do not want to hurt anyone or cause offence, but it is the truth according to science. Most transexuals (the older generation) acknowledge this truth, it is only the new trans movement that has now decided that biology is offensive and incorrect. It doesn’t mean that they don’t feel like women, or can’t dress as women, or have a woman’s name. But if you put trans women’s rights above women’s rights, you are setting women back 100 years. It tells women and girls that men who identify as women are more important than them. That a woman’s own boundaries, feelings and safety are less important than the feelings of a man who now identifies as a woman. If things continue on this path, there will be no women in professional sports and we will have to fight with male-born women for precious funding set aside for female scholars and entrepreneurs.

    We are effectively being relegated to a third sex where men come first, then trans women, then women and I still can’t understand how this is being allowed to happen. I feel like eventually everyone will wake up, but by that time a huge amount of damage will have been done and women will yet again be trapped with very few rights, and like our ancestors we will have to fight once again, with the risk of arrest and prison, simply for our rights to our speech, our safety and our protected spaces.

  • Alessandra Asteriti says:

    Not a single word for the absolute torrent of misogynistic abuse women who dare raise concerns or do not want to repeat the meaningless mantra ‘trans women are women’ (talk about over-simplifying a complex issue) have been subjected to. How do you justify your silence? In case you do not know it, women do not have cis privilege.
    Girls who are killed at birth do not have cis privilege.
    Female fetuses aborted selectively do not have cis privilege.
    Girls genitally mutilated do not have cis privilege.
    Girls married off at 9 years old do not have cis privilege.
    Women who die in childbirth do not have cis privilege.
    Rohingya women raped until they got pregnant do not have cis privilege.
    Women who are fired because pregnant do not have cis privilege.
    Women paid less because they are women do not have cis privilege.
    Women who get lower pensions because they are women do not get cis privilege.
    Women killed by their partner do not have cis privilege.
    Scotland has a duty to set the example on women’s rights, not to ignore them.
    In a world where 90 million girls were killed at birth (UN data) what message does it send to say that sex on the birth certificate is not important?
    Birth certificate does not list gender, why trans activists campaign to change ‘gender’ on the birth certificate? It is not there.
    The penis is not a female organ.
    Girls and women have the right to spaces where male-bodied individuals cannot enter.
    And it is your job to make sure this right is upheld.
    Do your job.

  • Lucy McCormick says:

    I am definitely concerned about women-only spaces being opened to anyone who identifies as female for the reasons you set out, not least the fact that this has already led to the sexual assault, rape and death of women in the UK. However, this is only one effect of the idea that gender is an innate essence rather than a set of social constructs, which a) goes against peer-reviewed scientific studies to the contrary and b) undermines the very real oppression that women face due to our biological sex. To have our own lived experience undermined in this way sits in a long history of women’s voices being silenced. It concerns me hugely that some trans women do not accept that trans and natal women’s experiences of oppression are necessarily different. Indeed, it saddens me: both groups should surely be bringing our differing experiences of patriarchal oppression to the table and joining up to challenge it. Instead, natal women are being alienated and physically threatened as well as having our concerns dismissed. It is a vital part of intersectional feminism that we respect the right of different groups of women in the movement to their own space: there are ways to do this – for example retaining both single sex and unisex facilities – in order to allow for this. Without real conversation between our two geoups however, there will just be more unnecessary hate and animosity. Simply shouting that trans women are women – in the sense that we are literally exactly the same, rather than 2 groups of women with differing biology and experience who respect that – will not erase biological women’s specific issues or our need for single sex space.

  • Karen Mack says:

    Public bodies have ignored their statutory duty to women (born women) by declining to conduct proper risk assessments or consider mitigating protective factors when overriding legal exemptions designed to protect women. Schools, prisons and hospitals

    *I have spent years teaching kids men can be into pink and frilly and girls into tech, but now apparently we’ve set back the prilogres of the last 50 years to teach children negative stereotypes are fact – even when not supported by science or any evidence. Sexism and misogyny legalised and unchallenged because a woman is the sum of emotional trivialities.

    * Many pushing for this (e.g. Mermaids) push for irreversible treatment for children – worse puah that parents can be excluded from a life altering course of action.

    * The absolute dismissal and disregard of legitimate – evidenced concerns about Safeguarding and the abuse of self ID. Over and over again, despite EXPLICIT legislation about this public bodies ignore their legal and moralndury to protect the interests of women and children. Are you aware of just what percentage of Male prisoners identifying as women are in prison for sexual offences or violent crime? Are you aware of how many of these transferred to women’s prisons (with NO risk assessment) have gone on to assault multiple women? Why are women expected to sacrifice their own dignity and peace of mind? How is this in ANYWAY acceptable? Why are those making decisions ignoring their legal obligations to safeguard women? What are the statistics on the proportion or female prisoners with a background of sexual abuse or other vulnerable characteristics- what is the plan to safeguard them, where the needs of men are primary in decision making?

    *Those working in forensic services are very clear that male prisoners not only see this as a way of moving from the rigours of the Male estate to a less strict female estate. Why is the current political climate such that the professionals are so scared of speaking out about their professional judgement and where there is so much evidence.

    * It’s not just about sex offenders or people.exposing themselves – #MeToo showed what happened when women spoke up for decades and were dismissed, ignored and traduced

    *It’s girls stating they don’t use the toilet at school when facilities are mixed

    *The inability of service users to speak up when pressured to accept care from someone of the opposite sex

    *Accepting that despite self id NOT being part of the equalities act, the public sector will instead choose to ignore its duty to ensure not just SEX but religious beliefs. Where are the rush and equalitiy impact assessments for both sex and gender. The public sector is explicitly stating that it is fine for men and women to be prevented from exercising their legal rights to single sex provisions in favour of the interests of a minority group, even where this is explicitly not what is expected by law.

    * The rise in misogynist and violent threats against (primarily) women and those who raise legitimate concerns. Just recently the Independent reported on a refuge worked hounded by the organisation for raising valid and expected questions about risk assessment. The police and politicians are silent, and therefore complicit, in the threats and hounding of those who ask questions or have opposing views. We are a liberal democracy and the lack of challenge is disgraceful and deeply disturbing about what it says of our democracy and the real robustness of the argument put forward by trans rights activists.

    *Why is there a culture of ‘No debate’ about something which advances the rights of a tiny minority, but demolishes the hard won sex based protections of 51% of the population?

    *The impact on single sex spaces impacts women to a greater extent than men. Study after study shows the impact of men on women in group settings. See the studies on single sex v mixed sex schools and the take up of stem subjects or the confidence of girls to speak up.

    *When women are told (at an international women’s day event) that talking about a woman’s body (female puberty, hormones, menstruating, bearing children, sexual assault and rape etc) is somehow offensive or wrong is unacceptable.

    * The redefining of ‘female’ without my consent or input is unacceptable and deeply insulting to me. Why am I being told that being a woman is all about dress, mannerisms or ‘feeling’.

    *A man who transitioned to a woman does not have the understanding of my reality and the ty biological tealities that shape our life- from walkong homenin the dark to maternity leave to pay gap.

    *What are the peer reviewed studies (not self reportres) that the groups training the public sector about transgender issues use? What robust critique do government etc use to ensure the qualifications and credentials of those informing policy? Is this another Kids Company but much more profound?

    *The impact on lesbians and then pressure on young lesbians todeny their sexuality and accept what one prominent trans activist calls a ‘lady dick’ or be branded a transphobe. Lesbians report feeling erased and forced to accept Male definitions of their identity.

    *The impact on female sport would be catastrophic and irreversible. If a woman doped to the same levels of testosterone she would be considered a cheat. Why when we recognise the artificial natural advantage do we deny the realliwlfe.real life ones.

    Biological reality versus social constructs. The demand to rewrite biological reality and to accept the weaponsing of social construct.

  • Lynn Thomason says:

    Hello Shirley Anne, thank you for giving the opportunity to give comments on the very topical trans-gender issues. I have only been aware of the conflicting points of view in the last 12 months, and my main concern is the fact that self-ID will be easily open to abuse by men who will use it as a means to harrass and abuse women. There is a very vocal trans lobby which seems to be changing language, eg deliberately conflating sex and gender, and organisations are adopting practices which by their attempt to make trans inclusive, makes women exclusive, eg midwifery training that changes languages around women’s bodies, for example calling a vagina a ‘front hole’ so as not to offend trans women…well, I’m bloody offended by that. I have a vagina, not a hole, and vagina is the correct medical and biological term. There are a lot of posts on social media, some by ‘high profile’ trans women, that make claims about having periods, and stating that gender is so fluid that it can change on a daily basis (Pippa Bunce for example). This is the point where any sympathy I ever had for trans women goes out the window, and I start to think that this is no longer a dysphoria, but a desire, and a fickle one at that. This is men having fun at the expense of women, trying to force the ‘cis’ prefix on us – I’m a woman, I don’t need a prefix. Fairness and dignity for all, yes, but not at the expense of women’s hard fought for, long fought for rights. Thank you

  • S.C.M. says:

    “The fear is that some men will use trans equality as a Trojan horse to access women and do us harm.

    And I understand that. But it means the problem we face is not one of trans women wanting to feel safe and accepted – it is one of how we protect and safeguard women against potentially abusive men. That’s not a new problem in Scottish or global society – nor is it one created by trans women.”

    This is a misrepresentation of the problem.

    All men, however they identify, represent a higher risk to women than other women. The only scientific study that examined crime rates before and after transition concluded that MtF transitioners continued to offend at the same rate as other males.

    Sex segregation exists to keep women safe. It is especially important for vulnerable women in refuges and prisons. It is impossible to change sex at the current time.

    MtF transitioners are a group of men who are demanding women’s rights be extended to them. This demand is based on the premise that they are at risk in men’s spaces.

    If they are indeed, at risk (and evidence, in the form of official crime statistics should be required, not information from lobby groups) then ways should be found to keep them safe without putting women at risk. This might include increased policing of male spaces, or provision of alternative spaces.

    It should be incumbent on the men who are demanding women’s rights to demonstrate that this will not lead to an increase in violent and sexual crimes against women BEFORE any changes are made to the law. I

  • Helen says:

    Like most other people engaged in this debate, I am not motivated by any ill feeling towards trans people. I know several in my personal life and have worked with many more in my professional life. I acknowledge with sympathy the struggles they face. However my concerns regarding transgender beliefs are numerous, and not limited to the potential for self ID to be used as a “Trojan horse” by violent men. I will try to summarise:

    1) Safeguarding of children

    a) The denial by special interest lobby groups of rapid onset gender dysphoria in children and the role of social contagion and trauma in initiating this is extremely dangerous. The pressure on clinicians to use affirmation only treatments without thoroughly exploring the underlying causes of gender dysphoria is disturbing. The way these lobby groups have denounced and obstructed research into alternative treatment pathways for these children is unethical.

    b) Irresponsible presentation of transgender beliefs to children. The use of children’s programmes such as “I am Leo” to present the social and medical transitioning of children as inspirational and aspirational. The “toolkits” provided to schools by groups such as Allsorts to teach children that everybody has an innate and immutable “gender identity” when this has never even been consistently and coherently defined let alone confirmed by any medical or scientific methods. The dangerous use of poorly collected statistics regarding suicide in trans children. The use of off label medication on very young children and the false presentation of this as harmless and reversible when the European Professional Association for Transgender Health (EPATH) has itself raised questions about the ethics of this. Teacher’s are being encouraged to help children socially transition without informing their parents, which is a tremendous safeguarding breach.

    c) Schools all across the country are replacing “sex” with “gender identity” in their equality policies, failing to carry out impact assessments, and making it harder for girls to receive their education by forcing them to use mixed sex facilities. In an effort not to use these facilities girls are refusing to attend school on their periods, and risking dehydration by not drinking through the day.

    2) Female only spaces

    a) The placement of trans women in women’s prisons, psychiatric wards, homeless hostels, and domestic violence shelters has already seen many women sexually assaulted, raped, and terrorised, in places where they should be safe. These are the most vulnerable women in our society and have no ability to remove themselves from these places if they are threatened. This is the “Trojan Horse” of male violence, and we are being asked to believe that such things won’t happen, in the face of direct evidence that they are already happening.

    b) The inclusion of trans women in female only toilets and changing facilities. There have now been numerous stories of women and children being assaulted in these areas by trans women or by men pretending to be trans women. This has already happened, but again we are being asked to believe it will not happen. Making these areas mixed sex also dramatically raises the cases of spy-cams being placed in these areas. It also makes it impossible for women who cannot change in the presence of men (such as Muslim women) to access those facilities. It is recognised globally that single sex spaces are essential for women to participate fully in public lie – why should women in the UK not have this right?

    3) Women’s sport

    More and more evidence is being presented that even at castration levels of testosterone the advantages given to trans women by going through male puberty are not diminished. This includes research presented by EPATH itself. Many women have already lost out on prizes, or suffered career ending injuries, from competing against trans women. More young female athletes are speaking up about feeling demoralised and not wanting to participate in sports which now seem like a rigged game.

    4) Free Speech

    Numerous women who have spoken about these concerns have been threatened, harassed, doxxed, and physically assaulted. Women trying to meet to peacefully discuss, as you say, sincerely felt beliefs, have been prevented from doing so by protests and violence. Women in academia have been aggressively targeted and their jobs threatened. Other women have been pressured out of their jobs for raising concerns. There has been an over zealous response by the police forces to people simply stating their beliefs. Many many women have told me privately that they share my concerns but are too afraid to speak out.

    5) Legislation

    A shocking number of policy decisions have been made regarding this in recent years which significantly affect women with no consultation with women’s groups. Any consultation that has taken place has only been as a result of lobbying by women’s groups. Nothing about us, without us.

    6) The erasure of homosexuality

    We are now living in a time where lesbians are being called transphobic for refusing transwomen as sexual partners. Many have said that they are being refused entry to lesbian only spaces if they do not “get over” their “genital hang-ups”. If sex is mutable, and gender is the only thing that’s real, then homosexuality ceases to exist.

    7) The denial of biological reality

    a) As women we face many challenges through our lives as a result of our physical biology, yet trans ideology would have us believe that our oppression is a result of our gender, i.e. the degree to which we perform femininity. Sex, they say, is irrelevant. But I know, as all women do, that when we face workplace discrimination in our childbearing years, it is our biology not our femininity that is the cause. When we are unable to finish our education due to pregnancy, it is sex not gender that is to blame. When girls and women worldwide and through all of human history have been raped, beaten, forced into marriage and prostitution, it has been for the exploitation of their sexual and reproductive labour, not their gender. To conflate gender with sex, or to elevate gender over sex, is to erase women and our reality.

    b) A woman is someone with a female body and any personality, not someone with a female personality and any body. Women are not simply a collection of sex-based stereotypes. We do not exist merely as an idea in someone’s mind. Stating otherwise, even to protect the feelings of a vulnerable group, is offensive in the extreme. As a society we must draw a line at material reality. There is no evidence that “femaleness” or “maleness” exists independent of physical reality – we simply are what we are. Humans cannot change sex, nor is there any evidence that they can they be born with some innate essence belonging to the opposite sex. I do not doubt that trans people feel a lot of distress at this fact, but it is a fact nonetheless. Policy must be based on facts not feelings. We can extend compassion to people without denying reality.

    In conclusion, trans rights do not exist in isolation. We all have to share space in society and the interests of one group cannot be held above any other group. Women’s rights have been hard won. We hold so little ground in this society and now we are being asked to give it up. Why is compassion and compromise being, yet again, only asked of women? Our spaces, beliefs, bodies, and experiences, are being controlled, colonised, erased, and devalued and this will never be acceptable. Women all over the world are voicing these concerns – please listen to us.

  • Emma Dickson says:

    During the GRA consultation many concerns were raised by women about the impact that alterations to this policy would have on women. Those concerns go a long way beyond the loophole created that allows predatory men access to women and girls that I believe you have recognised above. Perhaps you should start with the concerns raised there. Since the consultation awareness has risen in Society about the changes being made by schools, councils and other bodies ‘ahead of the law’ which are impacting on the rights of women and girls. These changes go beyond helping transwomen feel recognised and Impact on the rights to privacy, dignity and safety of women and girls. This has been done without any impact analysis by any organisation. I welcome your apparent willingness to listen but would like to see some action to put a pause on some of these changes until proper debate, analysis and discussion has taken place. I recommend that you start with schools policy.

  • M Wilson says:

    If only all we were worried about was some men using the trans rights issue as a way to facilitate access to women in order to abuse them. However, it is even more serious than that.
    There are some appalling, right wing, reactionary views regarding women, being promoted by some ” so called” Trans ” allies” , all of which will seriously impact women’s rights, and I find it incredible that a left wing progressive party like the SNP seems to be unaware of this.
    Trans allies are actively promoting the removal of single sex exemptions from the Equality Act. Exemptions put in,place to protect women when they are at their most vulnerable.
    They are also promoting the idea of the existence of a “lady” brain, a scientific fallacy which in the past was used to subjugate women and which women have spent decades trying to refute.

    They are actively trying to change laws regarding sex by deception, blurring the boundaries regarding consent. Moreover,they vilify lesbians who do not accept trans women with intact genitalia as sexual partners as transphobic bigots.

    They encourage official groups to change the vocabulary of official policies and documents, ostensibly to make them more inclusive but in reality with the aim to remove the protected characteristic of sex and to reduce women to a subset of their own sex.
    They advocate the inclusion of male bodied athletes into women’s sports knowing full well that at elite level no biological female can outperform a biological male and call women like Martina Navratilova bigots when they dare to complain.
    They threaten, abuse and ” other” women on social media by calling them terfs, cis etc. if they dare to advance the opinion that women’s rights are important.
    They demand inclusion in women’s awards, scholarships, prizes, ignoring the fact that these only exist to remedy in some way the discrimination women face because they are female. And so it goes on….
    If any other oppressed group’s rights were being threatened in such a way I would expect the SNP to be manning the barricades, so why are you ignoring women?

  • J O says:

    I am concerned that self ID presents issues for the protection of trans young people, for the sex based rights of women and girls, and for the collection of meaningful data which might contribute to womens services and healthcare.

    When thinking about the rights of trans people, I don’t think someone should have to present in a specific way wear certain clothes or signal their gender. In fact I fear that a lot of the politics of transactivists are relying heavily on sex stereotypes I reject. But when I see a female claiming to be a man, or a male claiming to be a woman, I wonder what makes it so apart from a wish. Perhaps a strongly held feeling, a painful feeling, or perhaps in some cases a whim or a ‘just a few times a week’ urge. I feel angry that accusations of transphobia are levelled at people and that honest language is policed and criticism aggressively shut down. This culture has surely contributed to an unsafe set of services for trans young people, where five of the clinicians committed to helping them have resigned for ethical reasons from the GIDS service in England. A clinician myself, I hear parents unhappily name themselves ‘the unsupportive one’ in the family because they are not sure that affirmation and a change of name and pronouns is the best or only thing for their young child, often under ten, often with additional needs. And yet we know that transition does not provide a good outcome for all. Many desist, many are gay and coming to terms with this in a non-accepting family or social group. Puberty blockers pave the way to hormone treatment and neither are harmless or fully reversible. This is experimentation on a grand scale and it is a safeguarding tragedy. Transitions and change take time, whether personal or societal. Girls and boys are unhappy with gender neutral toilet areas in schools. They might generally be happy to share single sex spaces with a trans young person, however it seems they are not allowed an opinion or a voice, while the trans young person can often choose a seperate space, other girls and boys are expected to be ‘reeducated’ about including a different bodied person. I am not going to go into the predators charter that self ID represents, but you could please consider that it is very apparent that transgressing into women only spaces is very important to a subset of males and they will likely do anything to do so. Men perpetrate 95%+ of violence against men and against women and girls. Women are vastly physically disadvantaged by their biology, Self ID effectively makes womens changing rooms and toilets no go areas for women because we can’t tell which males are going to be perpetrators and we can’t risk being alone with them.
    Please ask yourself, why is it that the pressure is all on women to cede space, to change the words that define us, and to accept and celebrate someone for ‘dressing as’ ‘living as’ – what does that even mean? Please listen to a range of voices from those identifying as transgender, not just lobbyists and activists who are vastly harming transgender rights and promoting safeguarding failures that will haunt society. And maybe, nust maybe, listen to the voices of women who have a propensity to actually think about everyone, the rights of children, of girls and boys, of women and men, of our sons and daughters, and to think about what safeguards and protects, not the wholesale shift to policies which alienate, threaten and silence.

  • Scared BioFemale says:

    As a biological female I wish to preserve for my daughters & granddaughters our hard won right to biological female safe spaces. Our biology unites us & negatively impacts our lives in a way that someone not born female can ever fully experience or comprehend. I feel huge sympathy for someone with genuine gender dysphoria but the glaring inequality/differing crime rates/physical strength/sporting ability between bio males and bio females is real, demonstrable and tangible. Of course we need a safe space for transwomen or indeed someone pretending to be trans but it must be a separate unisex space – we must not crush biological females who wish to retain privacy and dignity in biological female safe spaces. We must listen to biological females who want their intimate care or smear tests to continue to be done by a fellow biological female. We must not drive traveller/Roma/Muslim/traumatised or indeed any biological females from public spaces. Lesbians must be able to safely express the sexual preference for biological females and no other. I’m even too scared to sign my name but hey, that’s what being the second sex entails. Humans cannot change sex and the GRA 2004 simply created a legal fiction. It should be repealed now we rightly have same sex marriage. It is totally beyond me how someone who ‘thinks they are a woman’ can have so little empathy for the lived experience of bio females and how wary we are of male bodied people, however they may identify.

  • Denise says:

    Dear Ms Somerville,
    Thank you for your interesting and insightful analysis. I agree with you that transphobia is a big problem in societies the world over. I do not want myself or anyone else to feel unsafe or discriminated against.

    I also agree with you that the problem is how to protect girls and women against potentially abusive men. That is the reason I cannot agree with self-ID, as I fear that men who would abuse girls and women can and will take advantage of that. That has already happened (Karen White). If anyone can identify as a woman, how does that protect girls and women? If a woman cannot call herself an adult human female, how is that protecting girls and women as a class? It will do the opposite. Girls and women have been and are being discriminated against because of their biology. Women’s spaces were not created for no reason.

    I also have great concerns about girls being given a fair chance to compete in sports. It has already happened that biological males have declared themselves female and switched to competing in girls/women’s sports. This is not the level playing field that everyone has a right to expect, and it will discourage girls from taking up sports.

    So basically, my concerns are that trans rights should not come at the expense of girls and women. As you point out, girls and women’s rights do indeed still feel fragile. I just read about a horrible case in India where a young girl was burned to death for reporting sexual harassment. This is still the reality for many girls and women the world over.

    Thank you and best wishes,
    Denise M. Ryan

  • Claire MacLean says:

    Thank you for this opportunity to share our thoughts. I appreciate that you are trying to walk a line which must seem very difficult. I started out very pro trans rights, but much of the conversation has made it difficult for me to hold that line, and that genuinely saddens me. As a feminist I feel I should be able to rejoice in the presence of biological males who feel able to break gender boundaries. This should be a great benefit to us all; gender can be so harmful and it is very difficult to resist social conditioning – it’s an argument I have with myself every time I shave my legs.
    However, as someone working in education with a background in both science and linguistics, I am increasingly frustrated in what I am being asked to accept as “true” in order to not upset people. I am being asked to accept that transwomen are women, that the penis can be a female organ, that women should compete against biological males in sport, that “gender identity” is innate and more important than sex in defining what women are. This is really hard for me to do – I was raised and educated to evaluate evidence carefully, to be critical, to seek robust criteria on which to make decisions. Now I feel I’m being asked to just “accept” all of this, or be accused of bigotry.
    You raise the issue of the “Trojan horse” effect, and I agree that here it is male behaviour that needs to be addressed, without a doubt. But if we don’t have a way of properly defining transgender, if we don’t feel safe to question whether someone is “genuinely” transgender, how can we possibly begin to address this? How can you know if Katie Dolezal, for example, is “genuine”?
    One of my concerns is that if we redefine the word “women” to include those biologically male, and vice versa, we lose any real meaning of either word. What does “woman” mean, stripped of its biological associations? This is a question I’ve never been able to get an answer to, without some resort to stereotypes. As legislators, Parliament needs to use language which can be defined as robustly as possible; this can’t be done if we include transwomen as a subset of women. How do we accurately track sex-based differences if we are not tracking sex? As an educator, how do I on the one hand use language when teaching reproduction which I then backtrack on to say that transwomen are women?
    I also don’t understand how one can “identify” as another sex, but not as another race. I know that this is seen by many as a false analogy, but I don’t understand why, and I’d very much like to have this openly discussed. Race is far less clearly biologically defined than sex, even if we do include people with disorders of sexual development.
    I hate that I’m nervous to attach my name to this. I really admire Joan McAlpine for having the courage to ask these questions which need to be asked. But I am grateful that you’ve raised it and asked for comments. This is not just a question of being “nice” or “inclusive” – it’s about fundamental changes to what significant words mean, and thus being asked to identify differently myself. If woman and man are defined in terms of behaviours and feelings, then how are any of us NOT non-binary?
    What we want and from our legislators, from our First Minister, is not more “education” – we don’t yet have the basic agreed notions and facts to educate about. We need you to present definitions with sound basis that we can debate and discuss and finally come to agreement on. We need you to understand that this is not something that stems from one side of the political spectrum – it isn’t. It crosses ages, and demographics, and political leanings. I don’t doubt there is transphobia, but it’s from the same root as homophobia and abuse of those who are gender non-conforming. Gender stereotypes hurt us all – break those down and we also break down transphobia.

    Thanks again.

  • Susannah C says:

    Thank you for stating that government have a duty to understand. Will the minister and the first minister agree to meet the independent women’s groups to better understand their concerns?

    It is reassuring that you note that women shouldn’t face knee jerk accusations of transphobia etc. But it is so much worse than this. Women have been threatened with assault or lost jobs (see Scottish Review this week). The response to the unethical leak of a private conversation between MSPs has been met with the most about misogyny in some quarters and demands for sackings and deselection. Women still face appalling levels of violence and this should never, ever be sanctioned.

    There are also the real child protection issues. This is a complex subject and it is best to get it right now rather than have it end in court like previous legislation.

  • Jane Smith says:

    Yes, this is in part about protecting women from the sexual violence of men, (which is not a minor consideration) but it is also about the right to establish our own boundaries: I should have the right to privacy and dignity which cannot be overruled by how someone identifies. It is not how they identify that matters, it is how I identify them that matters when it is my boundaries that are in question. Women cannot protect themselves from the aggression of men, be it the large violent act, or the minor, unthinking use of power, unless we can set our own boundaries. So I should not be witnessed in a single sex area by someone with a penis, irrespective of how they identify. I should not have to accept medical or personal care from someone who is genetically male, unless I am happy to set that boundary myself. No matter how safe the individual, a woman should not be locked up overnight with a person with a penis. Even if she is safe because that individual has no intent to harm, she may not feel safe, it may be a terrifying experience for her due to her past. She should not be expected to be “educated” out of her fear, it is real and genuine. Most people who are raised and socialised male, even they are uncomfortable about this, even if they are never violent, will dominate in a female environment and overstep the boundaries of women without even knowing that they are doing it. Women cannot have equality in this society without spaces which are free of those who are biologically male, because of this power difference.
    There are some fundamental differences of opinion between the sides here, for which there are no easy answers; I do not think it is bigoted for women to be offended and threatened by the concept that their biological reality, for which they have been oppressed, is something which can be identified into or out of. When a woman is raped by a man much stronger than herself, she cannot identify out of that. We find the idea of identifying as another race, or as disabled offensive, but women are fair game it seems.
    Why can we not broaden the bandwidth of what it means to be a man? That you can wear whatever you like, be as feminine as you want, and still be a man. That feminine men should also have a right to be safe from male violence (since it is the violence of men that trans women fear)
    Most women don’t know what it is to feel like a woman. We just are. It is not a feeling. Whatever it is that trans people feel, it is genuine, and I’m sure it is difficult for them, they have my sympathy and support, but it does not make them women.

  • Katherine Sumner says:

    It is not just about abusive men and safeguarding. It is also about how the oppression women experience is based on our sex which is not something we (or anyone else) can change and is something other people can reliably observe no matter how much anyone wishes for it not to be observed.

    All females experience this oppression no matter their wish not to, their feelings about themselves, their expression or their personality characteristics.

    That rights for women are based on sex is as a result of a class analysis approach which interrogates systems of power and exposes how oppression works in the real world. This is why those rights frameworks have had successes – because they actually target the real basis of oppression.

    By replacing the basis of women’s rights with gender (feelings about sex stereotypes and how they relate to your feelings about yourself) rather than sex, which is what happens when males are allowed to identify into the legal category of female (girls and women) current transgender ideology (which is based in postmodern queer theory) is rendering all rights frameworks that are based on addressing oppression with a sexed basis totally and utterly inneffective and actually reinforcing sexism. The primary groups that will be affected will be females (including transmen), transwomen and homosexuals though there will be knock on effects regarding religion, disability and for bisexual people since sex is so reliably observed and so fundamentally important.

    Please take some time to actually speak to feminists and other women who are writing and speaking on this issue as it is very clear you have not fully considered what is actually causing the concern.

    There are many concerning issues including that we are being compelled by various state structures to comply with the tenets of something which is simply an ideology.

  • Julie Smith says:

    The underlying ideology of self id is that people have an innate gendered essence. This means that feminine or masculine qualities exist pre birth and are unaffected by socialisation i.e that sex stereotypes are innate. There is no biological evidence to support this. There is no neuroscientific evidence to support the existence of a gendered brain. (See Cordelia Fine and Gina Rippon).

    If the government believes there is such a condition of being born in the wrong body, it is incumbent on you to present the evidence to the general public to support this claim.

    People with dysphoria have the right to psychological/medical treatment to help them live fulfilling lives, free from discrimination. Whatever that help is, it doesn’t transform someone from one sex to another.

    Nobody is a stereotype. No woman conforms to femininity, no man to masculinity. If a boy wishes to play with dolls that says nothing about his sex or gender, only his personality. If a girl likes trucks, same applies. We need to rid society of gendered expectations, not embed them. We want all our children to be supported to be comfortable in their bodies, to protect their bodily privacy and enforce their boundaries. We want them to express their personalities and not teach them that there is a right way to be a girl or a boy.

    Here is an interesting piece from the British Journal of Medical Practice highlighting the need for more evidence based research into gender inconguence. https://bjgp.org/content/69/681/170

    To be a woman in the world is to face male violence in many forms and to be denied freedom to act in the world a way a man can. In recognition of this we have devised laws. Laws based on the material fact of women’s lives and the oppression and discrimination we face globally.

    If the government is now saying a woman is a feeling which can be experienced by anyone, you must explain what that is. What is feeling like a woman? Do we face the multiple barriers to self fulfilment because of our feelings? I am a woman, but no idea what feeling like one is. I share biology with other women and the same fear of male violence etc because of how society treats us, not because how I feel.

    How does same sex attraction exist if sex doesn’t? I know of a young lesbian who was being she must be trans man as she is sexually attracted to women. She left her LGBT support groups because of this. There are no lesbian only groups in Edinburgh as men can now id as lesbians.

    I don’t visit certain theatres and other venues as they have mixed sex toilets. I will not be allowing my young female family members to take part in sport in Glasgow as I see they have mixed changing rooms allowing anyone who identifies as female to use female changing areas.
    I leave you with a video from a 16 year old female athlete in the USA whose dreams of being an elite runner are in ruins as mediocre boys can now enter girls competitions, taking medals, records and scholarships that in our day would have been reward for her efforts. She is speaking out at great cost to her and her family. It isn’t a long piece, she is very articulate and I hope you will listen to her. Many of our sport organisations here operate the same self id rules (I am undertaking research in this area out of personal interest as I have a niece who plays football at a high level in Scotland and wants to take it as far as she can. I worry her opportunity to do so will be taken from her. She’s 15)
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3DsejTFZQ7k

  • Susan Scott says:

    Not transphobic at all. Women and girls deserve privacy and dignity. If you allow male-bodied people into women’s spaces you are materially and negatively impacting women’s spaces and their experiences. Why is there no similar outcry over transmen in men’s spaces? Because men do not feel threatened by female bodied people. Shared gender facilities have been linked to an increase in assaults and other nuisances such as peeping and filming. Sex is still a protected category, please maintain this for female spaces. In the US, it has been judged that women are not entitled to expect visual privacy. Do not do this to the women and girls of Scotland.

  • Carole Shepherd says:

    I continue to be extremely concerned that women’s single sex spaces are being eroded and that this is putting women and girls at risk from sexual predators. What I find very upsetting is that when changes are made, for example to female toilets, the men’s toilet remains just for men but the women’s toilet becomes gender neutral and any man who self identifies as a women can use it, no matter how uncomfortable or at risk natal women feel. Over 80% of those who self identify as transgender women retain their penis and many do not take hormones. This means that they remain fully male bodied while accessing women only spaces. This gives those who are predators easy access to women eg Karen White who self identified and then sexually assaulted two women when transferred to a women’s prison.

    Also the Equality Act 2010 is clear that it is lawful to provide single sex spaces where there is a genuine need. However, many businesses, organisations and schools seem to be confused about the legislation and are misinterpreting it, putting the safety of women and girls at risk. This includes the Girl Guides who allow teenage transgirls, when camping, to sleep in the same tents as natal girls, without informing parents and with total disregard to basic safeguarding principles.

    Transwomen are now competing in women’s races and unsurprisingly winning, with testosterone levels that are triple those found in natal women. Some like Pip Bunce are receiving awards meant for women, despite only feeling like a woman a couple of times a week. Transwomen now occupy positions such as Women’s officer in the Labour party but cannot have a clear idea of the problems women face because they are not women.
    Transgender people have the same human rights as everyone else. They do not need to trample the rights of natal women in their rush to be accepted. Why are they not fighting for their own spaces?

    It seems to me that the feelings and rights of transgender women are considered more important than the feelings and rights of natal women. This cannot ever be considered right. I will continue to fight against the erasure of women, despite the horrendous abuse that is the lot of gender critical women from trans rights activists.

  • Jennie says:

    The issue here is two fold girls and women have a right to boundaries with out being made to feel by men they are transphobic we saw from Rotherham what happens when identity politics comes before child protection.
    Woman and girls should not be made to shower and change with the opposite sex against their consent no matter how much the opposite sex wants to.

    For example the MoJ have already learned the hard way why it’s important why we keep female and male prisoners separate.

    I have a right that is protected under law that enables me not to have men in my safe spaces trans people have a right to feel safe to that’s why their OWN bathrooms and changing rooms are needed

    The other issue is woman being gaslighted into excepting someone with male genitalia as a woman.
    It’s as if we have gone post factual we know for example only woman can have babies and can get cervical cancer put we are slowly being erased in place pregnant people.

    Trans people have a right to feel safe however so do women
    Their have already been serval cases in the U.K. of people using being trans as a justification for being on the woman’s toilets and then going on to sexually assault girls and this highlights the point you can’t tell between who’s genuine and who simply wants to harm woman so all must stay out barr woman

  • Helen Cummins says:

    As a long time feminist I have absolutely no objection to sharing with Trans Women. However I do have a problem sharing safe spaces for girls /women with any male who can self identify as a woman/female.

  • Jo says:

    Any irrational fear is horrible, both for the group it is felt against and the people feeling it, who also have their life circumscribed by fear of what might happen. In the case of many women and young girls, a fear of unknown men isn’t irrational. They have lived experience of pain, suffering and sexual abuse at the hands of men prepared to use any access available. Their needs, and safety, cannot be set aside to facilitate other’s rights. It falls on government to balance the needs of everyone, and to weigh up whether the health and safety needs of the many are outweighed by those of the few.

  • Matt Topping says:

    Like Shirley-Anne, I am also a strong supporter of trans rights. I have a close transsexual family member and work with transgender young people.

    I think the approach of the Scottish government in the last couple of years has been to remove women’s rights in pursuit of perceived trans rights. I don’t think this has provided any genuine advancement in the rights of transgender people but it has certainly eroded the rights of women.

    I don’t get any impression that most of the SNP understand why the issues around self ID have generated such push back from the public. This statement suggests that the issue is only about male predators using self ID to harm woman, when in fact there are many problems.

    My personal opinion is that:

    1. The legal definition of gender should not encompass self ID in any form.

    2. Protection of women from sex discrimination is equally as important as protection for trans people. It is essential that the ability to provide single sex services (in the limited cases where they are necessary) should continue. At the moment there is huge perceived pressure to make all services gender-identity based, which inevitably hurts women more than men.

    3. Women’s sports should be protected. Changes to this should be cautious and strongly evidence based. The vast majority of sports cannot be made unisex, but where this can happen, it should.

    4. Data collection must recognise sex classes. If data is collected solely on self ID’d gender identity then the ability to identify where women are being disadvantaged will be lost.

    5. Changes to policy which negatively impact women should be properly impact assessed. This is particularly important when looking at vulnerable groups, such as in women’s prisons and refuges.

    6. Women must be able to discuss these issues without intimidation. My perception is that the SNP work to silence those who do not comply with the ‘correct’ position on trans issues through defunding of organisations and tolerance of a small number of aggressive young activists who target women’s groups.

    The SNP was once perceived to be a champion of women’s rights- it would be nice to see this restored. Much of the ill will being generated is about the impression that the difficult and complex discussion of balancing rights is ‘off-limit’ and that any nuance will be decried as bigotry. Just speaking about this issue, encouraging debate and acknowledging the specific challenges that biological women face would go a long way.

  • Lizzie Park says:

    This is a massive oversimplification.

    Male-bodied people have physical advantages which are not taken away by transitioning so allowing trans women to participate in women’s sport is unfair, as has already been demonstrated by mediocre men winning against younger fitter women.

    And your belief that transpeople are amongst the most stigmatised in our society doesn’t bear any relation to the reality: go and talk to young people in a school, you will find that lesbians are way below transpeople in the pecking order. Trans people are being celebrated left right and centre in a way that lesbians have never been.

    I also believe that we are moving TOO fast on this – no other group (whether women, gay, whatever) have had so many rights granted to them so fast. Doing it this fast means that no one has a chance to way up the impact, to look at who is losing out and do a proper impact assessment. A more measured approach would enable people to explore what the challenges might be and why.

  • Frances says:

    Sorry But you and the first minister are wrong about this. There is evidence to show that women and girls are at risk from male violence and the rate of men who identify as women committing violent crimes is the same if not more than other men. However sympathetic we can be towards people who do not feel comfortable as they are, women generally should not be forced to accept men and males into sex protected spaces. There should be alternative places for those people if nobody is prepared to take on a challenge to the men who these people seem to fear…despite no evidence …they are actually at risk in male spaces. Women feel very strongly about this, for ourselves and our daughters. To pander to males in this way is to put at risk any safeguarding procedure, and to accept self identification as female is frankly ludicrous. Not to mention the anti lesbian backlash which is transing girls who may be lesbian. As a social worker I am aware of many predatory males who seek to hide their convictions for child abuse by changing their name by deed poll, they will do this through any change of law on self Id. My feelings as a woman are deeply hurt by the throwing out of women’s rights in favour of entitled men. Please reconsider your stance on this.

  • jo says:

    What about how I as a women feel about sharing my spaces with men. Biological reality is what makes me a women, nothing else. Why are womens feelings not important to you but men who think they are a women get your compassion to the extent where they are allowed to undress in our spaces without any safe guarding? It is offensive not state women is a feeling.

  • Sarah Israel says:

    I agree with a lot of this. The rights of transgender people need to be enhanced and protected. But strengthening trans people’s rights mustn’t come at the expense of women’s rights. Shirley-Anne Somerville rightly points out one of the problems with the changes currently proposed to the GRA – that violent men will take advantage and will self-ID as women in order to gain access to women’s spaces in order to harm them. But the problems don’t stop there. If any man can self-ID as a woman for any reason then sex as a category becomes irrelevant so all of the protections for women (biological women, that is) under the Equality Act will fall. It’s true that there are Equality Act exemptions (which some trans rights groups have campaigned to remove) but they’re all already under pressure. We need a thorough, rigorous risk assessment of the legal, social and political consequences of the proposed GRA changes for biological women, and it has to take place in a climate of mutual respect. Shirley-Ann Somerville mentions Ireland as an example, but it’s important to note that Ireland does not have unfettered self-ID: https://womansplaceuk.org/the-irish-question/ If we’re to get this right, and it’s in everyone’s interests that we do, we need an end to bullying tactics where anyone raising concerns about women’s rights is shouted down as a transphobic bigot. We also need to suspend the GRA changes and be prepared to go down another route to enhance trans rights if an evidence-based discussion shows that we need to.

  • Yvonne Dziennik says:

    “If we are able to appreciate this and other perspectives, I believe we can work through many of these issues, address the concerns that are being raised, and make Scotland a place where everyone can feel safe.”

    This goes to the heart of the issue. Women’s concerns are not being addressed and instead powerful lobbyists are shutting down debate and effectively framing the issue as a zero sum game where women must lose and just suck it up. It is sad to see how many women do not look beyond the surface of this and see it only as a trans rights issue. Very few have done the necessary reading and research to have a full understanding of the dangers to women and children from this extreme ideology. People pushing back against it are not transphobic or wishing to deny trans rights. They simply see what others are unable or unwilling to see. Do you have a full understanding of which groups are now under the “trans umbrella”?
    When decisions are made about social policy and the law it is fundamental to ask what the end point might be if taken to its logical conclusion. Impact studies should be undertaken by government and not left to grassroots organisations to arrange and disseminate.
    Have a closer look at what is happening in Ireland. Self ID does not operate in the way proposed for Scotland. Look at Canada and the proposed legislation in the US if you want to see the future for women in this country. This has far reaching consequences that politicians need to get up to speed with. Look at Finland and Sweden. Women are suffering and they will simply self exclude where they are uncomfortable. Our safety and dignity are not trivial issues to be legislated away in the name of political correctness. Women’s organisations are not as supportive as the government would have us believe. When funding is dependent on having the “right policies “ then that is not agreement, that is blackmail. See what happened to Vancouver Rape Crisis when total capitulation to the TRAs is refused. Not even one centre,of many, to treat traumatised women who cannot be near male bodied people will be tolerated. “Make Scotland a place where everyone can feel safe” ? Unless you’re a woman ?
    Being a “trans ally” is the height of disingenuous virtue signalling, inferring that everyone else is somehow an enemy. For shame.
    Many trans women and trans men do not go along with the aim of including themselves in women’s safe spaces and appreciate that a middle way is necessary to protect everyone’s rights and safety.
    Thank goodness there are at least a few well educated women in the Scottish Government, like Joan McAlpine, who have a handle on this and understand that fully capitulating to the extreme TRAs will find us in a very bad place.
    Sincerely
    Yvonne Dziennik

  • Kate K says:

    You also need to hear the views of forwomen.scot and to learn lessons from the USA and Canada

  • Kate K says:

    I agree with much of the above. But I don’t want to share intimate spaces, like toilets, with men, self identifying as women, who still have their penis and testacles. I think men transitioning would entirely understand that position. It does not make me transphobic, but it goes make me fearful. The history of violence against women provides grounds for that fear. Men, self identifying as women, tend to bigger and stronger and have been socialised as men

  • Val Strathdee says:

    Men self identifying in sport would be major problem. They are born with male chromosomes therefore have bigger muscles, usually taller and stronger. Would therefore win most competitions and women would just have to give up. You cannot change this with drugs. How do you intend to address this? Self identifying male sent to women’s prison already attacked women. Do you want to take risk of this happening in other circumstances? Would SNP be blamed? I do not like being called ciswoman by anyone! I feel my rights and particularly those of my granddaughters are being are being swept under the carpet and women are going to have to fight for their rights just as in the early part of the 20th century. Joan Mcalpine is already being pilloried.

  • Penny Holmes says:

    I think the statement illustrates very clearly that while you may be listening to trans people, you are not extending women the same courtesy. Your summary of what you understand women’s concerns to be doesn’t even come close to what women have been saying & continue to say. Can I suggest you, and as many of your colleagues interested in what women are actually saying, come along to the For Women Scotland meeting in a Glasgow on 24th May? If you genuinely want to understand women’s views & concerns, you need to start by showing willing to engage & there’s no better place to start that the meeting on the 24th May in Glasgow.

    There are clearly ways to advance trans rights to safety & dignity without compromising women’s rights, legal protections or spaces & you need to start thinking about the alternatives to resolve this. Where privacy, dignity & safety matter, a third space is needed. I’d wholeheartedly support trans rights to their equal but separate services/spaces in those areas where privacy, dignity & safety matter.

    Please, if you are serious about listening to women & seeking to resolve the conflict over rights, go to the For Women Scotland meeting on the 24th May.

  • Julia Lamb Tod says:

    When will you involve ordinary women in discussion? Why were we not involved before the Scottish Government adopted the approach they have to trans issues? I know no one, female or male, who want to stop trans living out their lives in peace, however, trans enjoy the same human rights as the rest of the community. Breaches of those rights are a matter for the courts, not for infringing the sex based rights of women and girls. Women are being assaulted, raped and murdered on a daily basis and we have figures to support this claim; I’m aware from reports that trans experience high levels of violence from some men, but I can’t source statistics for this. It’s not a question of who is most abused, it’s a question of acknowledging some men are the cause of both, and deciding the way forward is to allow male bodied people identifying as trans to access women’s sex based services is an inappropriate solution. Trans women are trans women, not women. The mantra trans woman are women has done harm to their cause, and politicians imposing this on the population is derelict. This conversation has been handled badly from the start; it’s time to listen to Joanna Cherry and others who recommend pausing the proposed legislation and holding proper enquiry into how best to move forward that benefits women and trans.

  • Elizabeth Greene says:

    This sounds great: but it assumes that the groups “trans women” and “potentially abusive men” can be reliably distinguished in practice. Unfortunately, faced with a male person demanding to be treated as a woman, neither you nor I can be sure which the person is. It is clearly impossible even in principle to prevent abuse of self id, and the way current law is interpreted is already allowing abuse. It is time to repeal the GRA and try again. Allow everyone to express themselves however they wish, but remove the harmful and unnecessary legal fiction that anyone can change sex.

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