Hide me!

Three day demo at the Parliament to defend trans rights

Campaigners from the Equality Network’s Scottish Trans Alliance project will demonstrate for three days at the Scottish Parliament this week, to highlight what they describe as a major threat to trans people’s rights. They are warning of a new “section 28”, targeting trans people, as attempts are made to try to change the rules that currently recognise trans people’s lived sex.

Over the first three days of the new Parliamentary year, Tuesday 3rd to Thursday 5th September, the campaign will maintain a presence outside the Parliament under the banner “Defend Trans Rights – Our Lives Are Real”.

The focus of the demonstration is on attempts to change the basis of the next Census, in 2021, so that instead of answering the sex question in the sex they live as, trans people are forced to answer with the sex they were assigned at birth. The Scottish Government proposes to continue with the arrangements for previous Censuses, under which trans men and trans women answer in their lived sex. But the convener of the Parliamentary Committee considering the Census rules, Joan McAlpine MSP, is calling for this to be changed to require trans people to answer with their “biological sex at birth”.

James Morton, Manager of the Scottish Trans Alliance said, “In all previous Censuses, trans men and trans women have answered using their lived sex, and that has worked well. To change that would fundamentally undermine the long established practice, and internationally established human right, of recognising our lived sex. There is no doubt that if those who want this change to be made in the Census are successful, they will move on to try to stop trans people being recognised as our lived sex in other areas such as our use of services including the NHS and education, and in government and other equality policies.”

He added, “If the Census is changed in this way, it will be the first time that LGBT equality in legislation has gone backwards anywhere in the UK since the introduction of section 28 under Margaret Thatcher in 1988. Section 28 labelled same-sex relationships as ‘pretended’. The suggested change to the Census sex question would similarly state that trans people’s lived sex is not real. That’s why we’re here at the Parliament to defend against this threat to trans rights, and to say Our Lives Are Real.”

 

Statement on reform of the Gender Recognition Act

We welcome that today’s announcement is a key step further towards reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The Scottish Government has reaffirmed their plan to move to a system of self-declaration, which would be a big improvement on the current process, and would remove the intrusive and humiliating requirements to provide both psychiatric and medical reports to a tribunal panel of medical strangers – and recognise that trans men and trans women are the only experts on their own identities. Cabinet Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said “It is our commitment to bring forward a bill in this Parliament.”

However, we share people’s frustration with how long reform to the Gender Recognition Act is taking, and the stress this is placing on our communities. This announcement comes 16 months after the very long and extensive consultation process closed. We call on the Government to publish the draft bill swiftly after the Summer recess – further delays are simply providing more space for inaccurate and harmful conversations to carry on, and leadership on this topic is more important than ever. While all legislation goes through multiple stages of consultation and scrutiny, it is vital that from now on the focus is on the technical details of the bill and not a rehash of the previous massive consultation.

Although a move to a system of statutory declaration is a big improvement on the current process, the Government’s draft bill would still mean a law that falls short of providing legal recognition for all trans people in Scotland.

We call on the Scottish Government to allow 16 and 17 year olds to change their birth certificates through the same statutory declaration process as over 18s. In Scotland, they are allowed to vote, leave school, get married and have children. They can already change the sex on their passports and education records. It makes no sense to deny them the privacy protection of being able to update their birth certificate. For trans children who are under 16, gender recognition ought to be made available with parental consent.

In the initial consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act, the Scottish Government invited views about legal gender recognition for non-binary people, which a majority of respondents supported. The government are not proposing to introduce legal recognition, but are establishing a working group to look at “procedure and practice”. The UK and Scottish Governments have always been reluctant to provide full legal recognition for non-binary people. Therefore, we are frustrated but not surprised that it will most likely be necessary for us to use the courts to ensure that non-binary people are fully afforded the same right to have their lived identities recognised as is granted to trans men and trans women. We will continue to strongly make the case for non-binary recognition, and to work with policy makers to improve non-binary people’s equality and inclusion in workplaces, public services and data collection.

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia – UK Alliance for Global Equality Statement

 

The UK Alliance for Global Equality (The UK Alliance) stands in solidarity with the millions of LGBT+ people around the world who are consistently denied justice and safety – the two interlinking themes of today’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOBIT). As a coalition of UK-based civil society organisations working together to promote and support progress in global LGBT+ rights, we use our collective resources and influence to promote the human rights and equality of LGBT+ individuals and communities outside the UK, to end persecution and discrimination.

Across the world LGBT+ people are refused justice and denied safety. In 73 jurisdictions LGBT+ people are criminalised for who they are and who they love. They face discrimination, violence and exclusion from health services, education and employment and in some cases, the death penalty.  

Members of The UK Alliance understand that ensuring that LGBT+ people can access safety and justice requires a range of skills. Working with LGBT activists across the world, our members are fighting for justice for LGBT+ people by:

  • Challenging and supporting changing the laws that mean that currently more than a billion people live in countries where same sex relations are illegal.
  • Working with the UK Government and international bodies to challenge the impunity enjoyed by those who torture and murder our community, such as in countries like Chechnya.
  • Providing psychosocial support, legal advice and advocacy to get a better deal for LGBT+ people in search of sanctuary in other countries.
  • Developing partnerships and networks with LGBT+ organisations in countries around the world to support their efforts to build capacity, attract resources and become sustainable.

But even when laws are improved, LGBT+ people around the world continue to be denied protection. Our members work to support those forced to live in fear including through:

  • Using research, communications and public campaigning with our global partners to change the conversation about LGBT+ people, moving hearts and minds.
  • Working with employers of all sizes to ensure that they do their part to eliminate discrimination in the workplace against LGBT+ people and help improve the lives of all LGBT+ people.
  • Providing crisis support to LGBT+ people being denied the right to health, including access to condoms, lubricants, ARVs and other appropriate HIV services.
  • Offering safety and security training for LGBT+ activists in hostile environments to protect human rights defenders against violence and abuse.

The UK Alliance brings together organisations that deploy a diverse set of tools and tactics. What unites us is our vision of a world where everyone can participate fully in their society, whatever their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

ENDS

Find out more about what individuals members of the UK Alliance are doing to mark IDAHOBIT, by visiting their websites.

Signed by:

 

All Out – http://www.allout.org/

Equality Network – https://www.equality-network.org/

Frontline AIDS – https://frontlineaids.org/

Human Dignity Trust – https://www.humandignitytrust.org/

Kaleidoscope Trust – http://kaleidoscopetrust.com/ 

Stonewall – https://www.stonewall.org.uk/

STOPAIDS – http://stopaids.org.uk/

UK Black Pride – https://www.ukblackpride.org.uk/

UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group – https://uklgig.org.uk/

National students and young people’s organisations call for reform of the Gender Recognition Act

On International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) national youth organisations from across the political spectrum have come together to sign a letter in support of reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

The letter, signed by Children in Scotland, SNP Students, Scottish Labour Students, Scottish Young Liberals, Scottish Young Greens, Scottish Youth Parliament and NUS Scotland says:

“We, the undersigned, are national youth and student organisations that want to express our support and solidarity to trans people across Scotland, and call for reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

When the Gender Recognition Act was passed in 2004, it was considered world-leading because it didn’t require trans people to be sterilised before gaining legal recognition of their gender. In the years that have passed, understanding and knowledge of trans rights has changed quickly, and as other countries have passed legal recognition laws to reflect this, Scotland’s has fallen behind standards set elsewhere.

We want this to change, and note the manifesto pledges of all the political parties in the Scottish Parliament. We support reform of the Gender Recognition Act to bring it in-line with international best practice. This means a system of self-declaration open to those who are 16 and over, that legally recognises non-binary people, and that allows children and young people under 16 a means of obtaining legal recognition.

We think it’s time for a law that reflects our understanding of what trans equality looks like. We think it’s time for a law that reflects Scotland’s ambitions in 2019 of being modern, inclusive, and welcoming to all.”

Scottish Youth Parliament

 

Scottish Young Greens
Scottish Young Liberals
 
 
Scottish Labour Students
SNP Students

 
Children in Scotland

 
NUS Scotland

 

Vic Valentine, Policy Officer at Scottish Trans Alliance, said: “We’re delighted that these important student and young people’s organisations have come together on IDAHOBIT to support reforming the Gender Recognition Act. This law needs urgently updating, to ensure all trans people can have legal recognition of who we are without having to engage with an expensive, complicated, and dehumanising process. When the Scottish Government consulted on reforming this law last year, a clear majority was in favour of all of the changes this letter calls for.”

Paul Daly, Senior Practitioner of LGBT Youth Scotland, said: “Young people talk to us about the impacts of GRA reform and the hopes they have for the future. They want to see a progressive Scotland and legislation that truly reflects their needs and experiences. 

Trans young people are acutely aware of negative messages and misinformation regarding the proposed changes. They strongly feel that trans women ARE women, trans men ARE men and that non-binary people have a right to be recognised. Importantly, this is having a significant impact on their lives – they tell us that this is hurtful and they feel like their identities are not valued. ”

Happy new year and best wishes for 2019!

2019 is a year of anniversaries. It’s the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Government and Parliament, which were founded on the principle of equal opportunities for all.

February is the 50th anniversary of the formation of Scotland’s first gay rights group, Scottish Minorities Group, which, with others, began a social and legal revolution for LGB people.

And June is the 50th anniversary of the protests by hundreds of LGBT people at the Stonewall Inn in New York that are considered to have kick-started the modern LGBT equality movement in the western world. (The photo is of protesters during a break in the second night of protests, 28th June 1969)

I am lucky enough to have been part of the last 32 of the 50 years of campaigning that we celebrate this year. In the 1980s, the groups I was in focussed mainly on LGB equality, and at that time, LGB people were subjected to outrageous slurs and misinformation, aided and promoted by much of the press. Many reasonable people heard these things so often that they thought some of them at least must be true.

We were told that equal rights for LGB people would lead to a big and problematic increase in the number of LGB people. We were told that recognising same-sex relationships would undermine straight people’s rights.

We were told that LGB people wanted to ‘recruit’ young people and ‘turn them gay’. And we were even told that LGB people posed a risk and should not be allowed to work with vulnerable adults and young people.

Disgraceful stuff, that wouldn’t be said today …

… except that it is being said today – it’s being said about trans people.

We are told that equal rights for trans people will lead to a big and problematic increase in the number of trans people. We are told that recognising trans people’s gender identity will undermine non-trans women’s rights.

We are told that trans people want to ‘recruit’ young people and ‘turn them trans’. And we are even told that trans people pose a risk and should not be allowed to work with vulnerable adults and young people.

This misinformation is aided and promoted by some of the press. Many reasonable people hear these things so often that they think that some of them at least must be true.

But they are just as untrue as they were when they were said about LGB people.

Just as many of us did three decades ago, when misunderstandings and deliberate falsehoods seemed sometimes to make progress on LGB equality almost impossible, the Equality Network will continue steadfastly to stand up for trans equality, speaking the truth, rebutting misinformation, and campaigning until equality is won, for trans people and all LGBTI people.

Just as the Scottish Executive and Parliament did in their first year, standing up for LGB equality, considering the real evidence, and repealing section 28, so we call on the Scottish Government and Parliament in their 21st year to stand up for trans equality, consider the real evidence, and repeal the barriers and unfairness in our gender recognition law, bringing it up to international best practice.

LGBT people stood together at the Stonewall Inn 50 years ago, and we stand together now. None of us has achieved equality until all of us have achieved equality, and the Equality Network is determined to see Scotland continue in 2019 to make progress towards the promise of equality for all.

Tim Hopkins, Director, Equality Network

 

News release: Passing of pardons bill welcomed by LGBTI charity

Scottish LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) equality charity the Equality Network welcomes the expected passing today by the Scottish Parliament of the bill that pardons people convicted of the old discriminatory offences of sex between men. The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill has its final stage 3 debate in the Parliament this afternoon.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We very much welcome the Parliament passing this bill. This is concrete recognition of the huge harm that was done to people who were prosecuted or lived under these old laws. Together with the First Minister’s public apology in the Parliament in November, the message is that Scotland has changed for good, and that discrimination is no longer acceptable.

“The next stage will be to implement and publicise the new law. Publicity will be crucial so that all those affected by these historical convictions get to hear about it.

“LGBTI people continue to face prejudice and hostility, and there is much more to do. We look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government, on the forthcoming reform of the Gender Recognition Act for trans people, and other work to address homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and to promote fairness for all.”

The bill states clearly that these historical convictions were wrong and discriminatory, and the First Minister made a public apology for this on behalf of the Scottish Government when the bill was published on 7th November last year. The bill gives a formal pardon for these convictions where the activity would not be a crime today. The pardon applies both posthumously to people who are no longer living, and to those who are living. The bill also enables people who have one of these convictions on their records to have it removed (called a “disregard”), so that it no longer shows up on criminal record checks for employment or volunteering.

Tim Hopkins added: “The bill does a better job than the equivalent legislation in the rest of the UK. Unlike that legislation, it provides an automatic pardon to people who are still alive, and also covers all the old discriminatory offences, including where men were prosecuted simply for chatting up other men – called ‘importuning’.”

Until 1981, all sexual activity between men was a criminal offence in Scotland. Legislation in 1980 (which came into effect in 1981) decriminalised sex between men over the age of 21 (the age of consent for sex between men and women, or between two women, was then 16). In 1994 the age of consent for sex between men was reduced from 21 to 18, but it was not until 2001 that the discrimination was removed, by equalising the age of consent at 16.

Prior to these changes, men were prosecuted for activity with another man that would have been legal then between a man and a woman, and that is legal today between two men. This included consensual sexual activity in private, and acts such as kissing another man in a public place, or just chatting up another man in a public place.

The Equality Network estimates that the total number of these historical discriminatory convictions in Scotland runs into thousands, and that there are hundreds of men alive today with such convictions on their records.

 

Sex between women was never criminalised in this way in Scotland, and the same rules applied to it as applied for sex between a man and a woman.

It is likely to take some months for the Scottish Government to put in place the regulations that will set out how criminal records will be updated when a disregard is granted, so it is expected that the new law will come into effect towards the end of the year.

ENDS

For further information, please contact the Equality Network’s Director Tim Hopkins on 07747 108 967 or tim@equality-network.org

Notes to editors:

1. The Equality Network is a national charity working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland:
www.equality-network.org

2. The First Minister’s statement of apology can be found here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11174&i=101857

3. More information about the bill and consideration of it by the Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, can be found here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/106817.aspx

Equality Network welcomes Lord Bracadale’s report on hate crime law

The Equality Network, the Scottish LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) equality charity, welcomes the publication today of Lord Bracadale’s independent review of hate crime legislation.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We welcome the report, and we hope that the Scottish Government will soon introduce a bill to update the law. We are pleased at the recommendation to update the existing law on hate crimes that target transgender people and those that target intersex people, recognising the difference. And we welcome the proposal for a new offence to deal with the stirring up of hatred through threatening or abusive conduct. This will fill a gap created by the repeal of the non-football related provisions of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. Changing the law is not the whole answer though; more needs to be done to further improve responses by police, prosecutors and courts, and to encourage people to report crimes to the police.”

The Equality Network’s Scottish LGBTI hate crime report 2017 found that 64% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Scotland have experienced hate crime. For transgender people the figure is 80%, and for intersex people 77%. Nine out of ten LGBTI people who had experienced hate crime had experienced it more than once, and a third of them, more than ten times. 71% did not report any of these crimes to the police.  Of those who did report hate crimes, many were not satisfied with the responses of the criminal justice system.

The Equality Network worked closely with Patrick Harvie on his hate crime member’s bill, which became the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009, but the organisation has been calling for some years for further review and updating of hate crime law.

ENDS

For further information, please contact the Equality Network’s Director Tim Hopkins on 07747 108 967 or tim@equality-network.org  

Notes to editors:

1.    The Equality Network is a national charity working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland:
www.equality-network.org

2.    Lord Bracadale’s report can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00535892.pdf

3.    The Equality Network’s Scottish LGBTI hate crime report 2017 can be found here: http://www.equality-network.org/resources/publications/policy/scottish-lgbti-hate-crime-report/

An Open Letter to LGB people and Allies

Dear friend,

In 2004, after three decades of campaigning and legal challenges, the Gender Recognition Act finally provided a way for trans people in the UK to change the legal gender on their birth certificates. It was a hard fought victory for LGBTI equality, but it wasn’t perfect.

Trans people are required to submit intrusive psychiatric evidence to a faceless tribunal panel in order to change the gender on their birth certificate, something that isn’t the case will all other identity documents (such as passports and driving licences). Many trans people aren’t even recognised in law and trans people under 18 have no access to the legal recognition they need. It’s time to end this dehumanising treatment.

Access to gender recognition is important to uphold trans people’s privacy and dignity and also to ensure that their pensions, insurance policies, civil partnerships and marriages are administered correctly.

The Scottish Government are currently consulting on reforming the Gender Recognition Act to bring Scotland in line with international human rights best practice, including allowing recognition for non-binary people (who do not identify as men or women).

Please urgently respond to the consultation to support trans rights, you can read our guide at: www.equalrecognition.scot/consultation

Over the last few weeks and months we have seen anti-trans articles in the media ranging from frustratingly ignorant to outrageously hostile. Anti-trans forces within and outside Scotland are mobilising intensively to try to block progress. A horrible sustained campaign of misinformation and incitement to moral panic has taken its toll and I’m not the only person who has had trans friends left hurt and fearful. Sadly, trans friends are being demonised by the same anti-equality arguments made during the campaign to repeal section 28 and against same-sex marriage.

This is not the Scotland I want to live in.

Despite the demeaning headlines this change doesn’t affect access to toilets, changing rooms or other services. Honestly, name a time when you’ve EVER had to show your birth certificate to get into the loo? Nor does legal gender recognition affect participation in sports competitions, this is all misinformation. This change simply makes the legal process easier and more accessible to greater numbers of trans people.

This is a debate about how some of the most marginalised people in our community are treated. It’s about making things just that little bit easier for trans people. It’s about dignity but most of all its about making Scotland a more equal place.

Trans people have always been with us in the fight for the realisation of equality. From the first brick at the Stonewall riots to our modern day fight for Equal Marriage right here in Scotland, trans people have stood side by side with LGB folk.

It’s always a difficult thing when a small minority has to persuade the majority of the need for their rights to be recognised. Given the level of the anti-trans campaign, it is likely that many hundreds, if not thousands, of negative responses have flooded in to the consultation.

Earlier this month Bermuda became the first country in the world to roll back same-sex marriage. Hard won equality disappeared overnight and LGBTI people lost important rights. Be in no doubt, the opponents of LGBTI equality are buoyant. A loss on trans rights would have potentially catastrophic consequences for all of us – LGBTI rights we have taken for granted would face renewed challenge. We cannot let this happen.

That’s why if you care about LGBTI equality, you need to be a trans ally.

For every trans friend you’ve ever had or will ever have, for every time the trans community have stood side by side for the realisation of our rights, I’m asking you to respond to the Scottish Government consultation in support of trans equality.

Please urgently respond to the consultation to support trans rights, you can read our guide at: www.equalrecognition.scot/consultation

You don’t have to answer all of the consultation questions, and comments are optional. The key questions are 1, 5, 6, 12 and 13 – please give your answer to any, or all of those.

This is what Scottish Trans Alliance is saying on those questions

  • Q1: We AGREE with the proposal for a self-declaration process.
  • Q5: We AGREE with allowing applications by 16 and 17 year olds
  • Q6:  We support OPTION 3 – PARENTAL APPLICATION for under 16s
  • Q12: We support YES for non-binary recognition
  • Q13: We support OPTIONS 1, 3, 4 AND 6 to ensure full non-binary recognition.

The consultation closes at 5:00pm on 1 March, that’s just three days from now. Please respond and get everyone you know, who cares about equality, to respond now: www.tinyurl.com/GRAconsult

Today I’m making a stand for my trans friends, I ask you to join me.

You can find out more on our Equal Recognition Website: www.equalrecognition.scot/consultation

Yours for Equality

Scott Cuthbertson

Development Manager

More gay and bisexual men able to donate blood from today

New blood donation rules for gay and bisexual men have today come into effect in Scotland and Wales, and will come into effect in England tomorrow, meaning more gay and bisexual men will be eligible to give blood.

Gay and bisexual men in Britain will be able to donate blood from three months after having sex with another man. The new rules replace a twelve-month deferment period which has been in place since the lifetime ban was lifted in 2011.

Scottish LGBTI equality charity, the Equality Network, has welcomed the new blood donation rules which they say will reduce, but not eliminate, the discrimination faced by gay and bisexual men.

Scott Cuthbertson, Development Manager, said, “We welcome that more gay and bisexual men will be eligible to donate blood from today.

“We hope many gay and bisexual men who are now able to donate, do so with their peers. These new rules are a welcome and significant step forward, we remain concerned, however, that for too many low risk gay and bisexual men these new rules are, in effect, a continued ban.”

He continued, “The blood service has committed to explore ways in which a more personalised risk assessment could be introduced. We look forward to continuing to work with both the blood service and the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO) to eliminate all unwarranted discrimination from the UKs blood donation rules.”

The blood donation rules were changed after the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments instructed their respective blood services to implement the recommendations of a recent review of blood donor criteria and risk assessment by the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO), which advises health ministers and departments for health across the UK. Northern Ireland has only recently removed the lifetime ban on MSM blood donations, but with the Stormont Assembly suspended is unlikely to implement the new rule changes any time soon.

The rule change also affects people who have sex with partners who are classed as high risk.

Sports Review

We’re reviewing LGBTI inclusion in Scottish sport over the past two years since the launch of the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter. If you are a Sports Governing Body, or organisation involved in the delivery of sport in Scotland we’d love to hear from you. We’ve developed a simple questionnaire we’d like you to fill out.