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Scotland moves forward again as Gender Recognition Reform Bill passes

22nd December 2022

Scotland is set to join 34 other countries and states around the world where trans men and women can change their legal gender by self-declaration.

Following months of detailed parliamentary scrutiny and debate, the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament today by 86 votes to 39.

We thank all MSPs who supported the bill, and those who engaged constructively on amendments to it.

There were more than 300 amendments proposed by MSPs. All the wrecking amendments were rejected, and the key principles of the bill remain:

  1. To move to a self-declaration system, removing the need for medical or other evidence
  2. To reduce the minimum age for gender recognition from 18 to 16
  3. To reduce the “living in the acquired gender” requirement before applying, from two years to three months (but see below)

The bill is not perfect. An amendment was agreed to raise the three month “living in the acquired gender” period to six months if the applicant is aged 16 or 17. There is an unnecessary (in our view) three month “reflection period” after application, before your gender recognition can come into effect. And the bill does nothing for non-binary people. But it is a big step forward.

The bill will not come into effect immediately. It typically takes more than a year for a bill to start to operate, because of the time it takes to set up new systems. In this case also, opponents of trans equality have threatened to try to block the bill via the courts. If they try that, they will fail (and will waste a lot of their money), but they might cause a delay.

The past few years, Scotland has felt like it has been going backwards. Trans people, and to some extent LGBT+ people more people generally, have been abused and vilified, on social media in particular, in a way not seen since the Parliament was debating repeal of section 28 in 2000. As in 2000, misconceptions and misinformation about what the gender recognition legislation will do have abounded.

As with section 28 repeal, we are sure that when the GRR Bill is brought into operation, people will see that the negative predictions about its effects were wrong, and it will have widespread support.

A heartfelt thank you from Scottish Trans and the Equality Network to everyone who has supported this bill, including the many thousands of people who emailed their MSPs to support it, and those who spoke out publicly.

After years of increasingly public prejudice against trans people, things have started to move forward. There is a lot more to do. There is a review ongoing to improve gender identity healthcare services. The Scottish Government have promised to implement various recommendations of their non-binary working group. And legislation to ban conversion practices targeted at sexual orientation or gender identity is being prepared for introduction in the Scottish Parliament before the end of 2023.

We’ll be working on all those things, and more.

Thank you for all your support for the Equality Network and Scottish Trans, and for LGBTI+ equality.

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

 

Equality Network welcomes big change in public attitudes

The proportion of people in Scotland who think that same-sex sexual relationships are always or mostly wrong has fallen to 18%, its lowest ever. That’s according to the 2015 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, published today by the Scottish Government. Public opinion on this has changed very rapidly. Previous Scottish Social Attitudes Surveys found that in 2000, 48% thought that same-sex relationships were always or mostly wrong. By 2005 that had dropped to 40%, and in 2010 the figure was 27%.

The proportion of Scots who would be unhappy at a close relative forming a long-term same-sex relationship has also fallen fast, from 30% in 2010, to only 16% now. Attitudes vary a great deal by age – only 3% of people under 30 would now be unhappy about this.

Hannah Pearson, Policy Coordinator at the Equality Network, said, “We very much welcome the continued increase in the majority of people in Scotland who respect and value equally their lesbian, gay and bisexual neighbours. Attitudes have changed very fast, and we think that’s in part due to the leadership shown by successive Scottish governments in promoting equality in the law. It’s also because a lot more people have come out. People are less likely to hold discriminatory attitudes if they have a friend or family member they know is lesbian, gay or bisexual. Only 15% of Scots now say they don’t know anyone lesbian or gay.

Attitudes towards transgender people have also improved significantly in the past five years, but still have much further to go. The proportion of Scots who would be unhappy if a close relative formed a long-term relationship with someone who has undergone gender reassignment has dropped from 49% in 2010, to 32% in 2015.

On this question, transgender people are still the group facing the most negative attitudes. More positively, only 13% of people under 30 would be unhappy about this. The proportion of Scots who felt that a transgender person would not be suitable to be a primary school teacher fell from 31% in 2010 to 20% in 2015.

James Morton, manager of the Scottish Transgender Alliance, said, “We are glad to see confirmation that prejudice towards trans people has fallen. Trans people remain the social group which the largest minority of people in the Social Attitudes Survey would be unhappy to see join their family. However, it is heartening to see much more positive views amongst younger people, and we look forward to the change in attitudes towards trans people continuing.

Tim Hopkins, Equality Network Director, added: “In the Scottish LGBT Equality Report which we published last year, LGBT people identified negative social attitudes as a top issue. Although, as the Social Attitudes Survey shows, views towards the LGBTI community in Scotland have greatly improved over the years, many LGBTI people still face practical discrimination, and hate crime perpetrated by a small minority. More needs to be done to combat this”.

 

Conference report – LGBTI Human Rights in the Commonwealth

Fiona Hyslop with speakersThe LGBTI Human Rights in the Commonwealth conference was held on Friday 18th July. 150 people took part, including LGBTI human rights speakers from Australia, Botswana, Guyana, India, Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria and Uganda.

Participants agreed a conference statement, including a Call to Action to Commonwealth member states and institutions. [Read more…]

Scottish Parliament votes overwhelmingly for equal marriage

Last night, in a free vote, MSPs approved the general principles of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. The vote was 98 votes in favour of the bill, 15 votes against and 5 abstentions. A further 9 MSPs were not able to be there – most of them are supporters of the bill also. [Read more…]

Scottish Parliament Committee recommends approval of equal marriage bill

We are very happy to report that the Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee has today recommended that the Parliament approves the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill at stage 1. The recommendation is in the Committee’s stage 1 report to the Parliament.

[Read more…]

Our new book for LGBT people wanting to be parents

Front coverThe Equality Network has today published a new book, ‘LGBT Pathways to Parenthood’, aimed at LGBT people who are considering parenthood. In the book, which was compiled and edited by Heather Walker, LGBT people share their personal experiences of becoming parents. [Read more…]

Printed resources

The following printed resources were mentioned by LGBT people during the course of interviews or in survey responses:

 

 

Equality Network submits additional evidence on the marriage bill

We have submitted additional written evidence to the Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee on the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill. Our additional evidence addresses some of the points raised in four weeks of oral evidence sessions. [Read more…]

Our response to the Church of Scotland on marriage

On 12th September, giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee on the marriage bill, the representative of the Church of Scotland, Rev Alan Hamilton, told MSPs that the Church is considering pulling out of providing marriages for mixed-sex couples, because of the bill. He claimed that the Church would otherwise be at risk of legal action forcing them to do same-sex marriages. [Read more…]