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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.”

 

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

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2017!

There is a lot which is uncertain about the political future just now, with Brexit, Trump, and far-right parties challenging in elections this year in several European countries. But at the same time popular support for LGBTI equality is at its highest ever level in Scotland, and there is a widespread support for equality and diversity in the UK, Europe, the US and elsewhere.

Here are some of our resolutions for the year ahead …

A high priority for us this year is the equal recognition campaign to overhaul gender recognition legislation, including legal recognition for people with non-binary gender identities. The Scottish Government have promised to consult publicly on this in 2017.

The Scottish Government have also promised a bill this year to formally pardon people convicted of the old discriminatory gay sex offences that are no longer crimes, and we will work to ensure that is as effective as possible. And the Scottish Government are due to say soon whether or when they will introduce equal civil partnership, open to couples regardless of gender – something we will continue to press for.

In addition to seeking changes to the law, we will, as always, prioritise a wide range of key equality issues. These include appropriate health service provision for LGBTI people, combatting hate crime and ensuring an effective justice system, LGBTI-inclusive education and other public services, LGBTI inclusion in sport, and supporting LGBTI community groups around the country.

We’ll continue to work to support and promote positive public opinion about LGBTI people, and about equality more generally.

We’ll also support action to minimise any negative effects on equality and rights resulting from Brexit.

A priority will be to work towards all of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex communities getting greater equality, including people all around the country, and LGBTI people with intersectional identities.

As always, our approach will be to work in partnership with our fantastic colleagues in other LGBTI and equality organisations, in Scotland, the UK, Europe and elsewhere.

And of course, progress on these things would not be possible without all the LGBTI people who stand up for equality right across Scotland. All of our work is based on priorities identified through open engagement involving thousands of diverse LGBTI people, and it is your lobbying, campaigning and standing up for equality that makes change happen!

Thank you!

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”.

 

Statement about the attack in Orlando, Florida

half mast flag

As the news unfolds about the very many victims of the murderous attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, our care and thoughts are with them and their families and friends. It is impossible for us to imagine the horror of the attack, or the devastation to lives it has and will continue to cause.

Whatever may emerge about any connection between the killer and organised terrorism, it is clear that a large part of the motive for this attack was homophobic hate. LGBTI people around the world face the reality of crimes of hatred, from verbal abuse through to murderous violence. This attack is a terrible reminder of that reality and makes us all feel a little less safe today.

As we have seen too often, when people come together as a community, whether in a club, or a place of education or worship or elsewhere, one person filled with hatred and with powerful weapons can cause devastation. But communities are what matter, and we trust that this attack will only strengthen the resolve of the diverse communities of Orlando and elsewhere to work together to end prejudice and hate.

There have been vigils marking the Orlando attack, in George Square, Glasgow at 5.30pm on Monday 13th June:

https://www.facebook.com/events/561087004094728/

at the Stove in Dumfries at 6pm on Monday 13th June:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1041754772561725/

in Cheerz Bar in Aberdeen at 7pm on Monday 13th June,

in City Square in Dundee at 7pm on Tuesday 14th June:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1212813542084656/

There will be vigils in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh at 7pm on Wednesday 15th June:

https://www.facebook.com/events/284864201857897/

in Stirling at 8pm on Thursday 16th June:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1425967727417135/

by Inverness Castle in Inverness at 8pm on Friday 17th June:

https://www.facebook.com/events/552091068303951/

LGBT organisation Equality Florida has set up a fund to assist the victims of the attack, to which donations may be made here:

https://www.gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund

 

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…]

Equal marriage bill final vote will be 4th February

The Scottish Parliament has agreed that stage 3 of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Bill will be on Tuesday 4th February. This is the final stage, where MSPs will vote on amendments to the bill, and will then vote on whether to pass the bill. [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…]