I am pleased to see that Eileen Reid
clearly asserts her willingness to be corrected regarding some of the statements and assumptions she made in SR about the Meghan Murphy event.
A disturbing trend has arisen in the discussions around the reform of the Gender Recognition Act. Opponents of trans rights have repeatedly been able to make statements in the media that fundamentally misrepresent the facts of what is being discussed and these statements either go unchallenged, or if they are questioned, those questioning them are accused of lowering the tone of the debate.
In 2019, we should certainly be concerned about what has happened to the tone of civil discourse throughout our society. Social media has empowered bullies and done terrible harm to vulnerable people. It would be dishonest for anyone to claim that no one representing their point of view had ever behaved badly on Twitter. Scottish Trans Alliance has
always, and we will
always, continue to call for all parties in this discussion to behave like civilised adults and to refrain from personal attacks and threats of violence.
What we cannot do is use the legitimate concerns over the demise of civil discourse to obscure the actual factual basis for the arguments being made around gender recognition reform.
This single biggest misrepresentation being pushed by opponents of trans rights is that gender recognition reform is about whether or not trans people should have the right to have their lived sex legally recognised. Eileen Reid has very calmly presented this question in her opinion piece as if it is at the centre of the current debate. It is not.
The fact is that after more than a decade of litigation in various courts, the European Court of Human Rights clearly established in 2002 that trans people had a fundamental human right to have their lived sex legally recognised and that governments needed to update official documents to reflect this. In 2004, the UK Parliament enshrined this principle into law by passing the Gender Recognition Act. There is no debate about the fact that the ability of trans people to change their sex legally and socially has been the law of the land in the UK for more than 15 years.
No matter how calmly and rationally she does it, when Meghan Murphy states that trans women will always be men and that no one can ever change their sex, she is denying 30 years of academic, medical and legal progress. More troubling is that she isn't only asserting her right to disagree with years of social progress, she is insisting that the law be regressed to the point that I cannot legally call myself a woman or live my life in dignity and privacy.
Reality is that trans people have been living their lives, accessing single-sex services and answering census forms in a manner that best matches how they live and identify for nearly two decades. We are an integral part of Scottish society. We are your friends, neighbours, family and co-workers. We represent all aspects of Scotland's people, the good and the bad. Just like the rest of society, some of us do bad things. Some of those things are crimes, and when that happens, we should have every expectation that those crimes will be punished. This does not mean that all trans people should be punished and denied their rights because of the behaviour of the few who break the rules. Basic rules of fairness say that you don't punish the group for the misbehaviour of a few. Why would this principle not apply to everyone, especially an historically disadvantaged group such as trans people?
The campaign to reform the Gender Recognition Act is not an attempt to gain new rights or to increase access to new spaces. It is an effort to make the existing process more humane and fit for purpose in line with international best practice. Self-declaration is not about making it possible for anyone to whimsically declare they are a man one day and a woman another. It is about allowing the only person who is actually capable of knowing their own identity to swear an oath, under the penalty of perjury, that this is the way they live their life and that they intend to continue to do so.
Scottish Trans Alliance has dedicated significant effort to working with a range of stakeholders from women's organisations to criminal justice agencies, to help promote the inclusion of trans people while still respecting the needs of other service users. We believe that it is possible to respect the human rights of trans people and to protect the safety of others at the same time. These goals are not in conflict with each other. Yes, there are times when the solutions to some problems are not obvious and may need creative thinking and a lot of hard work. We are willing to do that work in partnership with other stakeholders and have shown this willingness in practice for more than the last 10 years.
We are not opposed to reasonable discussion focused on preventing any unintended consequences from gender recognition reform. We are not willing to be dragged into a debate whose purpose is to take away 20 years of progress and return us to the point where trans people lived in fear for their jobs, their homes and even their lives.
Scotland is rightfully proud to be a progressive and inclusive country. Trans people are equally proud to be an integral part of the fabric of that country. Let's work together to make Scotland a better place for everybody and not get drawn into movements to take us backwards.
Becky Kaufmann is a justice policy officer at Scottish Trans Alliance