Scottish Green Party Women's Network

Liz Truss is the UK minister for women and equalities, but her recent evidence to the Women and Equalities Select Committee suggested her government is more likely to take equal rights away than enforce them.

Truss was there to discuss reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), which the UK Government promised two years ago. Distressingly, not only did Truss kick that into the tall grass again, she also strayed into using the same buzzword dog-whistle language that has been used by right-wing groups in stirring up fear and mistrust of trans people.

Thankfully, equalities are mostly devolved issues when it comes to Scotland, but the normalisation of the rhetoric should worry us all. For example, Truss said: “the protection of single-sex spaces…is extremely important.” This is deliberate blurring of lines of what GRA reform is, and allows.

GRA reform is more accurately called ‘Birth Certificate Reform’ in Australia. It proposes exactly that: to allow transgender people to be able to change their birth certificate more easily.

The current process is onerous, stressful and overly medicalised for people who are already under enormous emotional strain. It is not in keeping with international best practice. Australia has now joined Ireland, Malta, Norway, Argentina, Portugal and Belgium in this modest reform.

There is a political strategy that has seized on this fairly basic piece of legislation and conflated it with other issues to ‘divide and conquer’ the equal rights movement. There are all kind of outlandish and dangerous claims about it. Liz Truss’ “single-sex spaces” is one example. To call for their “protection” assumes they are under threat from GRA reform, but when has anyone ever checked your birth certificate at a toilet door? No one needs to pretend to switch gender to force their way in.

The particular danger in Liz Truss’ use of language is that it appears to accept the falsehood that trans women are a danger to other women and girls and that there must be “checks and balances” to keep us safe. The reality is that trans women are overwhelmingly in danger, not a danger to others. The same fear-mongering that was once used about homosexuality is now being brought to bear on trans people.

We also find in Liz Truss’ speech the alarming suggestion of reducing support for trans children and young people. The equalities minister’s call to stop “irreversible changes” would be an introduction of a new form of inequality into medical practice.

Proper and timely support for trans young people saves lives. Trans people already have to wait years and years for treatment. This leads to trans people having high rates of mental illness, self-harm and suicide. That truly is irreversible. Trans lives matter.

The Scottish Green’s Women’s Network is clear. We support the GRA reforms as sensible measures to reduce the huge burden on trans people, and hopefully they will not be derailed in Scotland as they have been allowed to do at Westminster. We also support self-identification. We believe trans women are women and we support legal recognition of a non-binary gender identity. We want to keep all women safe and we recognise the additional dangers and prejudice that trans women face. All women and non-binary people are safe and welcome with us.

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Image credit: Scottish Green Party