Trans rights in Scotland and a constitutional clash | Letters

Readers respond to commentary on the UK government’s decision to block Scotland’s proposed gender recognition law

Re your editorial (18 January) on the “constitutional battle” over Scotland’s gender recognition bill, I am no stranger to devolution and its intricate operations. And, as a principal architect of the Labour party’s 2019 general election manifesto compromise policy on the clash of rights arising between women and girls’ need for single-sex spaces and a more effective system of gender recognition, neither am I a stranger to the toxic arguments surrounding those debates.

“Demedicalisation” of the gender recognition process is intended to reduce the stigma attached to transgender people. Instead, in its proposed forms, it opens up the statutory route to a change of legal sex for all purposes to a much wider group of people.

While our society has for decades agreed to require women and girls to make limited accommodations in the public sphere for all those who are experiencing gender dysphoria, in order to facilitate an accessible public realm, we are still very far from ready to extend those same accommodations to people who would merely prefer to access the sports teams, refuges, hospital wards, rape crisis services, changing rooms and sleeping areas intended for the opposite sex.

That is not a condemnation of trans people. It is an understanding of why so many people are opposed to these reforms as they stand, which make a mockery of the reserved equality laws that facilitate an accessible public realm for women and girls.

The UK government is not provoking a constitutional crisis, it is doing its job within the settled framework of a British constitutional arrangement. In light of the 2014 referendum, allowing a nationalist overreach is bad for devolution, especially when that overreach is overwhelmingly rejected by the people of Scotland.
Lachlan Stuart
Head of the Labour party’s domestic policy unit, 2016-20

• It is unfortunate that most of the people who comment on the Scottish parliament’s reforms in the gender recognition reform bill have not taken the trouble to see what it actually covers. All a gender recognition certificate (GRC) entitles anyone to is birth, marriage (if relevant) and, eventually, death certificates in their acquired gender. Nothing else.

The Scottish secretary, Alister Jack, appeared not to know that when asked in parliament last week. Your editorial seems similarly in the dark on this point, in stating: “There are fears, which cannot be lightly dismissed, that this move would expose women-only services to men falsely claiming to be transgender.” If such fears exist, it is only because of the scaremongering and misinformation spread by transphobic people. A GRC and the new birth certificate that comes with it both state in bold capital letters “Warning: A certificate is not evidence of identity.”

Reckless spreading of this misinformation hurts trans people and their families and also leads to cis women who do not conform to stereotypical images of how women “should” look being harassed when they use women-only spaces. It would be better to encourage the UK government to follow the Scottish example and resurrect the reforms to the Gender Recognition Act originally proposed in 2018.
Dr Jane Hamlin
President, Beaumont Society

• The idea that Scotland should be asked to compromise on giving one of the most marginalised groups some basic dignity simply because the UK as a whole does not is frankly disgusting. Similar laws in countries as diverse as France, Argentina and Norway have caused none of the problems that are claimed by transphobic groups seeking to block this. Moreover, if it really was just about the legal implications of this bill, a section 33 order should have been used, referring it directly to the court rather than blocking it outright, even if it will have the same outcome. It’s a disgusting piece of political theatre.
Duncan Adamson
Göttingen, Germany

• What most commentators miss in the Tory-fuelled fuss over the Scottish bill making gender recognition certificates easier to obtain is that most trans people don’t need one. A GRC is needed to change a birth certificate and wed in your new legal sex but not to change your name, NHS record, passport or driving licence. So beyond a few rare cases, the certificate is not needed.

I, and most trans people, have declined to go through the tortuous process needed to obtain one. In some circumstances the law allows single-sex service providers to limit trans people’s access to the service; but since it is often impossible to tell if someone is trans and it is illegal to ask to see evidence of a GRC, the value of such a document is very limited.
Matilda Simon
Marple Bridge, Greater Manchester

The GuardianTramp

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