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GRA Reform

Scotland’s Gender Recognition Act won’t help trans people

Sexism runs through this bill, but without speaking its name — literally. While the word gender appears 244 times, the word sex is absent.

Today’s* bill is as bad as feared

If the Scottish Government thinks that their proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act will improve the lives of trans people, then it is utterly deluded.

The bill, published this morning, would offer us nothing more than the right to change the sex marker on our birth certificates without the need to provide any medical evidence. But at what cost? That medical evidence — a diagnosis of gender dysphoria from a consultant psychiatrist — is no barrier to people who need to protect their privacy after going through a meaningful transition.  But, crucially, it provides the checks and balances that have underpinned the trust and confidence that we used to take for granted.

Make no mistake, if women think that any man can change his legal sex just because he wants to, then they will close ranks against all of us, and they are right to do so. Six years ago, when self-identification first raised its head, I wrote:

The proposed law might require people in official positions to take trans people at their word, but it cannot regulate social groups that create their own boundaries. Transwomen in particular may find that goodwill is replaced by suspicion should abusive men spot an opportunity to exploit women’s spaces and protections.

Debbie Hayton

It stands to reason. Safeguarding weaknesses attract those looking for safeguarding weaknesses. And this bill introduces them. The campaign group, ForWomen Scotland, was succinct:

They are, apparently, willing to sacrifice women’s safety, set our rights back by decades, and reinforce the notion that being a woman is nothing more than a feeling or a costume.

ForWomen Scotland

Sexism runs through this bill, but without speaking its name — literally. While the word gender appears 244 times, the word sex is absent. Sex and gender are not synonymous. Sex is rooted in biology — the material reality of our existence — and gender can mean whatever we want it to mean. But these distinctions are not reflected in the bill, which detaches the words ‘men’ and ’women’ from our biology. By demanding the need to live ‘in the acquired gender throughout the period of three months,’ the bill has reduced them to a social performance.

This is a bad bill that helps neither women nor trans people, but my greatest fear is the potential impact on children. Along with self-identification, the age limit would be reduced from 18 to 16. Children too young to consent to a tattoo are suddenly deemed capable of changing their legal sex. What does that tell them?

The bill is not yet a fait accompli — it still needs to be debated at Holyrood — and the Scottish government needs to be pressed for answers. Who told the Government that this proposal was a good idea, and why on earth did the Government believe them?


Debbie Hayton

* This article was first published by Unherd on 3 March 2022: Scotland’s Gender Recognition Act won’t help trans people.

By Debbie Hayton

Physics teacher and trade unionist.

One reply on “Scotland’s Gender Recognition Act won’t help trans people”

I’m not ready to give up on the most basic meaning of the word “gender” (i.e., biological sex). In my view, the word “sex” is too burdened with its use to describe the human sex act. Furthermore, the word “gender” implies a binary reality, which is what it is. Even to those people who pretend to believe in a dozen genders, the word “gender” implies a binary situation because in reality such people have only experienced manifestations of two genders.

If “gender” does eventually come to refer to only secondary sexual characteristics, we’ll just have to adjust our arguments a little. My bigger concern now is about the meanings of the words “man” and “woman”.

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