A minister in the Scottish government has likened people who share my opinions to racists or anti-Semites. Apparently my views on how best to support and include transgender people in society place me on the same footing as those who condemn and exclude others based on their race.
This latest outrage comes from Lorna Slater, the co-leader of the Scottish Greens – Nicola Sturgeon’s junior partners in government. While complaining that the BBC should not give ‘anti-trans’ people a platform, Slater has claimed that:
‘We wouldn’t put balance on the question of racism or anti-Semitism, but we allow this fictional notion of balance when it comes to anti-trans [views]. The whole thing is disgusting.’Lorna Slater
I imagine it matters little to Slater that I am transgender, nor that my arguments are reasoned and rooted in reality. Nor even that I seek a solution that protects the right of transgender people to prosper and contribute in the UK. What matters is my beliefs or – rather – my lack of belief in a quasi-religious ideology that elevates feelings over facts.
It would be interesting to know how Slater defines ‘anti-trans’, because it is yet another weakly-defined term that characterises this debate. This senior member of the Scottish Greens sounds less like a junior partner than an infant. When she pointed out that the Greens were standing some trans candidates in local elections, she said that she’s ‘genuinely afraid for their safety.’
This really needs unpicking. Does she really think that trans candidates are in specific danger when running for the council? I don’t. The UK is a tolerant and accepting society. I haven’t perceived any anti-trans panic and, unlike Slater, my experience is first hand. Maybe she is worried that the voters on the doorstep might disagree with the policies her candidates are trying to promote. That is normal in politics. It is also normal for aspiring politicians to present coherent arguments to support their assertions, but how can they do that when their claims are based on wishful thinking?
Not everyone thinks that ‘Transwomen are women’ and – indeed – some of us think that it is nonsense. The difference is that we can present an argument to support our position. We believe women are biological females while transwomen are biological males; female is not male; therefore, transwomen are not women.
While that dose of common sense might be suppressed in social media bubbles or even in branch meetings of the Scottish Greens by comparisons with racism or anti-Semitism, transgender candidates will need better when venturing out into the real world. No wonder Slater is worried about them. But the problem is not out there, the problem is squarely in Slater’s own thinking. She went on to say:
‘These gentle, hardworking women are being portrayed as if they’re inherently dangerous. It couldn’t be further from the truth.’Lorna Slater
It is telling that transmen are again erased from the narrative, but that is beside the point. As a trans person involved in politics, I do not need to be infantilised and nor do other trans people. We certainly must not be excused from normal safeguarding procedures. As has been explained many times, transwomen are male and we need to be subjected to the same checks as every other male. Otherwise the trans community risks becoming a magnet to men who want to avoid those checks.
None of this seems to bother the Scottish Greens, however. In their cloud cuckoo land, anyone can be the sex they want to be, and anyone who disagrees is a horrid person and certainly not worthy of being heard.
If that isn’t enough then unsubstantiated assertions can be thrown around with abandon. Slater went on to repeat the claim that that ‘there’s money in this from certain right-wing American groups that’s been flooding into organisations in the UK.’ She provided no supporting evidence, of course.
The truth is that there are three vulnerable groups impacted by this debate. It’s not just about trans people – women have found themselves having to defend sex-based rights they thought were secure. Meanwhile some children who have been told that they can be the sex they want to be have have believed this, with profound consequences on their development. That is why we must keep the spotlight on the trans debate.
And if Slater said anything of any note, it was to point the light to what she called, ‘the fictional notion of balance.’ She cited climate deniers as not worthy of a platform. I’d suggest biology deniers like Slater are another.
Debbie Hayton is a teacher and journalist.
* This article was first published by The Spectator on 11 April 2022: The Scottish Greens are in cloud cuckoo land on trans rights.