I met with the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament on Monday 27 June 2022. The session was private and informal. The notes were posted by the EHRCJ Committee and are available on the Scottish Parliament website.
I asked for permission to share the notes myself and identify myself as Witness A.
Monday 27 June 2022 – EHRCJ Committee – Private, Informal Engagement Session – Session 1 [of 2] (person with lived experience), 18:15-19:00.
Witness A (Debbie Hayton)
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you all. I am 54-year-old teacher and trade union officer. I sometimes describe myself as a transsexual. I transitioned socially in 2012, began hormones in 2013, was referred for gender reassignment surgery in 2014, and had the surgery in 2016. I was an NHS patient throughout this process, and I really appreciated the NHS system.
I married my wife in 1993. We had been together for 20 years when I transitioned. It was very hard for her, harder than I knew or could have known at the time. We have three children, who were 14, 10 and 12 when I transitioned. It was equally hard for them. It fell to my wife to tell the school and to counsel the children while I transitioned. This was more of a burden that I was able to realise at the time. Families transition with us. 10 years on and we’re still a family.
After my surgery in 2016, I was discharged from the Gender Identity Clinic. At that point I knew that what I wanted was to keep my head down, to keep my job and to stay out the press. Transition was something I did to relieve the distress I felt so that I could get on with my life. I needed to transition, but it is a drastic measure to take, on our bodies and our relationships.
Throughout my transition, the NHS, my colleagues, and my peers were understanding. They were more concerned about my ability to do my job well, and to be a good parent and community member. Things have gotten harder over the past few years. I first thought that things would get harder when I found out that Westminster was discussing issues about gender self-identification in 2016.
After the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published their Inquiry on Transgender Equality, I warned people about reforming legal gender recognition, and I think these warnings are still valid. I wrote on my blog about it at the time, about the fact that good will may come to be replaced by suspicion. That there may come to be worries about abuse of the system by predatory men. I raised concerns that self-ID may make things worse and more dangerous for trans people. I believe that self-ID is a catastrophic error which risks the safety and rights of trans
I am a trans person and I campaign for trans rights, but I am regularly ignored and de-platformed for questioning self-ID. It won’t prove to be the solution all our problems as it is often represented. Just because other countries have done it, doesn’t mean we have to.
Gender transition is a bizarre thing to do. In some ways, it is remarkable that society accepts it at all. I am still as male as I ever was, I have male chromosomes, I fathered 3 children, etc. But society has made concessions and accommodations for me in the knowledge that there is a real psychological condition going on here. The removal of medical requirements is wrong. Being trans is being reduced to a whim or a fad. I see trans rights being belittled.
I have never applied for a GRC, nor could I envisage ever doing so. This is because, in 2013, it would have affected my marriage. Our church marriage would have become a civil marriage. After I transitioned, I felt no need to change my past by altering my birth certificate. I had to own my past. I was a man who had to transition. This is the truth. The truth is something that cannot be denied.
Maggie Chapman MSP: You spoke about the impact on your wife: what say should a person of interest legally have in the process? Also, you see trans rights being minimised, could you elaborate on this?
Witness A: I’m more familiar with English law. In England, same-sex and opposite sex marriage are separately legislated. When someone gets a GRC, it changes the nature of the marriage accordingly. In doing so, I think that both parties need a say. There needs to be a mechanism by which, when someone gets a GRC, either party can bring the marriage to an end as a result, without there needing to be fault and without having to hit out at the other person.
There also needs to be a way to do this for people with religious objections to divorce (i.e., they would need to be granted an annulment). If a spouse does not agree to the nature of their marriage changing, an interim GRC should be issued which will allow the marriage to be ended.
Regarding the minimisation of trans rights: I do think it’s remarkable that society accepts trans people. But, at the base of this acceptance is the feeling that this is something medical that trans people need to do, not just something they want. Having medical evidence shows that transition is something we need. People like to see that there is some sort of process or gatekeeping in place, as this shows that the people who are transitioning are those who need to do so, and that those who don’t need to won’t. What they’re looking for is a meaningful process of gender reassignment, and I think that’s important.
Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP: Is it your understanding that the existing process that people can use to access gender reassignment isn’t difficult? We’ve heard a lot of people say that it is difficult to access support and assessment, and they feel the process of getting a GRC is intrusive. What would you say to those people, or to those who don’t consider themselves to be mentally ill?
Witness A: The process really isn’t cumbersome. Compare it to applying for British citizenship, which is cumbersome and expensive. Those I know who have been through the current process say that the secretariat is helpful and will help you put your evidence together. However, the wait to get the medical evidence can hold people up. I was an NHS patient the whole way through, and I had a good experience. The NHS in the last 5 years has broken down, with waiting lists now 4-5 years long. Trans people want the expert support they need, and this isn’t happening. While we are talking about self-declaration, this problem is just getting worse.
I don’t believe any of us have a gender identity. The term was coined in the 1960s by an American psychiatrist, and was used to describe adherence to gender roles. I think what we have is biological sex. This Bill is about people wanting to be recorded in law, on their birth or death certificates, as a sex they are not. To do this without evidence of some psychological distress is remarkable. Gender identity can’t be explained without circular reasoning.
We’re allowing people to link biological sex to gender identity. Take away the sexist stereotypes, and there is nothing left of gender identity.
Pam Duncan-Glancy MSP: Trans people have been accessing single sex spaces such as toilets for a long time, for the most part it hasn’t been a problem. Do you think it is the current discourse or this legislation change which has increase suspicion about trans people in these spaces?
Witness A: The proposed change in legislation preceded this discourse. Since this has happened, I have been reported to my employer as a danger to children. Thankfully I have the support of my employer. People don’t feel any hesitation about trying to take my livelihood away. It’s a really tough debate. I want to protect everybody’s rights.
Rachael Hamilton MSP: As someone who is very comfortable in their own skin and publicly outspoken, do young people come to you for mentoring or advice? Can you tell us why you feel so strongly against lowering the age limit to apply for a GRC?
Witness A: I do feel strongly about the age. We don’t let kids get tattoos because this has a permanent effect on their bodies. When I was 16 I could buy cigarettes and fireworks, but we have brought the legal age for buying these up to 18, because these things are dangerous. 16 and 17 year olds are not mature enough to make this kind of decision.
It puts medical professionals in a very difficult position if a 16 or 17 year old gets a GRC based on self-declaration. It makes it much more difficult for them to deny medical intervention to the patient. Young people will get a GRC and then have an expectation that they will receive medical treatment.
I do give people advice. I tell them that, usually, the hardest place to transition is in your own head, and that most people don’t care that you’re trans. The second piece of advice I give is to think about the impact transitioning will have on your relationships. I avoid counselling youngsters because I am not qualified to do so.
When young people talk to me, I am happy to listen, but I will always signpost them to people who are qualified and able to help them (their GP, pastoral care in school, etc.). I am a teacher, not a therapist. Youngsters need the help of experts.
Unfortunately, the pressure on young people’s mental health services at the moment is immense.
Rachael Hamilton MSP: What are your thoughts on the interim Cass Report?
Witness A: It raised concerns about the Dutch Protocol. The Dutch protocol has been a make it up as you go along approach. Pre-pubescent children with gender dysphoria have had their puberty delayed using drugs that are not licensed for this purpose. This protocol was applied at the Tavistock to teenage girls, who may have had gender dysphoria, but it may have been something very different to what the Dutch children were experiencing. I think we should all wait for the final Cass report and take it on board before we progress with anything else.
Karen Adam MSP: In terms of gaining a GRC, although you don’t have one, you thought it wasn’t cumbersome. Where does that opinion come from? Have people you know who have gone through the process said this?
Witness A: Yes, the process is not difficult. The hardest part is getting the medical reports. This needs to be addressed. We should be campaigning for those medical reports to be quickly and easily available. We need to make them an NHS service. It is a travesty that people have to go privately to get them. Providing them through the NHS might also improve the quality and expertise of the reports.
I compared the process to applying for British citizenship because it changes your relationship with the state. We need to look at them in parallel. And compared to this, getting a GRC is easy. It is akin to filling out a tax return.
Karen Adam MSP: When we’re looking at this Bill, what can we look to do to improve the discourse and narratives that are being pushed, and to reduce the aggression?
Witness A: People start to worry when we remove the debate from physical reality and evidence. Biological sex is a fact.
Karen Adam MSP: What about intersex people? Someone can present outwardly as a woman but have XY chromosomes.
Witness A: To conflate trans people with intersex people is wrong. Intersex people are male or female. There are women with XY chromosomes – it is a diagnosable medical condition. But most people have typical chromosomes. Like me, I am a male with typical XY chromosomes. When we lose this in the law, it makes people uncomfortable and anxious.
Regarding the discourse: elsewhere in the world, these discussions have not happened. My employer does regularly get written to. I have been reported to the police. This was done by trans campaigners because I have different opinions, views, and ways of supporting trans rights.
We need to come back to reality and basing things on fact. When we base things on feelings, it is those with most power who will prevail.
Pam Gosal MSP: Regarding bad faith actors: what makes you worry that predatory men will access women’s spaces?
Witness A: There’s no gatekeeping involved. In Ireland, no GRCs have been denied due to someone making a false declaration.
What I come back to, is that trans women like me are male. Most of my male friends are decent, and they would not abuse women or invade women’s rights. However, some men are not decent. The only difference between a man and a trans woman is that the trans woman says they identify as trans. Self-ID lets society treat this whole group exactly the same as women. If there is any loophole in safeguarding, those on the lookout will take advantage of it. Most men won’t abuse this loophole, but some will. As a teacher, I have learned that, where there is a loophole, those on the look-out for it will find it and abuse it.
Trans people will suffer too, as all of us will be treated with suspicion. If I could self-identify as disabled, it might not be an issue for me to do so when, for example, filling out a form. But if this allowed me to get a blue badge, then disabled people would suffer. This brings into disrepute all the processes that trans people use and rely on.
Pam Gosal MSP: If the Bill is passed, will more people apply for a GRC, and will it open up to bad faith actors who will do anything to get into single sex spaces?
Witness A: It has happened in Ireland. The prison service I think is now looking to tighten up their naive policies. If you open it up to a wider group of people, this will happen. The GRA was designed for a small group of people who had been through a meaningful process of gender reassignment, they estimated 5000 people. This has proved accurate, as around 5000 currently have a GRC. However, around half a million people in the UK identify as trans. If people can self-declare, they will. You are now dealing with a larger and different group of people.
Rachael Hamilton MSP: What do you think it means to live in an acquired gender?
Witness A: It’s nonsense. It means following sexist stereotypes. I look at human beings and relationships. We are sexed beings, and, like every other species, we signal our sex to one another. As individuals, we have a sex and signal it to others. I think there is something in that. I signal in the same way that women do because that makes me more comfortable within myself. But ‘acquired gender’ tells women that they should be living in a certain way because that is what makes them women.
Session 1 ended there having overrun slightly.
Debbie Hayton, witness A
These notes first posted by the Scottish Parliament on their website on 18 July 2022: On 27 June, the Committee held two informal, private engagement sessions with people with lived experiences.