I don’t require government-issued paperwork to prove that I am trans
Alister Jack was entirely right to make a ‘Section 35’ order to block Nicola Sturgeon’s controversial Gender Recognition Reform Bill from proceeding to Royal Assent. As Secretary of State for Scotland, Jack invited the Scottish Government to bring an amended Bill back for reconsideration at Holyrood. He added, “I hope we can work together to find a constructive way forward that both respects devolution and the operation of UK Parliament legislation.”
The SNP will no doubt be outraged, but Sturgeon’s Bill would have impacted on reserved matters — including the UK-wide Equality Act and the administration of UK passports. From a purely legal aspect, that makes the bill ultra vires. It is on those grounds alone that Jack will have acted. Should the Scottish Government choose to waste taxpayers’ money on another judicial review there will be further discussion in the courts, but this is a debate in which the legal arguments are eclipsed by emotion and politics.
The debate in Scotland was high on emotion. Trans people, we were told, are subjected to a demeaning and humiliating process just to be ourselves. That is nonsense, and suggests to me that those making those arguments do not understand the purpose of a Gender Recognition Certificate.
A GRC is not some sort of transgender licence, nor a certificate to prove that someone is transgender. I have no GRC, and I have no intention of getting one: I have no need to falsify a historical document of my birth in order to live in the present. What matters in real life are relationships — how we see ourselves and how other people see us — not government-issued paperwork.
Rather, a GRC serves a single purpose: to change the sex recorded on that birth certificate. Since I cannot remember the last time anyone asked me to produce that piece of paper, it really has no impact on my life. But it would matter very much if I were ever asked to prove my sex. My birth certificate would confirm straight away that I am male.
However, if I were to acquire a GRC then all my documents would indicate that I am female. Service providers would have no way of proving otherwise, unless I came clean. So, while the Equality Act might allow them to offer single-sex services, they have no way of distinguishing — on paper at least — between women and transwomen with a GRC.
Before Jack’s announcement, there had been talk of simply refusing to recognise Scottish GRCs outside Scotland. But that would simply not be possible. It’s not the GRC that matters but the birth certificate that has been altered as a result. Services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland can hardly refuse to accept birth certificates issued in Scotland.
The Scottish Bill might not have created the problem, which goes back to the original Gender Recognition Act of 2004, but it magnifies it because self-declaration opens up the process to a much wider group of people, and to 16- and 17-year olds. Children born in Scotland but resident in another part of the UK could have acquired a GRC and then demanded to be enrolled in schools designated for the opposite sex.
The impact of the Section 35 order will reverberate through Scottish politics, and the politics of the United Kingdom as a whole. The constitutional question remains unresolved, and this might seem like a golden opportunity for supporters of independence to mobilise the people of Scotland. How dare the Westminster government use its powers to block a clear resolution of the Scottish Parliament?
But polling suggests that the wider population of Scotland is not keen on self-ID. Research by YouGov for the Times found that two-thirds of Scottish voters opposed Sturgeon’s plans. Ultimately, the court that really matters for the Union is the court of public opinion. If the public decides that, actually, they are relieved to have a UK government that can — and will — step in to protect the rights of women and uphold the safeguarding of children, then the independence debate may finally be resolved. Just not in the way that the SNP hoped.
* This article was first published by Unherd on 17 January 2023: I don’t have a Gender Recognition Certificate — and I don’t want one.
9 replies on “I don’t have a Gender Recognition Certificate — and I don’t want one”
You are quite right that it is the legal changes that matter, not the GRC – a fact which women have been pointing out to the Scottish government from day one, and why the call has gone out to campaign for repeal of the 2004 GRA. The SG must have been planning to sneak self-ID in by the back door, thus increasing the numbers seeking one. Self-ID was never part of their manifesto, and I sense the Greens’ hand in this, as well as Stonewall Scotland’s.
However, I would argue that making a GRC easier opens up incursions into female spaces in any case, by making it legal “for all purposes” as Lady Haldane, in the Court of Session, ruled recently. If a man’s birth certificate is changed to ‘female’, he would be able to access a lot more than those obvious things which a change of birth certificate would enable (passport, driving licence, etc.) and would enable men with a GRC to access all female spaces, rights, sex-specific services, jobs, etc. This is where the cross-over from making life easier for ‘trans’ people to taking away women’s basic human rights.
I agree also, as an independence supporter, but not of the SNP, that this issue might well drive many women into the arms of the Unionist parties, although, if they support independence, they have alternatives, and will almost certainly harden existing Unionist support in Scotland. However, unlike people in England, many up here, in Scotland, know perfectly well that the SNP is no longer the party of independence, but of devolution. The Greens and Stonewall, between them, have hollowed out the SNP and used it as the vehicle to push their policies without ever having been elected.
By the way, I am glad that you can live happily as a ‘trans’ person without encroaching on female rights. If only all ‘trans’ people would do that, no one would have any problems, but I think that things have gone too far and a backlash is coming, with demands for repeal of the 2004 GRA and strengthening of the 2010 Equality Act now predominating from the GC side. Women did offer a debate and it was spurned. I believe it is now too late and no compromise will suit because we know now that the ‘trans’ lobby will never be satisfied until it has all our rights, and we will meet this again coming down the road.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I’m no expert on the Union, but I can see two enotional responses from the Scottish public.
1. How dare the Westminster government tell out parliament what it can and cannot do!
2. Thank goodness that the Scottish parliament is not a sovereign parliament if it can be fooled into passing such ludicrous legislation!
Which one prevails is a matter for Scotland. But I can see both Nationalists and Unionists using this issue to try and advance their cause. Meanwhile trans people just want to live their lives and be left out of it all.
Well, DH, if ‘trans’ people just want to live their lives, they need to get out of others’ lives and stop disrupting our society. Campaign for third spaces. Women will not give up the fight to get ‘trans’ people out of ours. As for independence, it will come eventually, but it is not and never has been anti English. I think we will have a good relationship on these islands once the old UK falls, as happened in Scandinavia.
Thank you once again for a common-sense article. Sturgeon has made a fool of herself on this one as she’s now faced with the fact that there are indeed bad faith actors out there who would play her self-id card for nefarious purposes. I give you Isla Bryson, Tiffany White, Katie Dolotowski and Sophie Eastwood. The tragedy is that those genuinely struggling with their gender identity are the ones that will suffer.
I don’t live in the UK, but I would imagine that unprincipled and predatory men would use an easily-obtained GRC as a tool to intimidate service providers into relenting to their demands to be treated a as woman. As far as the argument goes that it is just to make life easier for a tiny cohort of people who would gain comfort from having a GRC that aligned with their feelings of being the opposite sex to that which they were born, I think that ship has long sailed.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Agreed, Katrina, I think we miss the point when we talk of predatory men. All men who appropriate womanliness are ‘predators’ in that sense, and most have a paraphilia, at least one, probably more. No woman with sense wants them in our spaces, let alone our services and rights. If they want peace to get on with their lives, then they need to stop disrupting the lives of others. Third spaces is the only solution. I keep asking why Stonewall does not support these? Validation? I want ‘trans’ people to live their best lives, but they cannot do so at the expense of women. If they want to be accepted in society, they must show that they are willing not to disrupt it.
LikeLiked by 1 person
“So, while the Equality Act might allow them to offer single-sex services, they have no way of distinguishing — on paper at least — between women and transwomen with a GRC.”
I’m sorry, are you saying transwomen aren’t actual women?! 😉
Nicola’s teeshirt says it all. If you don’t let them have their way, you don’t “choose love”. Hater.
It’s an interesting thought that Sturgeon might be scuppering her own cause for independence by advocating that people can change the sex on their birth certificate. That act reminds me of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. S/he who controls the past controls the future. A lot of the Woke nonsense involves the kind of abuse of English he railed against.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think that is the truth of it. The SG has bound itself in knots. In the end, she is actually saying that no man can be a woman. Well, we all know that, anyway. ‘Trans’ rights were always going to be in conflict with women’s rights. There is no way round that. So, Nicola, instead of lavishing public money on perverse organisations like Stonewall Scotland, et al, put it into building third spaces. Problem solved for those ‘trans’ who are not rapists.
DH: you have stated publicly that you do not believe you are a woman. You have stated publicly that you are autogynephilic. You have stated publicly that you have no desire to enter women’s spaces, except, of course, to pee. I think you are exception even among older transsexuals. Grayson Perry (I always refer to him as Perry Grayson, not nastily, but in a spirit of humour) also admits freely that he is a man and an autogynephiliac, which is refreshing, and, although I do not, personally, believe that there is such a condition as ‘trans’, I have respect for people like Grayson and you who are open and honest about themselves. However, at the end of the day, there is still a clash between women’s rights and ‘trans’ rights. Why can’t transsexuals campaign as a subset of men and nothing to do with women at all, while retaining your own mindset? I do appreciate that men are very narrow-minded, in general, about accepting anyone who does not fit the heterosexual, he-man template, but I do think your fight for recognition and acceptance should be played out in the men’s arena, not the women’s.