Passionate views on both sides of gender reform debate as vote nears

MSPs set to vote on controversial Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill at Holyrood on Wednesday night.

Passionate views on both sides of gender reform debate as vote nears SNS Group

Plans to reform how a transgender person changes the sex on their birth certificate are expected to be passed in Scotland.

MSPs are considering the last of the 153 amendments lodged at stage three of the Bill – following a marathon session of parliament on Tuesday that saw members sitting until just after midnight.

A final vote is expected to take place on Wednesday evening.

The Bill, which will almost certainly be passed into law, will make it easier for trans people to acquire a gender recognition certificate (GRC) by removing the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and introducing a system of self-declaration.

It will also lower the minimum age for applicants from 18 to 16 and drop the time required for an applicant to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months.

The time period will reduce to six months for people aged 16 and 17, with a subsequent three-month reflection period.

Supporters of the Bill say the reforms will simplify the process for transgender people and make it less intrusive and distressing.

But opponents argue the legislation will change who can access women-only services, as well as making it easier for male offenders to enter single-sex spaces.

The Scottish Government insists the new law will not impact the Equality Act, which allows for trans people to be excluded from single-sex spaces such as changing rooms and shelters. That was affirmed by an earlier amendment from Labour’s Pam Duncan-Glancy.

‘A small but symbolic change for trans people’

Ellie Gomersall, 23, says she has been waiting four-and-a half-years for her first appointment at a gender identity clinic, with no end in sight to the waiting list. She cannot afford to go private.

She said the process, which currently requires a psychiatric assessment and diagnosis of gender dysphoria, is “demeaning” and can be “difficult to obtain”.

She described the reforms as a “small administrative change” that will make a huge difference for trans people.

Ellie told STV News: “Even though I’ve been out as trans for my entire adult life, it opens up that door (in) making sure I can live and be recorded as I truly am.

“Right now the process is so intrusive and difficult it’s actually impossible for people like myself to get a gender recognition certificate.

“I often joke that the hardest part about being trans is the admin. And there is some truth in that.

“It can be difficult for us to go through that admin to make sure we can die with dignity or have our marriage recorded correctly.

“It is a small admin process but it’s really symbolic and significant in those important moments in our life, like marriage and death.”

She said the debate around the reforms has “spiralled of control.”

“People are panicking about things the Bill will and won’t do. When you look at what it does do, it’s small and the people it will impact is ourselves.

“Hopefully we can settle down and focus on some of the other really important things for trans people, like the inadequate healthcare system in the country. I have a lot of hope for the future as a result of the bill going through.”               

Elaine Gallagher, 55, has been treated at the gender clinic for 15 years and has undergone numerous psychiatric assessments to obtain a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

But she said she would need to “jump through hoops” in the current system to legally change her gender.

“I’d have to get evidence of that, pay money to a panel, and I don’t know what the panel would decide and potentially do it all over again.

“Socially, it was a lot more difficult 15 years ago than it is now, in terms of actually getting access to services.

“It was a lot easier as there were fewer people trying to get access to it, and we weren’t as overstretched in resources. The Covid pandemic made the gender clinic service worse.

“I’m lucky to be in the system and not have to pay for psychiatric assessment – otherwise I couldn’t afford to.”

Elaine said the bill is a small simple step that makes it easier for trans people to live their lives in dignity.

“People see this as a much bigger sticking point than it actually is and it gets blown out of proportion,” she told STV News.

“All the Bill is going to do is make it easier for birth certificates to be changed. It’s not going to make more money available for trans health care or change the gender clinic system.

“I’m just hopeful when it all comes through we actually have a bill that does what it’s needed to do for trans people to make their lives better.”

Opponents to ‘keep fighting’ against reforms

Women’s groups are opposed to the changes and say more safeguards are needed.

Clare Blom told STV News she is concerned there will be less protection for women and girls in single-sex spaces.

She said: “We have no way of knowing if a person changing sex is doing so to combat their gender dysphoria or whether they’re doing it because it allows men to more easily enter women’s spaces and the protections we have – because we need them.

“At the moment we can challenge men when they’re somewhere they shouldn’t be. This legislation removes the ability for us to control who sees us when we’re vulnerable.”

Meanwhile, Jenny Reilly believes there has been a lack of discussion around single-sex spaces, which she finds “troubling”.

“There’s still a long way to go until its enacted into law and we’ll be continuing to fight at that point,” she added.

Reilly claims she has been branded transphobic and a TERF (trans exclusionary radical feminist).

She said: “It used to be feminazi, it used to be witch. This is just another form of calling women names because they won’t say yes to what men want.

“I’m perfectly confident that I’m not transphobic in any way, I have trans friends. But what we’re criticising is the detail of the Bill, rather than individuals.”

Another group member, Julie Marshall, said she felt “betrayed, angry and heartbroken” at the proposed reforms.

“To tell victims our views are not valid, that’s a kick in the teeth from our female first minister. That was deeply hurtful.”

“Everyone saying its just admin – it’s not just admin. I’m still going to fight it, we all are. We knew this would happen.”

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