It's one struggle, one fight: for democracy and trans rights

The Scottish Greens will always defend trans rights and our democracy.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is historic in many senses of the word.

The first sense; by 2022, it had undergone six years of consultation, the most consulted-on and scrutinised Bill in 25 years of devolution. It still has the overwhelming support of LGBTQ+ groups, women’s rights organisations, trade unions and community leaders.

The second; on 22nd December 2022, the Bill was passed by a resounding two-thirds majority with the support of MSPs from all parties - even the Tory health and justice spokespeople. Our Scottish Green MSPs had been long, tireless champions of the Bill, and I remember the joy of our community winning our most fundamental right: our self-determination.

I also remember the bitter disappointment that came in the third sense: that our Bill was the first in our history to be vetoed by the UK Government, who used what is known as a Section 35 Order of the Scotland Act.

At heart this was a simple Bill. It would have given us the ability to change our birth certificates, our marriage certificates and our death certificates to match our true gender. It would have let us live, marry and die in dignity. 

It would have freed us from the humiliating, intrusive bureaucracy of the Gender Recognition Panel, comprised of appointed doctors, lawyers and psychologists who assess whether a trans person is worthy of a Gender Recognition Certificate. This is one part of what we call the 'gatekeeper system' - the web of institutions that directly pathologise and marginalise trans people and prevent us from getting on with our lives.

The Gender Recognition Panel is unfit for purpose. It demands a pathologising mental health diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’, intrusive records of surgeries, written permission from doctors and psychologists, and over six years of paper trails, all to prove to a panel of strangers we are who we say we are. To those of us who are married, it allows our spouses to veto the change. And, even throughout all of this, the Recognition Panel can still say no. 

All of this is wasted time, energy and expense inflicted on our community. Many trans people are unable to access the gender affirming care demanded by the Panel, due to soaring waiting lists at Gender Identity Clinics and the prohibitive costs of going private. And for those trans people who don’t need or want medical transition, or even non-binary people, the Panel takes no consideration at all. Under the current arrangement, trans people are denied the self-determination of our bodies and our lives.

As the Scottish Government prepares to challenge the Section 35 order, this is also a fight for the self-determination of Scotland as a nation. In the heat of the vicious culture war against our community, which is getting worse year on year, the UK Government has cynically scapegoated the trans community to justify its latest power grab. This cannot stand.

The stakes are high. If any Bill passed by our Parliament can be chucked in the bin at the whim of the Secretary of State, then what’s to stop a Section 35 being used to veto any of our laws? If they succeed then we can say goodbye to any pretense of living in a democratic country.

It’s one struggle, one fight. The trans community, feminists, parliamentarians of all stripes, and all of Scotland, are united against the UK Government’s latest attack on our democracy.

In the weeks ahead, there are so many of us who hope to see the Bill become historic in a fourth sense: Scotland joining the many countries in the world who already use self-declaration, and blazing the trail for trans liberation across all of Britain.

You can follow the Rainbow Greens at @rainbowgreens.