Why We Must Support Trans and Non-Binary People’s Rights

As members of the Scottish Green Party Women’s Network, Rainbow Greens and Young Greens, we have been deeply saddened over the last year to see the things that have been said and done in the name of women’s rights, which have marginalised, stigmatised and denied legitimacy to our trans and non-binary siblings. Particularly so as our trans and non-binary siblings have stood shoulder to shoulder with us, campaigning for gender, social and environmental justice. We are richer, more caring and more inclusive in our policies thanks to our trans and non-binary members.

As members of the Scottish Greens party’s representative groups, we want to reaffirm our commitment to being a trans-inclusive party. Scottish Greens have operated Women’s Network and gender quotas for internal and external positions, on the basis of self-ID for years. With no problems. We will continue to do so. For our next Holyrood election, we will select more women than ever before and we are committed to supporting under-represented groups of people. Trans and non-binary people are particularly under-represented, with no elected reps in Scotland who are openly trans, and only one non-binary councillor. It would help the debate greatly if we were able to support our trans and non-binary members to stand for election – understandably a tough ask in the current climate.

Last year at conference, members overwhelmingly passed a motion which was written by Rainbow Greens and supported by members of Women’s Network to help reassure our trans members that they should feel wanted, valid and respected within the party and society. This doesn’t mean that we intend to throw members out who slip up or aren’t aware of the need for inclusion! It is a commitment to help people learn about inclusion needs and use of language, and to help members to understand where language and ideas are rooted in trans-exclusionary views, such as ‘sex-based rights’ being used to exclude trans people from being respected as who they are. To our trans and non-binary siblings, we would like to reaffirm that we will, and do, debate many things within the Green party, but we will not debate your right to exist. We will work to build a more inclusive and understanding party.

We also express solidarity with women’s and feminist organisations who do excellent work such as Rape Crisis, Engender, Women’s Aid and the Glasgow Women’s Library who have been the subject of threats, harassment and abuse because they operate in a trans-inclusive way. It has also been upsetting to see existing theory and language being used to refute people’s lived, bodily experiences; to see the abuse and simplification of the terms science and biology without appreciation of the nuance that is necessary when dealing with the subject beyond the cellular level. Being trans, like being gay or bisexual, isn’t a choice – it is the way you are. We are more than the sum of our anatomy and hormones. Definitions are blurry, but that is absolutely scientific. It is the job of science, language and theory is to explain what exists, not deny what is apparently factual. Tweeted, simplistic definitions of sex and gender don’t account for this. They invalidate our trans and non-binary siblings, are deeply damaging to their wellbeing and cause an already marginalised community to be stigmatised and made to feel unsafe.

We believe the online discourse around trans and non-binary rights and the language being used is toxic and harmful. It has led to incidents at facilities like changing rooms and toilets, where women, both cis and trans, have been verbally abused or attacked trying to use the right facilities while not conforming to cultural feminine ‘norms’. Online, the ‘debate’ often seems to involve sharing pictures of trans women and judging their appearance as too masculine, normally when they are choosing not to conform to patriarchal standards of beauty.

This is a ‘debate’ where one side is harmfully trying to repress the rights of another. This has happened many times in our recent history, whether it was when racist people tried to prevent de-segregation by saying white women would catch syphilis from black women using their toilets, or when homophobic people tried to prevent gay people from teaching by saying they were a danger to children. These people were always on the wrong side of history, but they did manage to delay a marginalised group from gaining much needed rights.

We will continue to fight against the patriarchy and capitalism and stick firmly to our principles of intersectional feminism, challenging abuses of power where we see it. We will work hard to educate on trans inclusion, helping to identify transphobia and to call it out. We will campaign for international best practice on gender recognition. Many of the current problems come with the old system and poor understanding of what the legislation is actually about. It is of fundamental importance that the new system must include a non-binary gender category, and lower the age a person can apply to 16, and we will campaign for this. We will win this campaign because, fundamentally, trans and non-binary people deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

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