The Scottish Parliament debating chamber where Scottish GRA reform was recently debated
The Scottish Parliament debating chamber where Scottish GRA reform was recently debated

Following a Parliamentary vote yesterday Scottish GRA reform has passed the first stage on its way to becoming law. This includes demedicalising the process, also known as Self-ID.

33 voted no with 88 voting yes and some others abstaining meaning that Scottish GRA reform is moving ahead. We reported on the proposals earlier this year which can be read in full here but to summarise;

  • Demedicalising the process / ‘Self ID’
  • Allowing 16 and 17 year olds to access the GRA
  • Wait time cut down from 2 years to 3 months
  • Still no recognition for nonbinary people
  • Creates an offence for giving false information in the application

An amazing thread by Jaz (@SakuraNoSeirei on Twitter) does a much better job of covering the debate than my own tweets did. But to summarise, fewer than half of the speakers were openly against the bill with some speakers voting in favour at stage one on the promise that there would be further ammendments in later stages. As is typical for any bill.

 

 

Opposition to the reforms was largely incoherent often making arguments about trans inclusion in spaces and sports only to be repeatedly reminded that the GRA has no impact on spaces and sports. This was also the case with the English GRA consultation too. Some speakers even mentioned the fact that delays on Scottish GRA reform have created a gap which has been filled with misleading information, such as the above.

Other opposition came from people intervening to ask questions about the GRA’s impact on the Equality Act. A question which repeatedly came up was whether trans women with a GRC are women for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 – which some in favour of reform hesitated to answer. Though notably Pam Duncan-Glancy of Scottish Labour answered it head on by saying that yes; the GRC changes how trans women are legally recognised for all purposes.

Personally I think this is a misinterpretation of the Equality Act 2010. The point of which, in my not-a-lawyer opinion, is to protect people on the basis of its protected characteristics. You shouldn’t need to be legally recognised as being a woman (or a man) to be protected on the basis of sex. It should just be unlawful to treat someone differently while using their sex – whatever it may be, legally or otherwise – as the reason for doing so.

This is far more clear with regards to protections for LGBTQIA+ people. There is no legally recognised gay status and it is very possible to meet the requirements for unlawful discrimination against a straight person if someone treats them differently due to a perception that they are gay. This would constitue discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation irrespective of their actual sexuality.

Scottish GRA reform saw more opposition surrounding the age limit and allowing 16 and 17 year olds to apply. Scotland allows 16 and 17 year olds to vote so really this is an open and shut case for me. If you are going to allow people to engage with the government for democracy then the government must allow you to do it under your own identity. Easy as.

There was a brief mention of how hard all of this has been on JK Rowling – poor darling.

Finally Scottish GRA reform opposition touched on the idea of a statutory declaration not being a good enough deterrent to stop bad faith actors. It is largely irrelevant due to the fact that bad faith actors gain absolutely nothing from being able to change their birth certificates; but the idea that it would be hard to prove they had fraudulently done so was certainly a sticking point for many.

 

Some of those in favour did mention problems with this bill, such as the lack of nonbinary recognition. This is due to the way that the UK legally recognises sex wherein there are only two options; male or female. It will take more than Scottish GRA reform to fix that problem.

Which is where my personal thoughts come in; why are we patching up an old and incredibly broken system? I can’t think of a single objection with Scottish GRA reform or issue that this bill has had to work around that doesn’t point back to legal recognition of sex being a problem in general.

If we didn’t legally recognise sex we wouldn’t need Scottish GRA reform, we wouldn’t need to give it to 16 and 17 year olds, we wouldn’t need to argue about whether a statutory declaration is easy to prove fraudulent or not, we wouldn’t need to potentially criminalise detransitioners who applied in earnest but changed their minds later on, we wouldn’t need to talk about the implications of it on other legislation.

All of the problems raised with Scottish GRA reform are problems with legally recognising sex at all because then you have to become the arbiter of what sex people are. An easy job for 98% of people, but those last 2% get real tricky to place as one speaker found out when he mentioned the XX/XY binary and someone intervened to mention not everyone fits in those boxes. Which is funny in a sad way given this debate happened the day after Intersex awareness day.

Not to mention the problems I have raised elsewhere before; such as the push to make the GRC a dividing line in Equality Act protections for trans people and the fact that I do not trust any government with a list of who is transgender. Both of which are extremely bad news for marginalised groups.

On the whole I’m glad that Scottish GRA reform is moving forwards and the government of Scotland actually seems like it wants to help transgender people, unlike my government here in England. I just hope that they don’t put all of their eggs in the GRA reform basket and forget to protect those of us who object to the system of legal sex recognition.

Else we’ll be back here debating this whole thing all over again; and nobody wants that.