Picture credit: Andy Buchanan - Pool
Artillery Row

Sturgeon turns her back on women

Women will not forgive her but we will fight on

I am not a Scottish woman and can have only a fraction of the anger of the brave women there, who have battled First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as she arrogantly pushed through the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) bill. It is an unforgivable betrayal of every woman and girl in Scotland. 

The bill had passed through three debate stages as members of the Scottish parliament voted with 86 in favour of the bill and 39 against. In brief it pledges to move to a system of self-identification of gender identity, with no requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria or any other medical evidence or oversight by a professional. It will reduce the minimum age for such declaration from 18 to 16 years old. It will only require the applicant to “live in the acquired gender” for 3 months rather than the current two years. 

In effect, it means that a male person can say “I am a woman, believe me”

In effect, it means that a male person can say “I am a woman, believe me” and three months later for all legal purposes he becomes one. A child of 16 can do this. It is not made explicitly clear how a person demonstrates “living in their acquired gender” and the politicians advancing the Bill seem unwilling to clarify. Nicola Sturgeon has pushed this bill through in the most vicious of ways ignoring every plea from women that she would at least listen to their concerns about how a less stringent system of obtaining a GRC would open the door to predatory men. They know that it will lead to the further erosion of women’s right to single-sex services, including changing rooms, public toilets, prisons and domestic abuse refuges.

One of the most shocking and distressing moments of the third stage of the debate came when an amendment to ban sex offenders from obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), proposed by Russell Findlay, was shamefully voted down by 64 MSPs. This means that a male sex offender, including rapists and child rapists, can change their “identity” to “become a woman” in just three months and by making a simple declaration. A further amendment by SNP MSP Michelle Thompson to pause applications by those charged with rape or sexual assault, was also voted down by 61 MSPs and the Presiding Officer. Those men, and they will mostly be men, can now apply for a GRC before they are convicted, and then seek access to a female prison. Michelle Thompson spoke movingly of her own trauma after male violence. The assembled MSPs didn’t care. They said they cared, but in reality,  they cannot have any regard for the vulnerable women in Scottish prisons terrified that violent sex offenders will soon be housed alongside them. There is nothing they can do about it as a male rapist’s right to his “gender identity” has been prioritised above their absolute right to safety. These women are without doubt the most powerless casualties of this egregious bill, and there will be many women harmed along the way as its terrible consequences are revealed. 

The Scottish people were against these reforms

The Scottish people were against these reforms. A recent You Gov survey showed that, from a broad demographic sample of 1090 Scottish adults, 60 per cent were opposed to removing the requirement for medical diagnosis, 59 per cent were opposed to reducing the time “living in an acquired gender” to 3 months, and an overwhelming 66 per cent opposed reducing the age limit to 16. The MSPs voting in its favour seem well-distanced from the public they supposedly represent on this issue. 

Reem Alsalem, the UN special rapporteur on male violence against women, spoke to the Scottish Parliament before the final session about her deep concerns that the bill would allow violent men to fraudulently obtain access to women’s single-sex spaces. The majority ignored her expertise as they voted and many of their final speeches fawned instead over Victor Madrigal-Borloz, UN independent expert on sexual orientation and gender identity who criticised a lack of “evidence”. Women’s groups have been screaming that evidence at politicians during the progress of this bill via both personal testimony and the provision of concrete physical examples. Politicians in the Scottish Parliament have wilfully and pointedly ignored these women. In his final speech before the vote Daniel Johnson MSP said “Let’s believe people” but clearly in this instance women aren’t those people and we have to look at why.

During the debate a number of trans-identified men sat in the public gallery, as did a number of feminist women. The men were strongly in favour of the bill and the women strongly in opposition. One of those men, Beth Douglas (@Pickle_Bee) tweeted that he and a number of other trans-identified men had accessed the women’s toilet “for strength”. Even as a group of politicians vowed that the bill would protect single-sex space for women and girls, this group openly crossed that boundary. Beth Douglas tweeted in favour of the bill throughout the debate and after it was passed stood applauding triumphantly from the gallery. This is understandable, but the extraordinarily disturbing thing is that a number of the MSPs applauded him in return and one, Christina McKelvie, took to her feet to do so. Women have raised concerns about the fact that Douglas has made a threatening post online. In March of this year, Douglas tweeted a picture of himself and two other trans-identified men with their fists balled and the words, “POV you’re cis on #TransDayOfVisibility and we are going to beat you up for it.”

Close allegiance to trans-identified men with such vested interest in the bill’s success is quite sinister. The Scottish Green MSP Maggie Chapman has been almost rabid about the bill succeeding, even discussing her future plans to advocate for children as young as 6 or 7 to self-declare as trans. Chapman is pictured here with Beth Douglas beneath a trans flag at the “after party” where Beth Douglas calls them an “iconic duo”. This does not speak well of Maggie Chapman’s ability to represent the views of her constituents when she is so close to those applying such political pressure in one direction. Further, a tweet shows Ms Chapman entering The Regent pub to a round of applause from these trans activists. Many of the MSPs spoke of correspondence they had received from trans activists and few spoke of the evidence of women. I feel that the ability to think critically about the bill has been clouded by their personal friendships with, and the pressure applied by, this group of trans-identified men and their allies. 

The politicians both in Scotland and at Westminster will tell you that this bill is not a threat to single-sex spaces for women, that they will uphold such rights according to the Equality Act. This can’t be true because it is already blatantly not happening. How could we take them seriously when Edinburgh Rape Crisis is run by a trans-identified man, Mridul Wadhwa? Wadhwa is a man who tells women wishing to access Rape Crisis provision that they must “reframe their trauma” if they object to the inclusion of trans-identified men in the service with women, so you can be sure that no one in Holyrood is actively working to protect women’s right to single-sex services and there is no indication they will start, given their current political pandering to a group of loud and sometimes threatening trans activists. 

How did Nicola Sturgeon behave in the debate? As feminist women were removed from the public gallery and threatened with arrest for their objections, she turned her back and kept it turned. Women will not forgive her but we will fight on. As Keir Starmer mumbles similar betrayals about following her lead, women steady themselves and ready themselves for the battles of 2023. 

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