New transgender law will not harm anyone’s rights

Scottish Trans Alliance Manager, James Morton, wrote in the Edinburgh Evening News:  

I was a transgender teenager back when Section 28 still banned teachers from supporting LGBT young people. Alone without role models, I believed being trans was unacceptable. To try to cure myself, I embraced feminism and fought to end gender stereotypes. However, the world and my sense of myself remained gendered despite my best efforts.

After several years of distress and three suicide attempts, in 2001 I finally transitioned from female to male. I didn’t expect to ever be able to find a partner or to be able to live without fear of harassment. But I needed to be true to myself.

That was 17 years ago and I’m so glad I transitioned. Words can’t really do justice to the simple joy and comfort of being seen by others as I see myself. I’m thankful the vast majority of people accept me as a man. Strangers don’t have the right to know what genitals I have under my clothes or what my old name was.

I’m one of the ‘trans activists’ trying to reform the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for trans people to change the gender on their birth certificates. Some people are unfairly portraying this as unreasonable and harmful, but in fact it would just bring birth certificates into line with how trans people already change their passports, driving licences and other ID at the start of their transition.

Think about the last time you showed anyone your birth certificate compared to when you show your passport, driving licence or bank cards. It really makes no sense to force trans people to jump through more hoops to change their birth certificate than to change their other ID.

I appreciate why some people worry about how trans people’s rights intersect with women’s rights. Gender is not just an aspect of identity; it is a complex social construct with a damaging hierarchy and much of the discrimination and harassment women suffer derives from society’s perceptions of their biological sex characteristics. My trans activism acknowledges this. Trans rights can be sensibly improved without undermining women’s rights and the Scottish Trans Alliance is working in partnership with feminist organisations to ensure that.

The Gender Recognition Act will continue to have exemptions enabling biological sex characteristics to be taken into account where required. For example, sports bodies will continue to be able to set their own transgender rules in order to ensure safe and fair competition. Exemptions exist so gender recognition doesn’t affect sexual offence prosecutions and so previous name and gender can be shared to prevent and investigate crime. Prisons do careful risk assessments of trans prisoners and can hold people who are legally female in the male estate if required for safety.

Single sex service providers will still be able to treat trans people differently where necessary. Nowadays most changing rooms have individual cubicles so nobody can see, or be seen by, anyone else while undressed. As for public toilets, trans people have been freely using them for decades.

So what would reform of the Gender Recognition Act achieve? It could save trans people from being outed by their birth certificates not matching the gender they live in. It could save trans people from experiencing pension, civil partnership and insurance errors regarding their gender. It could make the lives of trans people a little easier without reducing anyone else’s rights.

My life as a trans person in Edinburgh is so much better than I ever dared hope. Gender recognition enables me to be accepted as myself and valued as an equal part of Edinburgh’s diverse population. I want all trans people to have what I have.

Scanned image of the article in the Edinburgh Evening News.