Reading this letter, I am glad they say it and sad they have to. They want so little for us- to be treated as other human beings! To have minimal respect! We should feel “welcome and safe”. But transphobic media and journalists write as if trans women were the only potential source of violence against women, rather than its victims; as if those objecting to us are the only voices to be heard, rather than a minority; as if theirs is a crusade for freedom of speech, rather than the loudest voice. Our opponents think themselves victims, so entitled to attack in any way they can, but we are suffering. We could be working for LGBT and women’s rights, but we are trying to survive.
I am delighted at the people signing: the actor Emma Thompson, and also MPs, MSPs and people from all over civil society in Scotland. The letter:
We, the undersigned, are a large and diverse group of women who are committed to ensuring that trans people feel welcome and safe within our society.
Recently there has been a rise in ill-informed articles and commentary, where writers have continually insinuated that trans women are not women. These same pieces misrepresent current legal statutes, equalities policies, and public attitudes in Scotland.
Since 2004 the Gender Recognition Act has realised, in law, the rights of trans women as women and trans men as men. Since 1999, the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations and then the Equality Act (2010) have recognised, in law, the right of the trans community not to be discriminated against on the basis of their gender reassignment. The right of trans people to access gender specific services is an already settled legal matter.
Many national and regional news outlets routinely fail in their pages to recognise this legal reality. Instead, it is our perspective that some writers rely on recycling outdated arguments in an uncomfortable attempt to shoehorn trans identities into much needed conversations about gender-based discrimination and violence.
We believe that national conversations about gender-based discrimination and violence are necessary, however these conversations should not in any way attempt to roll back the rights that trans people already have in Scotland, nor spread misinformation.
In the Scottish Government’s recent public consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act (2004) a majority of respondents supported gender self declaration, as well as recognising non-binary people. As a collective of women, we urge that trans-exclusionary writers do not suggest that their narrow and archaic arguments are in any way representative of the women of Scotland. They do not speak for us.
This is not an issue of Freedom of Speech. Both sides have a plethora of platforms to outline their position. However, it is imperative that these platforms should not be used to spread misinformation or misrepresent the law or the facts in this area.
When this conversation is reduced to allegations of “shutting down debate” whenever misrepresentation or misinformation is challenged, the result is to purposefully discount the position of many women – like us – who support the trans community. We will be heard.
Trans people have played an integral role in every civil rights movement to date; from LGBT equality to women’s causes. Attempts to airbrush trans people from conversations regarding equality and human rights, or to exclude them from advancements for LGBT and women’s rights, have happened before. Such efforts may have re-energised, but they are nothing new, and we say as a collective of women: they are not representative of us. We support trans rights.
Outlets and commentators have an ethical responsibility to consider the impact of their reportage, analysis and commentary particularly on the mental health of trans young people. Recently, data from Stonewall Scotland revealed that over half of trans people considered ending their lives last year. Trans people continue to face unlawful discrimination and violence. Routine misinformation and sensationalism is contributing to a cultural climate where this is legitimised. This has to stop.
Journalists, commentators, and publishers have a central role to play in ensuring Scotland is a welcoming and inclusive place for trans people.
The conversation has to change.