Johann Lamont and Forensic Medical Services

Is there any place where a cis woman should be able to insist there is no trans woman, or is that transphobic? What about a medical examination of a victim of sexual assault or rape?

The medical examiner might have to take a semen sample from inside a woman’s vagina, or examine her internally for injury. The woman has been violated, and so is in a vulnerable state, possibly disconnected from her body, or flinching from touch. Should she be able to insist that the examiner is a cis woman?

In Scots law generally there is no distinction made between gender and sex. Both the Equality Act and the Gender Recognition Act use the words interchangeably, and after my GRC the GRA confirms that both my gender and my sex are female. The Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 allowed a woman to choose that the forensic medical examiner should be a woman, by saying the victim could choose the “gender” of the examiner.

Transphobes campaigning against trans rights have sought to create a distinction, saying that transgender people change our gender, that is, our presentation and our conformity to stereotypes, but not our sex, which is based on genes, gonads and genitals. I still have a Y chromosome, so they say my sex is male. Then they say I should be expelled from women’s spaces. This would change my life. I have been in women’s spaces for decades.

The purpose of the Forensic Medical Services (Victims of Sexual Offences) (Scotland) Act 2021, which came into force on 20 January, is to allow victims to seek a forensic medical examination from the NHS without needing to report the crime to the police. I would have hoped such a change could be made administratively, by changes to police, NHS and court procedures, but it was a Bill, taking months to get through Parliament.

Johann Lamont MSP introduced an amendment into the draft Bill, to change the word “gender” in the Victims and Witnesses (Scotland) Act 2014 to “sex”. She imagines that now, victims can specify that they want a cis woman, not just a woman.

I am not sure what practical effect that has. I want a woman to be able to get an examination where she is, in Ullapool or Lerwick as well as Edinburgh, ideally without an examiner being flown out from the city. But then, the examiner has to be able to stand as an expert witness in the High Court of Justiciary. I have no idea how many people are qualified to perform such an examination, and whether any of them are trans women.

Johann Lamont, that is, used a Bill designed to benefit victims of sexual abuse to enshrine discrimination against trans women in Scots law, and form a basis for an argument that there is a legal distinction between “gender” and “sex”, so that there could be further discrimination in future.

She does it from a clearly transphobic position. She signed the Labour Transphobes’ Declaration and said at the time

I have fought all my life along with my sisters in the Labour and trade union movement to ensure that women’s voices are heard, that our needs and rights are addressed, to end the inequality women face and to change women’s lives. The progress made by women has come from women organising together and refusing to be silenced. That is as necessary now as it ever was.

To characterise demands to exclude trans women as “addressing women’s needs” is deeply transphobic.

When the amendment went before Parliament, there was a disgustingly transphobic article in The Scotsman. The delusional transphobe hack who wrote it claimed that “women are fighting for the very right to exist”. That’s paranoid. She wrote, “Women and girls the world over are mutilated and murdered because of their sex, not because of gender stereotypes such as lipstick and high-heels”. Trans women are assaulted and murdered because we are trans women. She diminishes our very nature to the fetishist whim of wearing high heels. She sets cis women against trans women. It is one of the most transphobic rants I have seen. She quotes Lamont saying,

Women should be able to choose the sex of the person who conducts the investigation. This is a key test for the Parliament, which is committed to rooting action in the understanding of experience. Women courageously and powerfully spoke up so that others might fare better than them. The amendment is tiny but would be a huge step in listening to survivors. The committee was convinced. The Parliament should be too.

“Listening to survivors” means excluding trans women. Speaking up courageously means demanding that trans women be excluded. It is a horrifying paean in praise of hate.

I am not sure whether a trans woman should heed the desire of such a victim to have a cis woman examiner. It may just be my internalised transphobia suggesting that could possibly be reasonable, that the trans woman should stand aside. But, unquestionably, the motive for the amendment is transphobic hate. Transphobic hate now has an entrée into Scots law.

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