Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation and trans

Holyrood must challenge Westminster’s baseless blocking of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, or it will be open season on Scottish Bills. And trans people might feel a little worry at Nicola Sturgeon stepping down, when Kate Forbes, the anti-trans, anti-abortion Presbyterian might be the choice for leader of “feminist” anti-trans campaigners. But the coverage has been shocking.

Why did Sturgeon leave? Because, after eight fantastically successful years as First Minister, she may not have the energy to carry through the independence strategy. The SNP meets to discuss this in Glasgow next month. The idea of calling the UK general election a de facto poll on independence, and the strength and sureness of touch needed to handle the aftermath whatever the polling in winter 2024/5, requires one leader to establish themself, wholly committed to the policy if it is chosen, from this year.

In the Guardian, Herald columnist Dani Garavelli wrote a comment article generally praising Sturgeon, showing her deranged opposition to GRR. It is as if GRR affects everyone in the UK, rather than a few thousand trans people in Scotland. “The accusation that she has squandered her right to be considered a feminist must be painful.” No, an accusation is painful if there is a half-truth in it. That accusation only deserves scorn and disgust.

Garavelli writes that there were “errors of judgment” on GRR, because of Sturgeon’s “reluctance to listen to anyone outside her inner circle”. Why should she listen to a few obsessive transphobes, when most of Scottish civil society supported GRR?

These attack lines indicate the complete lack of proportion of the hate campaigners, not any problem with Sturgeon. It was the same at the press conference: she was asked if the row over Isla Bryson spending a night in a women’s prison was “the final straw”. Only because of the utter hatred of the anti-trans campaigners, whose t-shirts read “Nicola Sturgeon, destroyer of women’s rights”. This is the woman who enabled Me Too complaints against her predecessor Alec Salmond to get as far as they did.

The Telegraph headline was insane. On the front page, it screamed “Sturgeon brought down by trans row”. Its first sentence claimed “her radical approach to transgender rights cost her the support of her party”, though almost all her MSPs voted for the GRR Bill, and her MPs challenged the blocking at Westminster. It claims the SNP leadership may ditch the GRR Bill, with an anonymous quote from “one party source” who could be anyone. That is a fight the devolution settlement cannot afford to lose. However it mentions in passing other possible reasons for her resignation, such as the police investigation into £600,000 of donations to the SNP being “missing”.

The Herald had “New leader should ‘correct policies’ of Nicola Sturgeon era”, without a single mention of trans. Unfortunately it also had Alison Rowat, whose second suggestion for the reason Sturgeon resigned was “the gender recognition reform fiasco”. What fiasco would that be, then? The 86-39 final vote on Stage 3? Or the Tories, trying to distract from their economic mismanagement by picking a fight with Scotland?

The Edinburgh Evening News had Labour MP for Edinburgh South Ian Murray write about her record in government, (he was against it) with no mention of trans.

The Times had Iain Martin arguing that independence (which is the SNP raison d’être) would be a disaster. As an aside he referred to her “appalling handling of the transgender issue”- again- how? Was it the three consultations over more than five years? It also had speculation that the Bill might fall because the First Minister should decide to sue Westminster, there might not be a new one by 17 April which is the deadline for judicial review, and Sturgeon should not so bind her successor’s hands. Utter drivel.

Then it had an article quoting at length anti-trans campaigners celebrating. There were 396 words on tiny hate group Four Women Scotland, and, as an afterthought, 121 words on Britain’s premier LGBT charity Stonewall. 4WS would no doubt celebrate Kate Forbes as leader. How feminist of them.

The SNP cannot back down from the fight over GRR, which they will win. Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater would leave the coalition if the SNP backed down.

In a festival of transphobia, a strong contender for the most transphobic article was in The Scotsman. It suggested the new First Minister might just drop the GRR Bill, or negotiate with the Tories “who are busy making allies of the gender critical movement”- no. Really??

It connected the Bill to placing “transmen who are convicted sexual offenders”- I think it means one trans woman, Isla Bryson- to women’s prisons. I despair.

Stephen Flynn, the SNP and trans

Even with the gender recognition Bill, trans is not the most important political issue for the Scottish National Party. So what difference does the election of Stephen Flynn as the leader of the party in Westminster make to us?

There is a great deal of hatred of trans people in politics and the media, and trans people might have been worried by Joanna Cherry’s delight the former leader Ian Blackford was stepping down. When she tweeted “It’s time for fresh leadership and tolerance of debate and diverse viewpoints”, I immediately thought the “diverse viewpoint” she had in mind was her desperation to say Trans is Bad, as loudly and frequently as she can.

The Scotsman (premium article shared by Microsoft) says Flynn would bring Cherry back to his front bench (Boo, hiss). However, read the next paragraph of the article- Tommy Sheppard MP starts talking about Independence. The Scotsman journalist, Alistair Grant, says Flynn is seen as more supportive of the oil and gas industry- he opposed a windfall tax, because of jobs in Aberdeen. Since the survival of the biosphere requires no further oil or gas fields to be opened, that may be more important than Flynn’s views on trans, even to trans people. But Flynn also says he wants a “green energy revolution”.

The BBC reports Mhairi Black will be Flynn’s deputy. She is lesbian, and a committed trans ally. Previous deputy Kirsten Oswald was also a strong trans ally.

I can’t find anything Flynn has said about trans. He has only been an MP since 2019. I hope his replacing Ian Blackford won’t affect trans people. All MPs have far more important things to work on than trans rights. I could not find anything on conversion therapy either. His votes in parliament have supported women’s rights and human rights. The Times’ report on Flynn shoehorned in a reference to gender recognition, but did not manage to make any connection.

The Westminster leader was elected by Westminster MPs. His opponent was Alison Thewliss, who was seen as Nicola Sturgeon’s preferred candidate. She has been an MP since 2015. I could not find anything she had said about trans, either.

If politics was about issues which mattered, which might improve the lot of people, improve the economy, help people engage with decisions which affected their lives, gender recognition and a conversion therapy ban would be quietly nodded through without any fuss, it would be easier to get medical treatment for trans needs without the requirement to see a specialist gender psychiatrist, and politics would otherwise ignore trans people. Tories only bring up trans because they have made a disaster for Britain, and they want any distraction. SNP politicians have more important things to think about. But generally, the SNP is our ally.

I understand the Scottish Gender Recognition Bill should pass this month, and the flood of strident hate and misinformation about it might then reduce. The SNP will have very slightly improved the lives of a tiny, vulnerable minority, with Labour and LibDem support and Greens in their governing coalition. Damaging the Bill would be a colossal snub to Nicola Sturgeon. Even if Flynn’s win shows her power wanes, that will not happen.

Ian Blackford, former leader, has spoken out for trans rights.

Stephen Flynn replaced Ian Blackford, and few people care. At 11am on 7 December, the SNP website news page did not mention it. Their front page showed several photos of Nicola, and none of Flynn. Perhaps that means someone cares very much indeed. The Guardian’s online front page had the announcement at the bottom of “From the UK”, below Opinion and Sport. The Times’ online front page had it at the very bottom. It says Flynn’s win dents Sturgeon’s authority, but, weirdly, does not mention gender recognition. If even the great propagandists against trans can’t include that, perhaps Flynn really does not change things for us.

Trans day of Visibility

Tomorrow, 31 March, is Trans Day of Visibility, which is the opposite of Bi Day of Visibility. On BDoV, lots of people with opposite sex partners say “I’m Bi, actually” (and some of their partners go, “What?”) On TDoV, a few trans people say, “I’m Trans!” And everyone says, “We know”. It’s also a double-dare to trans people who pass, who the gender psychiatrists would be hard-put to read as trans, to come out. That can be frightening. One trans woman I knew changed city and job, only keeping two friends who had known her as male.

Everyone who knows me knows I am trans. It could be the wig or the jawline, more likely it’s the voice. And that is mostly OK, most people who know me are OK.

Or the day is for trans people who tweet or blog about other things to come out. Then their followers will see, and perhaps feel more positively to trans people, and only the haters will unfollow.

It is a day to celebrate transition and the liberation that brings. The world seemed to change from monochrome to colour for me. Before, I hated my body. Now, I love my body. In the journey of transition, I got to know myself, and released the control which I needed to pretend to be male. I cannot imagine my life if I had not done it.

It is a day to celebrate being trans, and the gift that is to the wider community: a particular set of experiences leading to a different perspective. The difficulties of transition can produce a deep wisdom in people.

Possibly, it is a day for someone who has not yet started transition to begin to come out. You know you will have to do it. If you come out at work, in Europe and the US you are protected under discrimination legislation. Still be careful. That being said, I found most people accepting. If you come out to loving parents, siblings, partners or children, they may already know.

You can’t tell from what people have said how they will react. People who have said thoughtless, prejudiced things, if they like or love you, may accept you. People who say the right, non-discriminatory things may harbour secret prejudice. I lost a friend, when I transitioned, who was a cross-dresser.

Coming out is part of becoming yourself. Presenting your assigned gender, you are hiding. In fear, we hide ourselves and try to be what we think others expect. This is stunting and limiting. Coming out is scary, but necessary for self-respect. People need to be able to be ourselves with others. If we cannot, we are completely alone.

Stonewall has posters for schools showing trans people and their achievements.

Alec Salmond continues to build his disreputable Alba Party, with convicted perjurer Tommy Sheridan, antisemite Neale Hanvey, and two women who support the tiny but well funded hate group Four Women Scotland Limited. Why would they join Mr Sleepy Cuddles? It goes to show transphobe haters give up all feminist causes when they start campaigning against trans women. Alba stands for “All Ladies Be Aware”.

Will the SNP act against transphobia?

The SNP’s transphobia definition allows it to claim it opposes transphobia, but not to act against dangerous transphobia. Should the SNP discipline Joanna Cherry MP for transphobia? Yes. Does the SNP’s new definition of transphobia allow it to?

Cherry wrote a transphobic article for The National. I don’t know if the subs were deliberately satirising it with the headline “Joanna Cherry: How it’s possible to support rights of trans people AND women”. I don’t know if anyone is fooled by her claim to be a trans ally who has never said or done anything against equal rights for trans people, or thinks that such words allow her to be transphobic elsewhere.

Cherry is slippery. She is an advocate. She can be transphobic and leave herself a weasel denial. Cherry has received rape threats, and she implies though does not state straight out that these are from trans women. Her phrase is “young men who seek to deny biology”. She could, I suppose, claim that she is referring to cis men attempting to be trans allies, though I repudiate the allyship of any man who tweets a rape threat. But I infer she means trans women.

I have no problem condemning trans women who make rape threats, or any threats of violence. We are not a club, and I am not responsible for their wrongdoing- as the SNP definition states. “Accusing wider trans people [I think they mean the wider trans community, not fat trans] of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single trans person or group” is transphobia.

The definition gives eight examples of transphobia, though it says transphobia is not limited to these examples. Also it does not say what should be done about transphobia. For that, you need to consider the SNP conduct standards, which I found in this document. It’s not an official SNP site.

Anent discrimination, the standards say,

5. No member may make racist statements in any context.
6. Every member has a responsibility not to discriminate in his or her conduct on the ground of race, colour, gender, religious belief or non-belief or sexual orientation.

The disciplinary committee can admonish, suspend or expel a member found to have breached the rules. It is up to them to decide what penalty is appropriate. There are no sentencing guidelines, as these are political decisions.

So, racist statements are specifically barred, which appears to indicate that sexist or homophobic statements are absolutely fine. Discrimination is barred, though is not defined. The Equality Act 2010 takes hundreds of sections and 28 schedules to define unlawful discrimination, and provide excuse for acts which would otherwise be discrimination, such as excluding a trans woman from women’s space in particular circumstances.

The first six examples are acts against an individual rather than acts against trans people as a group. They include assault, discrimination, bullying, outing, misgendering and deadnaming. I hear this is a step forward: trans people in the party report that the party did not challenge members who were publicly degrading, harassing and misgendering trans members. Probably, under the rule on gender discrimination, the Party could have acted against bullying of a trans individual in these ways. Everyone knows these things are transphobic, even if they deny it.

The seventh is transphobia against the community:

“Using dehumanising language about trans people or expecting trans people to participate in “debates” about their right to exist.”

There are two parts to this: first, dehumanising language about trans people. It should cover Cherry’s use of the term “male-bodied individuals” because of the purpose of that phrase, to instil fear of trans women and opposition to trans women in women’s spaces.

The second part concerns “debates about [our] right to exist”. It does not cover assertions about “sex-based rights”, or argument that trans women should all be excluded from women’s spaces. Such argument is clearly transphobic, because it intends to foment fear of and anger against trans people, as well as lesbophobic because it encourages misgendering of lesbians, hostility to them in women’s loos, and policing their feminine expression. It is not included in the definition. And if Cherry does not invite trans people to respond to her debating points, then her wild assertions are not included because of that.

What about falsehoods about erasing women’s experience? In the National article, Cherry wrote, “Recently advice was issued to midwives in Brighton that they must refer to “chestfeeding” rather than “breastfeeding”.

That is misleading. Brighton has “gender inclusion midwives” trained to support trans men and nonbinary people, but also gives information on breastfeeding. Chestfeeding only refers to trans men and nonbinary people.

Taking Cherry’s article at face value, you would think cis nursing mothers would be told about chestfeeding. That was never going to happen. She misleads in order to create the false impression that women are under threat, and that the reader is directly affected.

Cherry’s article is objectionable throughout. Trans people and our allies object to transphobia and for Cherry this is an “out of control” “backlash” against “scientific reality”. Cherry angrily rants against people opposing transphobia or seeking reasonable treatment for trans people.

I hope trans people and allies are combing Cherry’s tweets and articles to build a case that she is transphobic, and should be disciplined under SNP rules. But the rules themselves, and this new definition, do not make that easy. Perhaps that is the point of it. Sara Ahmed points out many diversity policies are written to claim the organisation is doing something, rather than to achieve change.

Why should the SNP discipline one of its MPs? Because she is a raging transphobe, spreading hate. But, she’s an MP, and disciplining her would make them look bad. These decisions are political, not moral.

Joanna Cherry

Joanna Cherry is a transphobe, attempting to spread hate and fear against trans people, and particularly trans women.

She tweeted a photo of Pride-marchers, who have signs reading “Fuck TERFs” and “No more TERFs”, writing, “It makes me very sad. #Pride was never about #Hate. I marched on my first #Pride in London 30 years ago. It was diverse. Inclusive. This #misogyny is destroying our movement.” It was reported in indy100. Objecting to TERFs is not misogyny, because it is opposing harmful action: TERFs are identified by the harmful things they say and do. Continue reading

SNP Transphobia

One SNP women’s officer got in the Herald for disgusting transphobic abuse, and a few are now signing her transphobe “Women’s Pledge”. You can report it to Avaaz as hate speech, as I did. Question is, do people realise it is transphobic?

Men and women rushed to sign the Women’s Pledge.

Um. A few thousand, from a Scottish population of five million.

… The pledge affirms women’s single sex protections in the Equality Act 2019 which we believe must be upheld.

There is no Equality Act 2019. I am happy with the Equality Act 2010, the Act which includes me. And- trans women are women!  I have no problem with single sex women’s services which include me.

Women have the right to discuss policies which affect them, such as the proposed self identification of sex, without being abused or silenced.

A facile lie. Gender recognition reform only affects trans people. No one will declare themselves the opposite sex without transitioning, even if the law permitted it, which is unlikely.

And the press and internet are full of transphobic hatred. Some women discuss nothing else. But when they say we are dangerous, we object.

Women have the right to maintain their sex based protections as set out in the Equality Act 2010. These include female only spaces such as changing rooms, hospital wards, sanitary and sleeping accommodation, refuges, hostels and prisons.

We know what she means, of course. No Trans Women!!  But the Equality Act includes trans women in these spaces. She cannot have it both ways- you can’t exclude all trans women, and support the Equality Act.

Women have the right to refuse consent to males in single sex spaces or males delivering intimate services to females such as washing, dressing or counselling.

So any woman could object to a trans woman. I would go to the loo, some transphobe would stop me, “refuse consent” and I would be excluded. Or in a work place one worker would “refuse consent” and there would thereafter be a sign on the door, No Trans Women. Rather than law accommodating a few mostly harmless eccentrics, the might of the law would police where I went to the toilet.

It would make transition impossible, and thereby make other gender nonconformity more difficult.

Women have the right to single sex sport to ensure fairness and safety at all levels of competition.

And human rights law would need rewritten. Instead of recognising that some people transition, and that is harmless, it would exclude us.

Women have the right to organise themselves according to their sex class across a range of cultural, leisure, educational and political activities.

Women could have women only clubs, even political parties. That would involve tearing up the Equality Act too: sex discrimination law works both ways.

Nicola Sturgeon said, “As an ardent, passionate feminist, and have been all of my life, I don’t see the greater recognition of transgender rights as a threat to me as a woman or to my feminism.” Though some MSPs disagree, the SNP “supports trans rights and women’s rights as part of our commitment to human rights and equality”.

But some people want to divide the SNP and turn it into an organisation to eradicate transsexual transition: because such people have no interest in any other political issue, but all is subordinated to excluding trans women.

The most significant transphobe to crawl out of the darkness where some hide their hate is the MSP Joan McAlpine, who has organised a hate-fest at the Scottish Parliament on TDoR. It was later rescheduled for January, possibly because the organisers are incompetent, possibly to eke out the notoriety.

There’s also Joanna Cherry MP, calling someone misogynist for holding up a B with the T sign. That article has an excellent explanation of what a “TERF” is. I have collected several examples of Cherry’s extreme transphobia here. She couldn’t be prosecuted, but has probably caused violence against trans people.

23 February 2021: The SNP’s new transphobia policy is better than nothing I suppose.