Glasgow postgraduate group hosts talk on trans rights in Scotland

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Credit: Leda Basile

Leda Basile
Writer

The workshop hosted at the Gilchrist Postgraduate Club gave a presentation about trans-rights under Scots law.

On 18 February, the Gilchrist Postgraduate Club hosted a workshop in the Gilchrist Seminar Room about trans rights under Scottish law.

The event called “Scottish Trans Alliance: Our Rights!” was led by James Morton, the manager of The Scottish Trans Alliance Project, also known as Scottish Trans. The presentation and discussion talked about the legal situation in Scotland for transgender people, or anyone whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth.

Three key pieces of legislation were discussed: The Gender Recognition Act of 2004, The Offenses (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009, and The Equality Act 2010. The Gender Recognition Act was an important topic of conversation, as it states that in order for a trans person to alter their birth certificate to show the appropriate gender, they must be over 18 and they must live under their “acquired gender” for two years. A psychological evaluation is also mandatory. This piece of legislation is contentious among the LGBTQ+ community, as the feedback demonstrates a desire to reduce the evaluation period to six months; three before the change and three after.

The workshop’s focus on The Equality Act discussed the characteristics necessary to be a candidate for protection against gender-reassignment based discrimination. Under the Equality Act, any trans person – regardless of where they are in the transition stage and their preferred methods of transition – is safeguarded. No medical diagnosis is necessary either; a trans person’s assertion of their gender identity is proof enough to be eligible for the Act’s protection. The Equality Act Statutory Codes of Practise ensure that there is a clear blanket ban against discrimination of trans people based on their gender identity.

However, the reaction to the law has not been wholly positive, as it still allows for exceptions under certain circumstances. For example, facilities that provide single-sex services such as public bathrooms can, under restricted circumstances, lawfully refuse to serve trans people.

Differing from The Equality Act, The Offenses (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act is a hate crime legislation covering sexual orientation, trans identity and disability-related crimes. Its purpose is not to instate new offences in the system, but rather to add an aggravator to already existing offences if there is proof of “malice” or “ill will”.

The overarching message in the workshop, however, was not focused solely on the content itself, but also on the reflection of how to approach discussions regarding gender identity and its relationship to social and legal constructions. The importance of respect was emphasised throughout the event; showing respect to trans people by using their chosen name or pronoun, and also showing respect to those who hold contrasting views.

The complexity of the issues requires considerate, thoughtful and nuanced conversations. Morton said the importance of the approach is tantamount to that of the discussion itself. When asked about whether society’s level of knowledge with regards to trans rights has seen improvement, Morton said that due to the complexity of the issues at hand it is “really difficult for the average person to make sense of some of the debates”.

Morton said: “It’s all about making things go viral and I think all of that has made it even harder to explain what’s already complicated and confusing.”

However, Morton is hopeful that the overall pattern of progression is positive.

Morton said: “All marginalised groups go through periods of backlash, it’s just a necessary part of moving things forward. Gradually you just get people more used to the fact that we’re diverse as a society and that that’s okay.”