For Transgender Day of Visibility – Scottish Lib Dems stand up for trans people’s rights

Today is the annual Transgender Day of Visibility. It comes at a time when trans people and particularly trans women face daily attacks in the media just for being who they are.

Last month, Scottish Lib Dems passed a motion calling for reform of the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for trans people to get new birth certificates, for all Lib Dem politicians to be robust in their support of trans people and for the media to be more responsible in their reporting. After all, there is a certain irony in the biggest media outlets in the land regularly carrying articles or broadcasts from people complaining that their voices had been silenced and they weren’t allowed to question trans rights.

An amendment repeated many of the false claims in the media that somehow women’s rights were under threat from trans rights.

It was defeated by some margin. I summated that motion. Here is my speech:

As Liberals, we have a duty to stand with any group of people under attack. Trans people in this country are constantly marginalised and are the target of well-funded misinformation. Last Autumn, a transphobic group took out a full page advertisement in a daily newspaper. These groups use the same tactics as the likes of Nigel Farage. He demonised immigrants, they demonise transgender people.  We can’t stand for that.

By passing this motion, unamended, we show that we will not stand for it.

And we should remember that when the claims made about transgender people and the organisations that support them are tested in the light of day, they are found wanting. Anti trans groups were successful in getting a review of a proposed grant to the brilliant charity Mermaids, which supports gender diverse children. This week, that review concluded that Mermaids should get their money. It’s worth mentioning that Mermaids have also benefited from an additional £270,000 from a DonkeyKongathon (I didn’t know what Donkey Kong was either, don’t worry) by a YouTuber who had been incensed by the attacks on the organisation. Celebrities and politicians including Alexandria Ocasio Cortez took part.

My highlight of Federal Conference in Brighton last year was a meeting that Lib Dem Voice hosted with the aim of putting some light and kindness into an atmosphere that had become toxic south of the border. In Scotland, it is much less so. Feminist and LGBT organisations worth together to advance rights for all. They see women’s rights and trans rights as entirely complementary.Neither has anything to fear from the other.

So I invited Emma Ritch, the Director of Engender and James Morton, the Director of the Scottish Transgender Alliance to talk about how their joint work.

Emma spoke about how a comparatively well-funded voluntary sector and a Government determined to make sure services were trans-inclusive helped. She said that there had been some difficult conversations and questions, but that what she called the “institutional kindness” of the Scottish Transgender Alliance had done so much to foster knowledge and understanding. She said that “radical kindness” was a key element in bringing people together.

Conference, there is no kindness in this amendment. Even though the people who submitted it I know to be kind people.

It seeks to solve a problem that does not exist and to pit feminists and lgbt activists against each other.

Women are women. And trying to draw divisions between cis and trans over who gets women’s rights is exactly the divide and conquer tactics used by the people who want to diminish *all* women’s rights.

Who want to diminish all human rights.

Anything that takes rights away from a woman just because she is trans, takes rights away from me and you.

The struggle for equality is one where we should all be fighting shoulder to shoulder.

Rape Crisis Scotland, Zero Tolerance, Scottish Women’s Aid, Engender, Equate Scotland, all of them support the changes to the Gender Recognition Act outlined in this motion. If those experts are happy, who are we to argue?

During the Scottish Government’s consultation, these organisations said:

All violence against women organisations that receive Scottish Government funding provide trans-inclusive services. The requirement for trans inclusion plans has been in place for six years, and has not given rise to any concerns or challenges of which we are currently aware. Rather, trans women have added to our movements through their support, through volunteering, and as staff members of our organisations.

Our party has a fantastic reputation as always sticking up for the rights of marginalised groups. We supported the decriminalisation of homosexuality – when similar smear tactics were used by opponents, we opposed, and then our government repealed the dreadful Section 28 (or 2A as it was up here), we delivered same sex marriage.

This amendment flies in the face of decades of progress. Women’s organisations don’t want it, LGBT organisations don’t want it and as Liberals we shouldn’t want it either.

We need to be very careful about the message we send out to transgender people. I remember young trans people being so thrilled when we passed our policy, similar to today’s motion, at Federal Conference. It gave them huge confidence to see our party President, Sal Brinton, talk so passionately about advancing their rights. She wrote in an article on Lib Dem Voice that transgender rights as outlined in this motion are core to our party’s values.

Transgender and intersex communities are too often marginalised, and many forget that in the fight for equality, trans rights are human rights.

We must, and we are, endeavouring to ensure that a vulnerable group of people, are able to live as they are entitled to under our laws

This motion is the right thing to do. It stands with transgender people and highlights the changes they need to make their lives easier.

These changes threaten nobody else.

Reject the amendment and support the motion wholeheartedly.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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One Comment

  • OnceALibDem 31st Mar '19 - 9:41pm

    I don’t always agree with what you say but that is an excellent speech 🙂

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