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Being Trans 2019

On Tuesday 23 April, Scottish Trans Alliance, Stonewall Scotland, Equality Network, Amnesty Scotland and LGBT Youth Scotland brought trans people and MSPs from across the political spectrum together at the Scottish Parliament.

The event gave trans people a unique chance to tell their stories, so the MSPs who represent them could hear about the difference trans equality would make in their lives. So often, discussions about equality for trans people are had without their voices being included.

It was clear from the discussions between trans people attending and the MSPs that the current toxic public debate is having an enormous impact on the lives of trans people. Respectful discussion that help people understand each others’ experiences and viewpoints are critical in making Scotland more accepting. But it’s crucial these discussions start from a place that recognises the validity of trans identities and does not make them the subject of debate.

There is a need for public figures to speak up when they see intolerance or harassment of trans people, in the media or online.

To see so many MSPs from different parties come to listen to trans people’s experiences and needs shows the support within our Parliament for trans rights, and a growing understanding of why reform of the Gender Recognition Act is so desperately needed. The current system medicalises trans identities, and does not include recognition of non-binary people.

These barriers mean that many trans people live without the critical legal paperwork that shows the state recognises who they are. Changes like the ones we’ve seen in Ireland, which now allows people to change their legal gender by making a legal declaration, would be life-changing for so many trans people in Scotland.

MSPs we spoke to are aware of the positive changes this would have. They are keen to make the case for it, and to stand up for trans equality.

It’s now been more than a year since the Scottish Government’s consultation on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act closed.  Two thirds of people in Scotland who responded backed the proposals, showing great support from the Scottish public for trans equality. But despite this promising start, the Scottish Government has yet to respond to the findings or detail their proposals for legislation.

This silence has allowed misinformation to spread, causing alarm in trans communities, as well as for those who are concerned their own rights will be affected. Last week saw Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary leading on these reforms, publish a statement reassuring trans communities that the Scottish Government is working hard to protect their rights.

Her support was very welcome, particularly at a time when there has been a great deal of hostility in the media towards trans communities. But this reassurance needs to be followed by action.

It’s important to take time to get any legal changes right, but the longer the Scottish Government wait to release their response, the more opportunity there is for fear and misinformation to spread. Trans communities need their Government to be unequivocal in their support for equality. It is time for the Scottish Government to stand up for trans rights and publish their response to the consultation.


This blog was co-authored by Stonewall Scotland, Scottish Trans, Equality Network and LGBT Youth Scotland                                .


NHS Consultation Event

Live in NHS Grampian or NHS Highland? Come and share your views on improving NHS provision for trans people. Discuss the information resources and expanded protocol details currently being worked on by the National Gender Identity Clinical Network for Scotland. Travel expenses provided. More info.

Logos of NGICNS & STA

WPATH Issues Statement on Legal Gender Recognition

On 19 January, 2015 the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) issued a statement asserting its position regarding legal gender recognition.

Significantly, WPATH stated:

  • “No particular medical, surgical, or mental health treatment or diagnosis is an adequate marker for anyone’s gender identity, so these should not be requirements for legal gender change.”
  • “WPATH Standard of Care 7 recognizes that there is a spectrum of gender identities, and that choices of identity limited to Male or Female may be inadequate to reflect all gender identities; an option of X or Other (as examples) may be advisable.”
  • “Marital status and parental status should not affect legal recognition of gender change. . .”
  • “. . . appropriate legal gender recognition should be available to transgender youth.”
  • ” . . . urges governments to eliminate unnecessary barriers, and to institute simple and accessible administrative procedures for transgender people to obtain legal recognition of gender, consonant with each individual’s identity. . . “

The Scottish Transgender Alliance welcomes that WPATH, long regarded as the world’s foremost authority on the medical treatment of transgender people, has clearly stated that legal recognition should be completely separate from the medical processes and not contingent on any diagnosis.  We are also pleased that they support access to legal gender recognition for transgender young people, and for the inclusion of a non-binary option.

These statements clearly align with the calls of our Equal Recognition campaign.  It is good to see that our campaign is consistent not only with international trans human rights activism, but also with the views of leading medical gender specialists.

The full text of the WPATH statement can be read here. WPATH Statement on Legal Recognition of Gender Identity 1-19-15

I can wake up as male or female. Or neither: Young Scot raises awareness of non-binary gender identity

  • By Jenny Morrison of the The Sunday Mail


DREW O’Donnell can live with a different gender each day and wants to raise awareness of leading a non-binary life.


Drew on a gender neutral day.

Drew on a gender neutral day.

DREW O’DONNELL prefers to be referred to as “they” and not as “he” or “she” because when they wake up in the morning, they never know whether they will feel male, female or gender-neutral.

Born male, Drew grew up wrongly believing they were what they describe as a “very camp gay man”.

At the age of 22, Drew was empowered to realise they were neither male nor female – but belonged to a group of people who describe themselves as non-binary.

Drew’s family and friends have come to accept that one day they may live as a man, while the next day they may feel much more like a woman and choose to wear make-up, dress in more feminine clothes and even speak with a much more feminine voice.

Drew as a male.

Drew as a male.

While Drew says being classed as non-binary falls under the transgender umbrella, they don’t feel trapped in the wrong body and don’t cross-dress.

And while Drew says they know many people may find their ever-changing gender difficult to understand, they say people need to learn to be more understanding.

Drew, 23, of Paisley, said: “I’ve been told there are 37 different types of gender – a lot more than simply male and female.

“Even I can’t remember them all but when people ask me about it, I try to explain to them that sex and gender are two different things.

“The singer Cher has a transgender son who said, ‘Gender is between your ears, not between your legs’ and for me that describes it well. Gender is what you feel – and sometimes I might feel two thirds male and only one third female while the next day, I might feel two thirds female and only one third male.

“Some days I feel absolutely gender neutral – neither more male nor more female and that is totally fine too. I have three genders – the more feminine me, the more masculine me and the gender neutral me – but I am still the same one person.

“When I am feeling more feminine I will wear more feminine clothes – not skirts or dresses but clothes that have a more feminine than masculine look to them.

“I will wear make-up – I like eye shadow, eye liner and nail polish. And I have even coached my voice to sound more feminine.

“On days where I feel more masculine, my clothes are much more boyish and I won’t wear make-up. On gender neutral days, I’m somewhere in the middle.”

Drew doesn’t consciously decide what their gender will be on any given day – their body decides for them.

An example of how Drew might dress on a day they feel more feminine.

An example of how Drew might dress on a day they feel more feminine.

Drew said: “I believe I have a hormone imbalance that affects how I feel gender- wise. I’ve been considering going to the doctor to have my hormones investigated, as I suffer from hot flushes which most males don’t experience – but women going through hormonal changes do.”

Drew says they first realised they were gay around the age of 14. But they didn’t tell anyone how they felt until they had left school and started college.

Drew, who is the transgender representative for Scotland’s National Union of Students, said: “When I was growing up, I was always very feminine – I played with girls rather than boys and I preferred girls’ toys. Up until about 13, I did have girlfriends but by 14, I knew I was more attracted to boys. I finally told my mum and friends I was gay when I was 18 and none of them were surprised. They all told me they had known I was gay for a long time.”

From age 18, Drew dated a number of gay men but admits they are attracted to both males and females. It was another four years before they discovered what it meant to have non-binary gender.

Drew said: “Two friends were talking about being gender neutral or non-binary themselves. As they explained there were more than two genders out there, I started to realise that was me. I realised it was ok for me to accept when my body is telling me I’m female and when it’s telling me I’m male.

“You don’t have to choose one gender. Identifying as non-binary is easier for me.”

Drew, whose dad died several years ago, said their mum Fiona was deeply supportive of their decision.

Drew said: “She’s been great. When people ask her about her son, she explains I am not her son any more but I’m non-binary”

Drew, who is looking for work, says when applying for jobs they prefer to leave blank the box asking their sex.

Drew, who was chosen as a baton bearer in the Commonwealth Games for being a volunteer with several local charities, said: “There are times when I have ticked the male box or the female box – but usually I try to leave it blank.”

Drew accepts they have to use male changing rooms and toilets but wants to see more gender-neutral facilities.

Drew said: “The best way to deal with transphobia is through education. The top tip I would give is don’t just jump to conclusions about whether someone is male of female. Don’t ask them what their gender is – ask them politely what pronoun they are. This shows you respect who they are as a person.”

Drew is currently organising the National Union of Students first Scottish trans-gathering, for all students who identify as transgender, being held in Edinburgh in February.

Drew is also supporting the Scottish Government’s “One Scotland’ Campaign, which aims to promote equality and celebrate diversity in Scotland.


FRA Releases ‘Being Trans in the European Union’ Report

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) has launched a ground-breaking report ‘Being Trans in the European Union‘. The report points to how trans people experience frequent discrimination and harassment, and draws upon the responses to FRA’s wider EU LGBT survey.

Becky Kent, Scottish Transgender Alliance Research Associate has examined the report and has pulled out the information related to the experiences of trans people in the UK.  We welcome the report as it is the most comprehensive report of trans experiences in Europe published to date.  More than 800 trans people from the UK were among the survey’s 6,579 trans respondents, giving us a good view of the current status of trans people in the UK.

The survey’s most striking result is the high level of repetitive violence and hate-motivated crime trans persons suffer.

The report highlights the serious problem that still remains for trans people experiencing hate-motivated crimes and harassment. 12% of UK trans people have experienced hate-motivated violence and crime in the 12 months preceding the survey as compared to the EU average of only 8%, and 37% of the UK respondents faced hate-motivated harassment in the 12 months preceding the survey.

Sadly, the UK trails only Ireland and Lithuania in the rate of hate-motivated violence and crime suffered by trans people, and is significantly worse than the European average.  This shows that we still have a long way to go in making the UK a consistently safe place for trans people to live and work.

The report also looked at trans people’s experiences in employment, education and when accessing health care.

In health care 53% of trans people feel they can be open about being trans to their health care providers which is significantly better that the EU average of 35%. 96% are also aware that gender reassignment services are available.  On the down side 26% report being discriminated against when accessing health care in the previous 12 months.

In schools, 47% report that the atmosphere in their school or university is negative toward LGBT people and 22% report being discriminated against for being trans in the previous 12 months.  In employment 40% of the trans respondents in the UK report being discriminated against when seeking work in the previous year and another 31% have been discriminated against on the job during the previous 5 years.

These figures continue to show that there needs to be improvement in awareness and understanding of trans people throughout UK society.  It is especially disappointing to see that these results point to schools remaining an unwelcome place for LGBT people.  A closer look at the report also shows that these problems are significantly greater for those people who have a non-binary gender identity.  We need to work harder to help society to understand and accept those who identify as neither male nor female.

We have recently launched the Equal Recognition  campaign in which we are calling for legal recognition non-binary people who do not identify as either male or female.  We see this as an important step in improving the experiences of non-binary people in Scotland.