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Scottish Government announcement that the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill is on hold due to the coronavirus crisis

We understand that dealing with the current outbreak of COVID-19 must be the Scottish Government’s top priority. That is why we support today’s announcement that they will deprioritise any new primary or secondary legislation not intended to deal with this public health crisis until it is over. At least six bills are now currently on hold, and these include the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Whilst we know that trans people and our allies will be hugely disappointed that this means work on reform of the Gender Recognition Act has been halted for now, the most important thing for all of us at the moment is to look after ourselves and each other. We urge everyone to keep reaching out through these difficult times. Whilst we need to be physically distant, it is important to stay socially connected.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, is responsible for GRA reform. She has said to us in a letter today following the announcement, that:

“The Scottish Government continues to have a strong commitment to reform the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and improve the current process for trans people.”

Once this is all over, we will get back to making the case for why they must honour that commitment, and reform this law.

The Cabinet Secretary goes on to say in her letter that:

“(the Scottish Government) remains committed to improving the lives of trans and non-binary people more generally… You have raised a number of issues around the inequalities trans people continue to experience and I have asked that – once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed – officials work with you to develop proposals that deliver meaningful improvement to the lives of trans people in Scotland.”

We welcome this commitment. Once the coronavirus crisis is over, we look forward to working with the Scottish Government on a range of issues such as access to healthcare, tackling hate crime and trans young people’s experiences at school.

But until then, let’s do everything we can to help each other through this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to download the Cabinet Secretary’s letter as a PDF

Important information about continuing your hormones during the coronavirus outbreak

We have been assured that there is no reason to expect that your prescriptions for hormones during the coronavirus outbreak will not continue from your GP as normal.

Some people who are on injectable hormones could find that their GP practice is unable to administer the injections at the current time. If this is the case, please ask you GP to switch you onto a different preparation of your hormones that don’t require injecting – you can give your GP all of the information they need by showing them this: https://www.ngicns.scot.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Hormone-Treatment-Alternatives-Covid-Chalmers-Final-190320.pdf
 
This should allow them to smoothly change your prescription, but if they are still unsure they can contact one of the GICs for further advice.
 
However, if you do encounter any problems with continuing your hormones during this time, you should contact the Gender Identity Clinic that covers the area you live in, even if you are not currently or have never been a patient there. They have told us that they will try to solve any problems you are having. If you email your GIC, include your phone number so they can call you back. Some GICs cannot discuss patient treatment by email.

Contact info

Chalmers GIC (people living in NHS Lothian, Fife & Borders areas):

📞 0131 536 1570
📨 Patients can’t email this GIC, but your GP can access a clinical advice email service from them
✉️ Lothian Sexual Health Clinic 2A Chalmers Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9ES
 
 

Grampian GIC (people living in NHS Grampian):

📞 01224 557 651 (ask for Liz McPhail)
📨 Grampian.gic@nhs.net
✉️ Adult Psychiatry, Royal Cornhill Hospital, Cornhill Road, ABERDEEN, AB25 2ZH
 

Sandyford GIC (people living in all other health boards to ones listed, except NHS Highlands):

📞 0141 211 8130
📨 adultgender.sandyford@ggc.scot.nhs.uk
✉️ Sandyford Clinic, 6 Sandyford Place, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, G3 7NB
 
 
We have been told by Inverness GIC that they have already contacted their patients to check that there is no problem with their hormone prescriptions.
 
If you are accessing your hormones via a private provider, you should be able to continue this as usual. If you are temporarily unable to access your private prescription then your NHS GP may be willing to consider providing a bridging prescription during that time, as a harm reduction measure. However they are not obliged to.
 
We know that this is a very stressful time for everyone, and also that our NHS is under great strain. Please get in touch with us if you are having problems continuing your hormones and have been unable to solve the issue using the above info. If so, we will do everything we can to help.

Brexit’s Dangerous Impact on Transgender Asylum Seekers

Elise Middleton is a content writer for the Immigration Advice Service, an organisation of UK immigration solicitors offering legal aid and support to asylum-seekers, trafficking survivors and survivors of domestic abuse

The uncertainty surrounding Brexit raises many questions about the future of the UK, namely in business, trade, employment, and immigration. If Brexit does come to pass, it will take years to sift through various legal decisions regarding which laws adopted by the UK as part of EU membership will remain, and which will be lost. Research undertaken by The UK in a Changing Europe demonstrates that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, despite the temporary workarounds promised by the EU, the UK may well be thrown into crisis with severe disruptions to air transport and road links.

These concerns prompt a great deal of media attention and public conversation, but one area that is frequently and dangerously overlooked is that of Brexit’s impact on equality policies and particularly LGBTQ+ rights. The only legally binding international human rights document that specifically protects people against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is the Charter of Fundamental Rights, a piece of EU legislation that will likely no longer be available to UK individuals post-Brexit.

Currently, it acts as a vital safety net for British LBGTQ+ individuals, allowing them to turn to EU courts if they feel that the UK government is not doing enough to protect them from persecution. Many British nationals have depended upon both EU courts and European law in this way, with a recent case being that of British man John Walker who relied on EU law to bring an end to inequalities in private pension rights for same-sex couples. Examples of the Charter of Fundamental Rights being invoked in this way highlight its importance, and its loss will leave transgender people in particular vulnerable and without specific protections. In recent years, the UK has implemented legislation such as the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010, demonstrating significant progression in efforts to protect the rights of the LGBTQ+ community. However, Brexit threatens a regression of these rights and many others that have been tirelessly worked for.

A large contributing factor to concerns of a regression are the statistics that demonstrate a harrowing increase in hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community – and particularly trans individuals. Recent Stonewall Scotland research on LGBT hate crime has reported that in 2017, one in five LGBTQ+ people had experienced a hate crime because of either their gender identity or sexual orientation, with that number increasing to a distressing 48% for trans people specifically.

This hostility and vitriol is similarly directed at the most vulnerable in society: transgender asylum seekers. Asylum seekers who wish to gain citizenship in the UK are already subject to the harmful repercussions of the UK government’s increasingly rigorous immigration policy, policy that undermines basic human rights. Individuals seeking asylum on the basis of persecution due to their sexuality or gender identity are then forced to prove evidence that they were under threat, in a series of gruelling interviews that does not take into account the reality that most of these people would not have been able to live publicly out in their home countries. As a result, offering some form of proof is often impossible, as it was their inability to live freely and openly that led these individuals to flee in the first place. This insensitive and unfeasible demand then leads a number of asylum seekers to feel as if they must provide explicit or intimate evidence to demonstrate the legitimacy of their claim, significantly encroaching upon their privacy.

These unreasonable demands have their roots in the government’s hostile environment policy, and unsurprisingly result in a high refusal rate for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers making their claim on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2017, a massive 1,464 out of 1,887 asylum seekers making a claim on this basis were refused, with only 423 granted asylum.

The experience of asylum seekers waiting to make their claim or hear a response to their claim is often a traumatic one, and is only exacerbated when the individual is LGBTQ+. Transgender individuals suffer specific violence and abuse in the interview process, frequently being misgendered by interviewing officers or refused the right to be in detention with fellow detainees of their self-identifying gender.

Transgender asylum seekers suffer atrocious cases of injustice and discrimination under the current system and governmental immigration policy. The combination of these current hardships and the increase in hostility forecasts a dangerous future for LGBTQ+ asylum seekers, one that can only be worsened by either a no-deal Brexit or a Brexit that does not take these issues into account. In order to continue the work that has been undertaken by those advocating for the legal protection of the LGBTQ+ community, the government must establish post-Brexit human rights legislation as a matter of urgency. The lasting pieces of the hostile environment policy must be eradicated in order to ensure the safety and protection of those seeking refuge from persecution. If these measures are not taken, the UK may find itself to be a toxic and dangerous place for LGBTQ+ people, not one of progression but one that must be escaped.

An important new piece of research on trans healthcare in Scotland!

The Scottish Public Health Network (ScotPHN) conducted a health care needs assessment about trans people and their access to specialist Gender Identity Services in Scotland that was published in May 2018. This was done with the following aims and objectives in mind:

  • To identify the level of need and map current service provision
  • To understand the service user experience and access to services
  • To understand how the current gender reassignment protocol is being adhered to and what support services are important to users
  • To identify the inequalities resulting from current service provision

The research looked at information about how many trans people there might be in Scotland, how current services are provided at gender identity clinics, what trans people’s experiences are of using gender identity clinics, and how the approach in Scotland compares to other countries, both in the rest of the UK and internationally. It did this by looking at existing academic evidence and research, by using information from a Scottish Trans Alliance survey on trans people’s experiences of using gender identity clinics, and by interviewing people working in gender identity services in Scotland at the moment. The research was guided by a steering group that was designed to bring experts from the third sector together with members of ScotPHN. This included representatives from Scottish Trans Alliance, LGBT Health and Wellbeing and Stonewall Scotland.

The findings of this research can be used as evidence of the current needs of trans people from Gender Identity Services, where there are gaps in these services, and how they can be improved. The report included recommendations on what should change to make sure that NHS Scotland was providing gender identity services that truly meet the needs of all trans people, and where other organisations such as the charity and voluntary sector may be best placed to provide additional support that falls outside the remit of gender identity clinics. We want to ensure that trans people across Scotland are included in ongoing conversations about how the recommendations made in this research can be followed through to improve trans specific healthcare nationally.

Although we know that the number of referrals to Gender Identity Clinics have been rising in Scotland over the last seven years, and third sector organisations have been hearing anecdotally of the strengths and weaknesses of these services for many years longer than that, there was a lack of clear evidence about the overall national picture that could be used to make the case for changing how these services are provided. This report should be the first step in creating that evidence base.

ScotPHN is a network of people working in public health in Scotland, and its aim is to bring together relevant organisations and individuals to produce research about Scotland’s public health needs.

You can download a Community briefing paper which includes the Executive Summary and Recommendations.

You can read the entire report at: https://www.scotphn.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2018_05_16-HCNA-of-Gender-Identity-Services.pdf

Equal Recognition: How the law on gender recognition is impacting on trans lives

Read the fantastic article written by Caitlin Logan over at CommonSpace about our Equal Recognition campaign here: http://bit.ly/2rJNhEr

Report from our Equal Recognition: Non-binary seminar

On Sunday, December 11th we held an all-day Equal Recognition: Non-binary seminar. The aim of the day was to bring together non-binary community members and activists with lawyers, academics and other professionasls with knowledge and expertise in this area to start thinking about how non-binary legal gender recognition could and should work in Scotland.

The day was split into two sections – in the morning session, we heard presentations from a range of speakers, talking about topics such as what they wanted from the new legislation, what impact non-binary legal recognition would have on existing laws, and what could be learned from international examples in arguing for non-binary recognition.

In the afternoon, there were three simultaneous workshops – two focused on academic and legal discussions, and one focused on non-binary activism.

You can read a report of the day to find out more about what was discussed: equal-recognition-non-binary-seminar-report

Scottish Parliament Equal Opportunities Committee publishes summary about Trans Equality

The Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee have published a short report about trans equality. The report summarises the evidence given by the Scottish Transgender Alliance to the Committee on February 4th, as well as looking at some other things, such as:

  • Whether the Gender Recognition Act is reserved or devolved
  • The history and development of the Gender Recognition Act in the UK
  • Our Equal Recognition campaign – the three calls, and the evidence that we gave to support the calls
  • Some of the recommendations from the UK Parliament’s Women and Equalities Select Committee report into trans equality
  • The Equality Act
  • Other countries that currently have gender recognition legislation that partially or totally reflect the calls of the Equal Recognition campaign

Scottish Trans Alliance at Glasgow Pride

This Saturday, 22nd August, the Scottish Trans Alliance, Equality Network, and lots of our lovely volunteers lead the Pride march through Glasgow to call for trans rights now. The day started pretty early for us as we arrived in Glasgow at 9 to set up our stalls on the Green, and decorated the float with an assortment of rainbow balloons, placards, banners, and a bunch of bubble guns to fire on the way round!

pride photo 1

After hearing some speeches from our float at the start point of the march (there was a focus on the legal rights that are still unavailable for some in the trans community, the need to make our LGBTI activism global and inclusive, and the specific problems around trans healthcare) we took to the streets to spread our message of trans rights now! The parade was so much fun – we danced our way around central Glasgow and had loads of people watching and waving. It was an amazing opportunity to get to call for trans equality at an event not only attended by many from the LGBTI community, but also watched by hundreds more, who may not be aware of or think about the discrimination that continues to be faced by almost all LGBTI people. We got to be ourselves, have fun, spread our message, and be proud!

After the march, we did the speediest clearing of the float we could, and headed in to the stalls. From ER stall picthere we had a hectic day where we were visited by tonnes of people, some of whom had never heard of us and some more familiar faces! We managed to run out of Equal Recognition postcards as so many people signed up on the day to our call for equality for all trans people. The people signing up were all different ages, cis and trans, knew nothing about it or knew everything about it… it was a really great feeling to know that our call for equality was being heard and that so many people want to support us with it.

So we spent the afternoon chatting with people and letting them know what we do and what we’re working on at the minute and it was loads of fun – everyone was really friendly and it was a great chance to let people know who we are and what we stand for. We gave out lots of info, sold a bunch of trans pride badges, and heard stories from people about how being trans affects their lives. Some people were talking about all of the positive changes in the last few years and how they feel more able to be themselves, whether that’s at work, at home, or popping to the shops. Some people though were telling us about the problems they continue to face due to being trans – discrimination, stereotyping, and a lack of respect. Which is why we all need to keep working hard to make our voices heard and make sure that trans people have the same rights as everyone else, and hopefully we’ll hear less and less of these stories with each new Pride.

At 6 o’clock it was time to pack up and head home, so after carrying many many boxes back to the van (thank you so much to our volunteers for helping!) that was us done! Thank you so much to everyone who was there, who volunteered with us, or who came and said hello – the day wouldn’t have been the same without you.

Launch of a UK wide non-binary survey

Scottish Trans Alliance is today launching a UK wide survey for all non-binary people, defined as those:

“identifying as either having a gender which is in-between or beyond the two categories ‘man’ and ‘woman’, as fluctuating between ‘man’ and ‘woman’, or as having no gender, either permanently or some of the time”.

It asks questions on three main subjects: experiences of using services, views on legal gender recognition, and experiences in employment.

The survey will be used to give us a clearer picture of some of the issues being faced by non-binary people in the UK today, and to provide us with real evidence to use in our campaigning and lobbying around improving the rights of all trans people. At the moment, there is little existing literature on some of the specific issues faced by non-binary people beyond what we hear anecdotally from the community – and this is a great opportunity to change that.

If you would like to take the survey, you can do so at this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/nonbinarysurvey

The survey should take around 30 minutes to complete. It will be open for 8 weeks, closing on Tuesday 15th September.

If you have any questions about the survey or would like to request it in a different format, please do get in touch with Vic Valentine by emailing vic@equality-network.org or calling the office on 0131 467 6039

Ask your MSPs to support gender X passports for people who do not identify as men or women

We’re delighted that Alison Johnstone MSP has submitted the following motion in the Scottish Parliament supporting non-gendered passports for non-binary people:

Motion S4M-12970: Alison Johnstone, Lothian, Scottish Green Party, Date Lodged: 21/04/2015
Passports for People who do not Associate with a Particular Gender
That the Parliament recognises that the UK Parliament’s early day motion number 47 relating to the provision of passports to people who do not associate with a particular gender, accumulated 80 signatures; understands the importance to transgender people who are non-binary, and therefore do not identify as male or female, of having passports that reflect their true identity; notes that non-binary people have called on the Labour and Conservative parties to comment on this issue in their manifestos; recognises that a number of other jurisdictions, including Australia and New Zealand, provide their citizens with passports bearing a gender marker other than M or F; believes that, like other trans people, non-binary people have the right to have their gender identity recognised and should therefore be able to obtain passports that reflect the fact that they do not identify as male or female, and urges the next UK Government to consider whether an additional gender marker should be made available on British passports.

Several MSPs have already signed as supporting the motion. It’s really important to raise visibility of non-binary issues so please send a quick email to your local MSPs asking them to sign in support (you can find their contact details at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msps.aspx).