In the days leading up to Christmas 2022, LGBTQ+ allies and organisations rejoiced over the passing of the Gender Reform Act (GRA). This monumental act would have rendered Scotland the first in the UK to allow trans and nonbinary people to legally change their genders. Specifically, this act was set to both change the legal age of trans self-identification to 16 as well as eliminate previous rules requiring trans people to be medically diagnosed with gender dysphoria before legally transitioning. With transphobic hate crime rates rising significantly during 2022, as reported by Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, this news was initially met with widespread euphoria by trans people and allies alike.
However, this jubilant mood across Scotland’s LGBTQ+ community was heavily diminished with the start of the new year and Rishi Sunak’s decision to block the passing of the Gender Reform Act in Scotland. This unfair renouncement of the Scottish Labour Party’s prior decision evoked rage not only in trans and non-binary Scots but in many people championing Scottish independence. Across Scotland, large numbers of citizens have expressed disapproval with the blocking of this act, especially in consideration of how two-thirds of Scottish MSPs, including two conservative MSPs, had already consented to the passing of the GRA.
Sunak’s blockage of the GRA bill has understandably cast a dark cloud on what was supposed to be a revolutionary moment for the UK’s queer community. ‘The bill would have allowed Scottish trans people to really affirm their identities’ says an LGBTQ+ St Andrews student. This is true; as Glasgow trans activist Beth Douglas affirms, the GRA would have made the obtaining of a Gender Recognition Certificate much easier and thus prevented the immorality of such actions as burying trans people under their deadnames. Moreover, Douglas speculated that anti-trans hate crimes would have generally decreased across the UK in the wake of this act and the normalisation of gender transitioning it attempted to enact.
However, not all Scottish people are downcast by the renunciation of the GRA bill; just last week, hundreds of Glasgow citizens protested in support of Sunak’s blockage of the GRA act, citing that Nicola Sturgeon’s decision to pass it in the first place as both ignorant to other more pressing policy issues in Scotland as well as harmful towards the innocence of children. The preservation of children’s innocence has often been cited by transphobes and transphobic organisations as a significant reason for censoring trans voices and disallowing trans people the human rights they deserve, despite the cruelty and incomprehensibility of this reasoning.
Fortunately, anti-trans protests like the aforementioned Glasgow protest are few and far between, especially in contrast with the numerous trans rights demonstrations that have been taking place across the UK in the wake of Sunak’s decision. Now, trans, nonbinary, and LGBTQ+ allies protesting determinedly nationwide for the acknowledgement of trans rights as human rights, with London Trans Pride even organising an emergency protest in support of their Scottish comrades.
Thus, despite some trans Scots declaring to leave the UK entirely in the wake of Sunak’s actions, numerous Scottish trans people and allies have banded together in solidarity, setting up protests and signing petitions daily. For example, Thursday saw a large trans rights rally taking place in Edinburgh outside the Scotland Office in Queen Elizabeth House which was even attended by several MSPs- the first of many such rallies advocating for trans justice.
With St Andrews being an international hub of LGBTQ+ students, many of which are trans themselves, the importance of the university community of standing up with their fellows is extremely clear. Making trans voices heard not only in Scotland but across the UK should be the top priority for any students championing human rights; why should trans people be denied the affirmation of their identities, an affirmation that should be rightfully allowed to all UK citizens?