Why UK government might be overreaching with its veto on Scottish gender bill: Part 3
On 17 January, the UK government released its list of stated reasons for using veto powers against the Scottish parliament. The unprecedented move blocked the new Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill. Had the bill passed, it would have removed the need for gender dysphoria diagnosis to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
Part two of the Canary’s analysis examined the arguments that the GRR bill would create confusion for IT systems, and that people might choose to self-exclude from single-sex spaces. Here, we’ll continue in the same manner before drawing final conclusions.
The final section of the policy paper focuses on potential adverse interactions between the GRR Bill and the 2010 Equality Act (EA). The section begins by reiterating concerns on single-sex spaces, equalities monitoring, and equal pay. These are named as “existing issues” with the 2010 EA, which were already complicated by the existence of transgender people. Westminster now claims that these would be exacerbated by the legal recognition of more transgender people.
We then move on to new potential problems created by the GRR Bill. In particular, the paper focuses on the fact that the GRR Bill lowers the age requirement from 18 to 16. It states that:
enabling a new cohort of transgender pupils aged 16 to 17 to change their legal sex in Scotland will mean that single-sex schools will not be able to deny them admission on the grounds of their sex.
Surely this is a good thing – schools would no longer be able to discriminate against trans pupils aged 16 and over. The move to frame this as a negative, therefore, is necessarily convoluted. The paper speculates that:
It is possible that such constraints arising from the Bill on single-sex schools in Scotland could contribute to individual schools deciding to become co-educational. That would have an adverse effect for current and future parents and students who would prefer a single-sex school, perhaps in particular where they consider that such a setting is less likely than a co-educational school to generate problems with sexual harassment.
Essentially, the paper suggests that a single-sex school’s inability to exclude trans pupils might lead to it giving up on being single-sex altogether. This would then lower the number of single-sex schools available for parents to choose from.
Note, however, that this belief lacks logic in itself. It hinges on the belief, for example, that an all-girls school would wish to exclude a trans girl. This, presumably, is predicated on the belief that she is a boy, the class that the school seeks to exclude. Upon having to admit said trans girl, the all-girls school then declares itself no longer an all-girls school.
Instead, it becomes co-educational and admits more boys – the exact eventuality it was trying to avoid. There is no requirement for it to do so. If the school’s stated aim is to minimise the number of students who are seen as boys, then the move to admit more boys makes no sense.
Likewise, there’s no requirement for the school to become co-educational. It only needs to admit the trans girl. The inverse is also true for the admission of trans boys to all-boys schools. There is no valid reason for the school to become co-educational, nor does the policy paper provide one.
This hypothetical eventuality seems like, at best, an odd example. At worst, however, it exposes an implicit thread that runs throughout the S35 policy paper.
Cis preferences matter more
What is left implicit by the policy paper, and indeed by the Section 35 order itself, is an assumption. It is the assumption that cis preferences matter more than trans preferences – and more than trans lives. More specifically, it is the assumption that transphobic cis preferences matter more than inclusive beliefs, either cis or trans.
This can be seen in the argument that sex-segregated clubs might be required to admit trans people, and this would be a bad thing. We already have provisions to exclude trans people when “objectively justified”, which would remain unaffected. This only leaves situations where the exclusion is unjust – and the only reasons to protect these are transphobic preferences.
This implicit bias is present in the argument that the inconvenience of updating an IT system outweighs a trans person’s ability to get married and die with dignity. It is seen in the weight given to a person’s potential, voluntary refusal to use a sex-segregated space in case they encounter someone who was not meant to be there.
In this same article, we’ve seen the prominence given to the example of a single-sex school that wishes to discriminate against trans pupils. The policy paper never questioned why a school would want to do this. The assumption is that the institution might want to be transphobic, and this should be protected and enshrined in the law.
This is what the use of Section 35 in this instance boils down to. Gender recognition reform in Scotland may make it that much more difficult to discriminate against a transgender individual. As we have seen, Westminster tacitly assumes throughout its policy paper that this ability to perpetuate transphobia at the state level deserves protection. Moreover, it deserves protection at the cost of freeing trans lives of the traumatic bureaucracy they face.
The UK government discriminates against trans people more openly by the day. Only last week, Dominic Raab announced that trans women would be sent to men’s prisons by default. The veto of Scotland’s GRR Bill is merely an extension of Westminster’s policy of outright discrimination against trans people. And it will not stop here.
Featured image by Flickr/Jorge Franganillo – via CC 2.0, resized to 770×403
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