Scotland’s Transgender Reform Plan Sparks Opposition From ‘Army of Women’

Scotland’s Transgender Reform Plan Sparks Opposition From ‘Army of Women’
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during First Minister's Questions (FMQs) at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Feb. 10, 2022. (J Mitchell /Pool/AFP via Getty Images)
Alexander Zhang

The Scottish government’s plan to allow people to “self-declare” their own gender without a doctors’ approval has met with strong grassroots opposition from an “army of women” from diverse social and political backgrounds, a new study has revealed.

Scottish ministers are planning to reform the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for people to change their legally recognised gender, and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly dismissed fears that the plan poses a risk to women’s rights and safety.

But according to Sarah Pedersen, professor in communication and media at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, a new “women’s cooperative constellation” has been established in opposition to the transgender reform plan.

In an academic article published in the Scottish Affairs journal, Pedersen said that women politicians, researchers, journalists, writers, and activists from across the political spectrum have formed a support network to collaborate across party lines.

Activists interviewed by Pedersen used words such as “danger” and “alarm” to describe their feelings about how the proposed changes might impact women’s sex-based rights.

Activists have set up new grassroots organisations such as “For Women Scotland” and “Women and Girls in Scotland,” because they found little support for their objections from either political parties or established women’s rights organisations, the article said.

Pedersen’s interviewees criticised these established women’s organisations in Scotland and the UK, which they said have sided with the Scottish government and have even actively silenced women who they are supposed to represent.

Some suggested that these organisations’ support for the government’s plans was driven by fears of funding being cut.

Many of the interviewees said they first noticed the debate on gender identity on social media rather than in the mainstream media.

Several of them, including journalists, noted the lack of mainstream media coverage of the initial Scottish government consultation held in 2018.

One said: “Like a lot of people, I hadn’t really been aware of all the implications of it because I got my news from the Guardian and the BBC.”

Many said their attention was caught by the abuse of well-known feminists, including members of the Scottish Parliament, who had spoken out on this subject.

One interviewee said prominent activists might not have been able to speak out “if not for knowing that they’ve got an absolute army of women behind them.”

The Scottish transgender reform plan has also attracted criticisms from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the UK’s human rights watchdog.

EHRC said last month that Scotland’s plans to change the law on gender recognition requires “further consideration.”

In a letter to Scottish Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison, EHRC chairwoman Baroness Kishwer Falkner said that “the established legal concept of sex” should be part of the “correct balanced legal framework that protects everyone.”