Bishops Conference of Scotland Photo by and copyright of Paul Mc Sherry 07770 393960
Scotland’s bishops include Archbishop William Nolan, Bishop Brian McGree, Archbishop Leo Cushley and Bishop Joseph Toal.
By Bill Heaney
In a statement issued today (Monday 19 December 2022) Scotland’s Catholic Bishops have expressed grave concerns over the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.
Among the concerns are the fact that the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria will reduce what the bishops describe as “the opportunity for crucial healthcare, support, and protection for vulnerable individuals, including children”.
The statement also echoes the concerns of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics that the Bill is ‘unsafe’ and likely to harm young people and urges MSPs to oppose the legislation.
‘The Church is pastorally sensitive to the experience of those who desire to have a body and identity other than their biological sex.
They are to be met with compassion and a particular care and support in the challenges and distress that come with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria.
We are gravely concerned about the changes proposed by the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill.
The Bill introduces a system of self-identification, allowing a person to change their legal sex without the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria or having to consult a doctor.
Removing this requirement and denying the important medical oversight that goes with it, will inevitably reduce the opportunity for crucial healthcare, support, and protection for vulnerable individuals, including children.
Children must be protected from making permanent legal declarations about their gender which may lead to irreversible elective interventions, including surgery. Lowering the minimum age from 18 to 16 and introducing a system of self-identification will put more children and young people on this path.
Our concerns are amplified by the intervention of the Scottish Council on Human Bioethics, which has described the Bill as ‘unsafe’ and likely to harm young people.
Women’s organisations also have recorded their own concerns about the Bill, principally that the proposed reforms will increase risks to the safety of women and girls by men self-declaring as female and accessing women-only spaces.
There are also real concerns that the proposals will mean a female healthcare practitioner will no longer be guaranteed for women and girls, even when it is requested.
The freedom to hold the reasonable view that sex and gender are given and immutable and disagree with the idea of gender as fluid and separable from biological sex should be upheld.
Particularly for those who work in education, healthcare, the prison service, or as marriage celebrants who, from both reasonable and religious perspectives, hold an understanding of marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
We urge members of the Scottish Parliament to uphold these freedoms and to oppose this Bill.’
Meanwhile, more than sixty LGBT+ organisations from around Scotland have written today to MSPs in support of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill. 1,500 postcards calling for reform will be delivered to Parliament tomorrow and, as of this morning, 33,255 emails in support of reform have been sent to MSPs at Scottish Parliament.
Supporters of the Bill will also be gathering outside the Scottish Parliament at 10am on Tuesday ahead of the first of two days of debate before the final vote on Wednesday.
This is, say LGBT+ groups, “in order to send a colourful, positive message from trans people, friends, families, communities and allies in support of reforming the Gender Recognition Act”.
The letter to MSPs is signed by a wide variety of LGBT+ groups from Dumfries to Shetland. It says:
“This week, the Scottish Parliament has a historic opportunity to continue Scotland’s journey towards full social and legal equality, for all LGBT+ people, by passing a new law which will remove bureaucratic and dehumanising barriers to legal gender recognition for trans men and women.
“As an LGBT+ community we have seen the repeal of Section 28, protection from discrimination, and equal marriage as some of the key steps forward in a country that respects all who live here, no matter who they love or who they are. In this journey we have learned that we are stronger when we are united.”
The signatories call on MSPs to reject amendments that would undermine the core principles of the bill:
That gender recognition should be based on a statutory declaration that the person is living in their transitioned gender and intends to do so permanently
That the minimum age should be 16, with support and advice signposted and available for 16 and 17 year olds
That the effects of obtaining gender recognition should remain unchanged from those in place since 2005
Dr Rebecca Crowther, Policy Coordinator at the Equality Network said: “This letter reaffirms what many of us already knew, that the vast majority of LGBT+ people support reforming the Gender Recognition Act and this bill proposed by the Scottish Government. LGBT+ people have seen huge steps forward to their rights in two decades, and we urge MSPs to continue to make progress forward by backing the Bill.”
Heidi Vistisen, Policy Manager for LEAP Sports Scotland said: “This legislation will not only reduce the barriers for trans people to get legal gender recognition, it will also further enable them to live their full authentic lives. We are pleased to see so many organisations and sports groups show their unwavering support for the inclusion of trans people, and hope members of the Scottish Parliament will listen to the many voices asking them to also show their support.”