You would need to have been living under a rock not to know that Scotland has been engaged in a vigorous debate about her independence since Alex Salmond won a decisive victory for the SNP in the Scottish general election of 2011. At that time support for independence sat somewhere around 25%. However, since the 2014 referendum public opinion has oscillated around the 50/50 mark, but much to the chagrin of many, me included, current First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has steadfastly refused to make any advance towards independence.
But can you imagine the uproar if Alex Salmond had suddenly declared Scottish Independence in 2011 with support at 25% in the polls? And then when questioned about Unionist concerns of such a move he dismissed their concerns as ‘not valid’, however ‘sincerely held’ they were.
Well, according to three recent opinion polls that is precisely where Nicola Sturgeon has positioned herself in relation to gender self-ID. The First Minister has made it clear she intends to push ahead with a policy that has very limited public support and where views contrary to her position are dismissed as invalid.
The evidence for this sits in the results of opinion polls commissioned by Scottish polling site Scot Goes Pop, Murray Blackburn Mackenzie and For Women Scotland. The findings are astounding, but you’d be forgiven for not really knowing anything about them because most journalists seem reluctant to report the overwhelming public opposition to these proposals. I know this because I have spoken to many journalists whose initial enthusiasm for the story quickly evaporates after editorial review and they then ignore any follow up on the subject.
Notable exceptions to this are Jason Allardyce and John Boothman of The Sunday Times who ran a piece on the first Scot Goes Pop Panelbase poll published in October. They continue to give the matter much needed column inches covering the two further polls, one commissioned by policy analysts Murray Blackburn Mackenzie from Survation and another commissioned by For Women Scotland from Panelbase just published at the time of writing.
Each of the polls concur; Scottish support for self-ID is limited while opposition is overwhelming.
In the Scot Goes Pop Panelbase poll only 20% of respondents supported self-ID, Survation’s poll found only 27% believed that medical approval was unnecessary to self-identify into a gender different to that of biological sex, and the latest Panelbase data demonstrates less than a third – 29%, support for gender self-ID.
Of course, what this absolutely doesn’t say is that at least two-thirds of the Scottish population are ‘transphobic’. Indeed, further data shows that the Scottish public are fully able to discern the difference between support for trans inclusion and visibility, self-ID and the need to recognise sex as a material reality that demands discrete consideration as set out in the Equality Act 2010.
Each of the polls concur; Scottish support for self-ID is limited while opposition is overwhelming.
For example, in the Survation poll, 64% agreed that people should be able to freely express their transgender identity. This is something most LGB people not only support, but like me have previously campaigned for. However, we also know that for the nascent fundamentalist ‘allies’ this is simply not, and never will be, enough.
This suggests that a clear majority of the Scottish public agree with the now famous tweet from J K Rowling, “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security…” So far so good, but the words that followed led to howls of transphobia “…But force women out of their jobs for stating sex is real?”.
Of course, she was speaking in support of Maya Forstater who at the time was pursuing her ultimately successful discrimination case against her employer. And more recently Rowling sparked a new Twitter storm when she nodded to Orwell’s fictional revolutionary act of truth telling in a time of deceit as a response to Police Scotland’s espoused position to allow perpetrators of sexual offences, including rape, to self-ID as female. As Rowling put it “The Penised Individual Who Raped You is a Woman.”
So what is going on here? Well according to my ALBA Party colleague and former Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill MP this represents a dangerous legal absurdity; and the Scottish public agree.
According to Panelbase almost twice as many (49%) believe the natal sex of sex offenders should be recorded against 26% who believe the legal sex (those in possession of a gender recognition certificate) should be the recorded identifier, with 25% choosing not to express a view.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon
What’s clear is that the Scottish Government is completely out of step with public opinion, and not by a small margin, but by a significant one. In addition, the support and acceptance of trans people dismantles the shrieks from fundamentalists that it is prejudice against trans and non-binary people that sits at the heart of opposition to self-ID.
Proponents of gender theory and self-ID claim to hold a world view of progressiveness and acceptance encompassed by their hashtag #bekind. However, this progressiveness, acceptance and kindness is fiercely conditional and is only extended to fellow adherents. Anyone who attempts to question or scrutinise their position is fair game for targeting, doxxing, attack, bullying, defamation, and harassment – increasingly done through spurious police complaints and threats of prosecution. It may be many things, but as a means to “be kind” it most certainly fails.
We are now in the ludicrous position where to be ‘progressive’ and ‘accepting’, fundamentalist activists’ shame and attempt to silence the voices of legions of women, gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people who place great value in their own sexual reality.
Up until fairly recently the triggers that set the be-kind-brigade’s attack dogs off were benign socio-political mores. Protecting vulnerable groups from sexual predators though safeguarding policies. Ensuring women were protected as a sex-class from discrimination in day-to-day life. Ensuring that same sex attracted people were able to live their best lives free from discrimination or harassment. However, gender ideology and self-ID render sex and therefore sexuality a matter of how you self-identify, and not a matter of your natal sex. And for many, including this gay male, that erases what it means to be me and that doesn’t feel particularly kind, thanks all the same.
However you cut it, gender identity and self-ID intersect in inherent conflict with sex as a protected characteristic of the Equality Act 2010. We are now in the ludicrous position where to be ‘progressive’ and ‘accepting’, fundamentalist activists’ shame and attempt to silence the voices of legions of women, gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people who place great value in their own sexual reality. To accommodate this obvious conflict adherents discriminate, use misogynistic, homophobic and lesbophobic language, label anyone who dares to speak up as bigoted and otherwise ‘other’ them in a campaign of hateful vitriol that has seen people degraded, denigrated, defamed, chased from their jobs and excluded from vital rape and domestic violence services unless they ‘reframe their trauma’; nothing is off-limits it seems. They demand that self-ID is a priori to sex as a legal category. That is, gender identity would be prima facie to verifiable natal sex in law and therefore natal sex as we accept and understand it would effectively cease to exist.
This is not progressive. This is not acceptance. This is not kindness.
It is ideological oppression that is unravelling decades of civil rights progress.
I have stood up for human dignity and gay rights throughout my life and on that journey many strong courageous women have stood alongside me. They held the hands of friends dying from AIDS while the world looked the other way and I will not abandon them now.
I have many friends who are women, some love other women. They are lesbians, not genital fetishists.
I am a man who has loved the same man for almost 30 years. I am gay, not a genital fetishist.
But what about straight men, should they be considered transphobic, like many lesbians are, for refusing to include transwomen in their dating pool? Well according to Panelbase a minuscule 7% of the Scottish public believe that it is wrong for lesbian women or heterosexual men to refuse to consider dating individuals who have changed their gender from male to female. Yet a whopping 65% think it is wrong to pressurise lesbian women and heterosexual men to consider dating transgender people they are not attracted to.
I know women who wish to safeguard their bodies in a world where violent and sexual abuse still exists at epidemic proportions. Where 98% of offenders are natal males, whether they identify as a man or a woman, and the victims are natal females who have every right to expect protection in law.
Another burning issue has centred around the place of natal males self-ID-ing into women’s sport. Some argue that, in the interests of inclusion and equality for transgender people, athletes who have legally changed their gender from male to female should be permitted to compete in women’s sporting events. Panelbase found that only 19% of the Scottish population agreed natal males should be permitted to compete in women’s sporting events, whereas 57% felt the same population should be excluded from participating in women’s sporting events.
How is it possible that we have reached 2021 where women who raise concerns about their health provision, their trauma services, or even their hygiene spaces are voices to be ignored or dismissed as not valid by a First Minister who claims to be a feminist to her fingertips?
When I led Fife Pride in 2018 and 2019 I believed that equality as an anchor of our modern society was so close to being truly representative of the rainbow that has always accompanied pride. That burst of all colours of course represented all people no matter what sex, sexuality and gender you were. And we were so close, but in the last few years the debate has become so toxic that whole sections of people have been silenced and thrown back to the dark ages.
I never thought I would ever see a gay man hounded out of a pride event by a ‘queer identifying straight woman’.
I didn’t anticipate that homophobic and lesbophobic bullying would not only be tolerated in the SNP, but the targeting of gender critical gay men and lesbians would be encouraged and celebrated by so-called allies.
I didn’t anticipate that Members of Parliament would actively participate in this horror-show all tacitly nodded on without a blush.
How is it possible that we have reached 2021 where women who raise concerns about their health provision, their trauma services, or even their hygiene spaces are voices to be ignored or dismissed as not valid by a First Minister who claims to be a feminist to her fingertips? When did the aspiration of equality for everybody (including trans people) shift to exceptionalism, arrogance, and aggressive and oppressive hostility?
Polling data hasn’t yet touched on the medicalisation of young people and their emerging identity. It’s a subject of special concern to me as sustaining adolescent development in young people with cancer is a subject area in which I have conducted and published primary clinical research as part of a master’s degree and something I plan to write on in due course. That said, it is a dangerous path to radicalise children with a belief system that communicates to them that they may be born in the wrong body at a vital formative developmental stage; that they need drugs and surgery to ‘feel’ themselves; that they should deny their innate personal boundaries and submit to relationships to comply with the ‘feelings’ of others. This is not progressive, it’s dangerous and it’s harmful.
What these polls tell us is that Nicola Sturgeon can’t wish away public opinion and suggest she could face a serious public backlash for her self-ID crusade. Her silence on the abuse meted out by self-ID adherents is indicative of an inconsistency in her defence of women, gay men, and lesbians. Indeed, a growing number of people like me find the gender self-ID policy she supports to be deeply misogynistic and homophobic.
While Sturgeon’s gender theory supporters may have gone uncensured for calling lesbian and gay MPs like me and Joanna Cherry transphobic bigots in the past, these polls demonstrate that it is the views of those Nicola Sturgeon has dismissed as “not valid” that are truly in-step with wider Scottish public opinion. Of course, any such implication that the nation she currently leads is riven with bigots and transphobes should rightly be regarded as equally outrageous and fallacious.
Neale Hanvey is the ALBA Party MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.