After holding our breath for weeks, we were finally able to breathe out as Humza Yousaf become the new first minister of Scotland. After Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation, two candidates were battling it out while LGBTQ+ people feared for their future in Scotland. But now, we breathe a sigh of relief as Yousaf has voiced his plans to improve transgender rights.

In March 2023, Humza Yousaf became Scotland’s next first minister and previous first minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation a month prior. This left many Scottish LGBTQ+ people uncertain about their future. However, we are rejoiced to hear that Yousaf will be taking over her role.

Sturgeon was Scotland’s leader for eight years and she also served as deputy leader for an additional eight years. While she was not perfect, she did attempt to improve trans rights as of recently. During her time as first minister, Sturgeon took action to improve Scottish LGBTQ+ lives.

What did Sturgeon achieve for the LGBTQ+ community?

Sturgeon was the first minister at the time when Holyrood voted in favour of same-sex marriage back in 2014. She wrote an article for PinkNews magazine stating that this was one of her proudest days. She was also working as deputy leader when Scotland introduced same-sex adoption rights in 2009.

In recent years, Sturgeon has also shown her interest in improving trans people’s lives. She was in favour of reforming the gender recognition laws before the 2016 election. This was particularly notable. Many SNPs threatened to leave the party if trans people were allowed to self-identify as trans in order to receive a gender recognition certificate.

In December 2022, under Sturgeon’s leadership, the Scottish Parliament passed the Gender Recognition Reform Bill allowing trans people to self-identify. Sadly, within days, the UK Government blocked this bill by invoking Section 35 of the Scotland Act. Sturgeon stood up for trans people, stating that this bill ‘does not give a predatory man any more ability to abuse women than that predatory man already has’. The bill is simply designed to improve trans people’s lives!

Once Sturgeon announced her resignation, several candidates sought to take her place. Three main candidates were in the running: Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes, and Ash Regan. While Forbes was not ashamed to declare her bigoted views on LGBTQ+ issues, Yousaf stood up for trans people.

Kate Forbes opposes same-sex marriage

Forbes explained that she would not have voted in favour of marriage equality had she been first minister. According to her Christian beliefs, having a child outside of marriage is ‘wrong’. Since she opposes same-sex marriage, she would inherently view any child of unmarried queer couples as morally wrong.

When asked about her opinion on conversion therapy practices, Forbes redirected the attention by stating that, although it is a coercion, we should ‘defend the rights of other minorities like people of faith’. In case it was not clear: being Christian is apparently a minority in Scotland. What an ironic and false belief.

Moreover, she referred to a trans woman as a ‘biological male who identifies as a woman’. Her usage of transphobic language only serves to marginalise trans women further, marking them as ‘biological males’ first. She also would not have voted for Scotland’s Gender Recognition Reform bill.

Notwithstanding, Forbes believes trans people can seemingly co-exist with conservatives who do not believe they exist. Just to make this point clearer: Kate Forbes believes that trans people can still coexist with people who do not believe in their existence.

Humza Yousaf becomes First Minister

Humza Yousaf was the only one out of the three candidates to call out JK Rowling’s continuous transphobia. He admitted that Rowling had done ‘amazing in terms of the books she’s written’. But he disagreed with her ‘vehemently on the issue of transgender rights’. Meanwhile, Forbes called her a ‘national treasure’, saying that she doesn’t disagree with Rowling’s views on trans people.

Fortunately for the LGBTQ+ community, Humza Yousaf won the SNP leadership race, beating Kate Forbes. Yousaf won with 26,032 second preference votes compared to Forbes’ 23,890 votes and since the end of March, he has been Scotland’s new first minister.

Yousaf is the first ever person of colour and Muslim first minister. Having a person from a marginalised community can help create empathy and understanding for societal issues impacting other marginalised groups. However, this is obviously not always the case, as we can see with UK prime minister Rishi Sunak. Being oppressed does not keep you from oppressing others.

Nevertheless, in Yousaf’s case, this has proven to be true. To many queer and trans people’s relief, he is keen on improving queer and trans rights in Scotland. Yousaf has openly spoken about being an LGBTQ+ ally. He is an adamant supporter of the Gender Recognition Reform bill. He has promised to legally challenge the UK Government’s blocking of said bill.

First Minister stands up for Trans Rights

Humza Yousaf’s leadership means that the trans community in Scotland could potentially be able to self-identify as trans in order to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate. This would be an incredible win for all trans people in Scotland.

Moreover, Yousaf also ensured that he would ban conversion therapy in Scotland. He told PinkNews magazine that he would put ‘LGBTQ+ rights at the heart of an independent Scotland’s constitution’.

Trans rights are under attack in the UK. Kemi Badenoch is currently trying to change the meaning of sex to biological sex within the Equality Act. In doing so, trans people would no longer be able to access single-sex spaces and services. Yet, we remain hopeful that with Humza Yousaf as first minister, he will keep his promises and improve transgender lives in the UK.