Following Nicola Sturgeon’s very public stance on transphobia, we would like to applaud her for sharing her experiences as a feminist and for including trans women within that group. By putting her views in a public statement she can now be held accountable for their implementation, and we would welcome the same bravery from others in her position.
In a very real example of this being put into practice, on January 27, The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, Posted what she described as an unplanned and unscripted statement on Twitter in response to reports that a significant number of young people have left the Scottish National Party, largely because leadership was perceived to have failed in their efforts against transphobia.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) January 27, 2021
On an almost daily basis we hear how the current state of equality, healthcare and human rights for trans people is falling short across the world.
The key ingredients for solving the issue are clear:
Without education, we cannot begin to understand the experiences, rights and needs of our trans neighbours. Misinformation must be addressed and community-led information shared and disseminated.
Leadership is a fundamental aspect to democracy and community development. We have to be able to believe and respect the opinions and direction of our leaders as they form and enforce policies that enable us to welcome diversity into our society.
Here is her Twitter statement in full:
“This is a message from me as SNP leader on the issue of transphobia. I don’t have much time for anything other than the fight against Covid right now but on some days silence is not an option. This message wasn’t planned, it isn’t scripted, I haven’t consulted with armies of advisers, that might be obvious, but what you are about to hear comes from my heart.
“Over the course of the day I’ve heard reports of mainly young people in significant numbers leaving the SNP. I know many of you personally. I consider you friends I’ve campaigned alongside you. You are a credit to our party and our country. It grieves me deeply that you reached this conclusion after much soul-searching. Because you consider at this stage the SNP not to be a safe, tolerant or welcoming place for trans people. That’s not acceptable to me as SNP leader, I will do everything I can to change that impression and persuade all of you that the SNP is your party and that you should come home, where you belong.
“Yes we have differences of opinion on gender recognition reform. We should debate them openly and respectfully. But no debate can be a cover for transphobia. Trans people have as much right as any of us to be safe, secure and valued for who they are. Transphobia is wrong and we must treat it with the zero tolerance we treat racism or homophobia. Those are the principles I want to characterise the SNP and the country that I am privileged to lead. Those are the principles and values that I want to underpin the independent Scotland I have spent my whole life campaigning for. I don’t support that as an end in itself, but as a means to a better, fairer, more just Scotland.
“Now some will criticise this message, say it doesn’t go far enough, that the words are hollow unless we prove we mean them. I am determined we will. No doubt others will accuse me of being “woke” I don’t care. Sometimes, particularly as a leader, it’s vital to speak up for what is right and against injustice. That is why I am posting this message and I’m grateful to you for listening.”
If we go back to our premise re education, leadership and policy, we were pleased to see that Patrick Harvie further questioned Nicola Sturgeon at the Scottish First Minister Questions (28 January, 2021) in regards to how she and her party would stand by her statement.
In his interrogation, which can be viewed here, Harvie calls The First Minister to account again and we have transcribed his words for those who may prefer to read rather than watch:
“Yesterday [talking] about transphobia within her party and promised a zero-tolerance approach to this prejudice in the future. Following that statement as a party leader, does she think the same message and the same commitment is needed from her as First Minister, for the actions and inactions of the Scottish Government? Does she regret that promises made to trans and non-binary people; To make their lives easier, to improve their healthcare and uphold their rights were broken? And that transphobia in Scotland has grown far worse as a result of the Government’s failure to act and what now is going to change?”
First Minister Sturgeon tackled the question head on:
“Well I actually think this is something all of us have a duty to speak out on. I’ve got a duty and a responsibility to tackle Transphobia if it exists in my own party. I’ve got a duty as First Minister to make sure that the Scottish Government protects and enhances the rights of trans people.
“But I don’t think there is anybody across this chamber, in their own organisations or in terms of Scottish society as a whole can sit back and rest on their laurels here. This is a really important issue, I am a life-long feminist, I understand the concerns that women have about abuse, misogyny, the erosion of women’s rights.
“I face, like women across this chamber and across society do, vile misogynistic attacks every single day of my life. But as a woman, I know the threat to my safety is from abusive men, it’s not from trans women. I recognise the concern that abusive men will exploit trans rights to harm women and we’ve got to address that. These are debates we must have openly and honestly, but we can never allow any debate to become a cover for transphobia.
“Transphobia is wrong, it’s as wrong as racism, it’s as wrong as homophobia. Trans people have the same rights as any of us to feel safe, secure and valued for who they are. And I as First Minister, as Leader of the SNP and just as a citizen of this country will stand against prejudice, discrimination and bigotry wherever I encounter it and that’s not about political experience or otherwise, that’s a simple matter of conscience…”
If we begin to apply the education, leadership, policy equation then even the most challenging problems can be identified and resolved.