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Earlier in 2021 GenderGP wrote to Health Improvement Scotland (HIS) to highlight our concern that a HIS non-executive director had participated in anti-trans discrimination during organised events and online. GenderGP has a policy of non-engagement with any individual or organisation who discriminates against LGBTQ+ people in any way, shape or form, however, we were concerned that such exclusionary views could negatively impact HIS, an organisation committed to equality in healthcare.

We provided evidence that we believe demonstrates the fact that Rhona Hotchkiss’ affiliations and publicly held views are at odds with HIS’ own commitment, as outlined by Mario Medina, Equality and Diversity Advisor for Healthcare Improvement Scotland, to eliminate discrimination, advance equality, tackle prejudice and promote understanding across nine protected characteristics.

We received a short reply from HIS Deputy Chief Executive that, as non-executive board members are public appointments, any concerns should be directed to the Ethical Standards Commissioner.

As advised we raised our concerns with the Ethical Standards Commissioner and an investigating Officer later confirmed they had decided not to investigate the complaint.

The reasons for the rejection we summarised as follows:

  1. Rhona Hotchkiss was not acting in her capacity as a board member of HIS during her use of social media and during events referred to in our complaints.
  2. That complaints are usually required to be made to the Ethical Standards Commissioner within a year of the date on which the alleged failures to comply with the Code of Conduct FOr Board Members occurred. The Ethical Standards Commissioner noted that the specific events we referred to occurred in January and March 2020.
  3. That her affiliation with LGB Alliance or SNP Women’s Pledge does not appear to constitute a failure to comply with the Code.

This leaves us considering our next steps as we wonder if HIS are genuine in their commitment to eliminate discrimination and tackle predudice while one of their non-executive directors continues to engage in divisive and harmful conduct.

And continue she does, as recently as August 2021, and representing LGB Alliance, Rhona Hotchkiss was a guest speaker at a demonstration outside of the Scottish Parliament, where she continued to espouse her anti-trans rhetoric and took aim at trans and gender diverse communities. She yet again publicly equated trans women to men, using language that is widely regarded as harmful and disrespectful to trans feminine people such as “men who self ID as women”, “Men who identify as Lesbians”, and trans, gender diverse people, and allies in general by labelling them ‘gender extremists’.

If that weren’t enough to raise serious questions about the appropriateness of her position at HIS, in reference to gender affirming healthcare she emphatically stated with an air of authority that “children and young people are being pushed along a route of irreversible damage by a system fueled and fooled by gender ideology” – a position not backed by any empirical evidence, and one that strongly indicates that Rhona finds it difficult to accept, respect, and understand transgender identities, something that would very likely influence her decision making when contributing to the trans health care and wellbeing service provision in Scotland.

We also maintain that her affiliation with LGB Alliance, who the Charities Commision have invited to explain their recent harmful conduct on twitter and who oppose trans related Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) in schools, raises important questions around how she might be influencing access to transgender healthcare and regulation of hospitals and clinics in Scotland.

 

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We strongly believe that Rhona Hotchkiss’ past and current conduct continues to demonstrate views that would potentially limit her ability to represent the needs of trans people without prejudice.

Trans and gender diverse people must feel protected and supported in accessing healthcare, appointing an individual to a position of power with views that might further impede or block access to care is a serious concern.

With the above in mind we feel that HIS should regard this issue with the seriousness it deserves and we invite Carole Wilkinson and Robbie Pearson to discuss this matter with us further, rather than dismissing our concerns as they appear to have done in their recent communication.