Gender Recognition Act puts vulnerable in harm’s way The Times 17.03.20

The original article is here.

The Scottish government’s gender recognition consultation closes today and the Catholic Church has responded. But today I am writing to the first minister to urge her not to proceed with this legislation. My church believes that the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill risks creating medical, social and legal complications that will be damaging to those involved, particularly children and women.

Gender dysphoria is a real but quite rare condition that can cause distress and anxiety if persistent, and must be distinguished from the normal developmental gender anxieties of adolescence. We are concerned that by demedicalising legal transition and moving to a self-declaratory model, this distinction may be lost through lack of discerning professional support for those affected. This would risk failing vulnerable people.

The church is deeply concerned for the health and wellbeing of young people and troubled by the potential negative impact of permanent legal declarations that could lead to irreversible surgeries or, at the very least, non-surgical interventions whose long-term effects are unclear. At present people under 18 cannot buy cigarettes, buy alcohol in licensed premises or get a tattoo. Yet the legislation assumes that they have the maturity to make permanent legal declarations on their gender that could have irreversible consequences.

Evidence indicates that most young people do not persist in gender dysphoria and reconcile with their biological sex after adolescence. A paper in the British Journal of General Practice said that most people presenting with gender dysphoria before puberty would “desist” and concluded with a call for “well-funded, independent, long-term research” to “ensure doctors meet their ethical duties to ‘first do no harm’ and fulfil good medical practice”. The church echoes this call for more detailed research.

Many people are worried that the reforms will create an increased risk to the safety of women. The Scottish Prison Service’s transgender policy at present allows jail accommodation to “reflect the gender in which the person in custody is currently living”. Since this guidance was brought in the proportion of men identifying as women has risen to 350 times that of the general population.

For many women in custody being asked to share their places of refuge with people they not unreasonably consider male is deeply problematic and potentially traumatic. I hope the first minister will give serious consideration to these concerns, and not endorse these proposals.

Hugh Gilbert


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