Joan McAlpine MSP calls trans rights research ‘insult to cancer patients’ The Times 09.01.20

The original article is here.

An SNP politician has demanded an apology from Scottish ministers for citing “insulting” research that called for transgender women to have the same access to changing rooms as those who have had mastectomies.

Joan McAlpine challenged the Scottish government on its assurance that plans to make it easier to change gender would not endanger women. Nicola Sturgeon has dismissed arguments that sex offenders would exploit more liberal gender recognition rules to gain access to women’s private spaces, such as lavatories and changing rooms.

In a consultation the government found no evidence that “trans women are more likely than non-trans women to sexually assault other women in women-only spaces”. It cited research by Bristol University that “reiterates this lack of evidence . . . to support this characterisation of trans women”.

The research said: “Many cisgender people [whose gender identity matches the sex they were assigned at birth] express discomfort that a trans presence in gender-segregated spaces would expose supposedly ‘unnatural’ bodies . . . it would be unthinkable that general discomfort could prevent a cisgender woman from using segregated showering facilities after she had a double mastectomy.”

Shirley-Anne Somerville, the social security secretary, said she expected the numbers seeking legal gender reassignment to rise from 30 to 250 a year.

Ms McAlpine, convener of the Holyrood culture committee, confronted Ms Somerville yesterday, saying: “The government said its proposal will not diminish the rights of women.

“However, its own draft equality impact assessment evidenced this by citing Bristol University research which . . . suggests that a woman catching sight of a male body in a changing room should be no more distressing than seeing another woman with a mastectomy. Does the government regret citing this research, and do they agree that the comparison is insulting to breast cancer survivors?”

Ms Somerville replied: “The research is referenced . . . to show that there is no increased risk of women being attacked in single-sex spaces by trans women.

“The section that the member refers to is not something that the government would support, nor do we support any changes to the exemptions within the Equality Act.”

The Equality Act 2010 allows gender segregation to protect privacy and decency in sporting competition and in some jobs, such as at women’s refuges.

The LGB Alliance, which is sceptical of gender reassignment, said: “Women do not wish to share sex-protected spaces with men. It’s partly about safety and partly about privacy and comfort.

“We question the judgement of any minister who believes that it is right to compare the body of a man . . . to the body of a woman after a mastectomy.”