The SNP’s election candidate for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath has broken with the party’s stated commitment on self-declaration for trans people after a social media row emerged this week.
Neale Hanvey was responding to challenges about a Twitter exchange which seemed to conflate changes to the GRA (Gender Recognition Act) with trans people being sexual predators.
Mr Hanvey told us:
“I want to see reform to the GRA. I want the experience of trans people in that legal process to not be demeaning or disheartening. I do not know if ‘Self ID’ [sic] as initially consulted on is the answer.”
The Scottish Government’s Equalities Secretary, and neighbouring constituency MSP, Shirley-Anne Somerville, has already committed to fulfill changes to the GRA, including self-declaration.
Neale was the Convener of Fife Pride in 2018 but it’s understood he has now left that position. He insisted he was a supporter of trans rights but that the concerns of women were not being heard:
“I am not trans and I do not believe that anyone can truly comprehend what it is to be trans unless you have that lived experience. I have a huge amount of admiration for trans people and their courage to make, what is an unimaginable journey for me. Indeed as a society we have a shared responsibility to protect and value everyone, and that requires recognising and accommodating difference.”
“The current debate about self ID and gender recognition has been anything but a debate. There is a virulent intolerance from some quarters (albeit a minority) to anyone who does not sign-up to the TRA agenda, including attacks on trans women who do not subscribe to the current #TWAW (Trans Women Are Women) narrative. They have told me they feel their identity as a trans woman is being taken away from them.”
But his political opponent, Scottish Labour’s Lesley Laird, has called out his comments as “inflammatory”, telling us:
“Neale Hanvey’s comments have caused upset in our community at a time when we should all be coming together. There is enough division within the country without using inflammatory language in a debate that needs more understanding.”
“I support reform of the GRA and UK Labour will bring forward changes, while calling for the Scottish Government to do the same. Everyone, particularly those in public life, has a responsibility to engage with others in a respectful and understanding manner.”
There was reaction too from trans people living in the constituency Mr Hanvey hopes to win at the General Election on 12th December.
‘Eve’, a trans woman from Kirkcaldy who asked us not to use her real name, said she felt completely let down by the SNP on trans rights and felt Mr Hanvey’s comments were a symptom of a cancer within the party:
“I stopped my SNP membership after they failed to do what they promised after the first GRA consultation and since then, this delay has strengthened the hand of people with so-called ‘legitimate concerns’ about us, it’s eating away at the party. To say that making a process easier for me to get a Gender Recognition Certificate makes it more likely that sexual predators and pedophiles will attack women and children just makes me sick.”
“All the women’s groups have come out in support of these changes, but the ‘gender critical’ complainers just seem to think up more conspiracy theories that these hardworking charities are somehow in the pocket of the Government because they get money from them, it’s so sad.”
Addressing the feelings of disappointment by locals, Mr Hanvey said:
“I am confident that the concerns that have been expressed about non-trans people – and most specifically predatory cis men – trying to misuse GRA reform can be fully addressed in the legislation. There are already plenty of voices and organisations out there saying that the reality is that those risks can be managed, but unfortunately these are not being heard in the maelstrom of abuse that flies around on Twitter. What is shameful is that the message being used by some is that any potential risk that exists comes from trans people. It does not.”
But in a tweet of 30th September, Hanvey seems to do just that, highlighting the alleged trans status of child murderer Ian Huntley as being a reason that “alarm bells” should be ringing about GRA reform, when in fact this has nothing to do with the proposed reforms of the Act.
Neale has also been sympathetic to the new LGB Alliance, a group launched recently in England, which has been widely criticised for its outright exclusion of trans people.
It’s true that Twitter is rarely a place for meaningful, reasoned discussion on any number of political issues, but certainly not issues like GRA reform which have seen such polarised views.
It is a place to understand how our politicians, and prospective politicians, engage on certain topics and where they stand on important issues.
And while we cannot under any circumstances justify violence or threats of violence against those who challenge GRA reform or those who support change, it is understandable that trans people and their allies feel under attack themselves from individuals, including elected members and prospective members, of a party who appears to be rowing back on promises to make their lives better.
LGBT groups and women’s groups are agreed that we should all do everything possible to protect women from predatory men.
But the reforms promised by the SNP and other parties, supported by women’s organisations and with the reasonable exclusions allowances under the Equality Act, are about giving trans people the dignity to live their lives as they wish.
Self-declaration and self-identification are two very different things. Politicians and those in public life must educate themselves and know the difference before whipping up a storm that further alienates one of the most marginalised groups in society. We cannot stand by while some would see us create a sub-level of human existence – Women, Men then Trans women and Trans men with somehow less of a legal status.
If we take the gender critical view to its end point, do we introduce trans-only changing rooms, trans-only toilets, trans-only sports events, trans-only seats on buses – surely we learned the lessons from a dark past that segregation is not the answer.
To describe trans women as women and trans men as simply men is not a fashionable ‘narrative’ or the expression of a ‘woke’ millennial, it is to acknowledge the authentic identity of that individual, whatever body parts *you think* they have. It’s a position we will continue to defend.
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You can read the full statement from Neale Hanvey below:
I am grateful for this opportunity to set out my position on the proposed changes to GRA and my ongoing support for equality for everyone in Scotland to live an authentic and fulfilling life.
The first point I should make is that I am not trans and I do not believe that anyone can truly comprehend what it is to be trans unless you have that lived experience. I took part in the post-equal marriage consultation run by the Equality Network and listened very carefully to those present to educate myself and fully supported the change in focus to trans rights. I have a huge amount of admiration for trans people and their courage to make, what is an unimaginable journey for me. Indeed as a society we have a shared responsibility to protect and value everyone, and that requires recognising and accommodating difference. To that end we have policies in place that protect certain constituency groups to accommodate their specific and societal needs as protected characteristics.
In my professional career I have supported transitioning males and males who have had gender reassignment surgery. I have never had any personal difficulty with this and have always empathised with their personal, physical and societal challenges. I have also worked extensively with children and young people with cancer and this has often involved enabling young people to make competent decisions about their treatment including end of life.
As a politician I have been a strong supporter of the White Ribbon Campaign, Saje Scotland and others, but I have always been vocal about the impact of domestic violence perpetrated regardless of the gender or sexuality of the perpetrator.
The current debate about self ID and gender recognition has been anything but a debate. There is a virulent intolerance from some quarters (albeit a minority) to anyone who does not sign-up to the TRA agenda, including attacks on trans women who do not subscribe to the current #TWAW narrative. They have told me they feel their identity as trans women is being taken away from them.
I firmly believe that the decision to live as a women, having been born male, or vice versa, should be fully respected, and that that lived experience should be fully respected.
Trans women who I have been in touch with cherish their trans identity and do not want to lose it. This ‘label’ may have challenging connotations for some, but it is their authentic identity and should be accepted and valued as such. I fully support this position of trans women.
My difficulty with the mantra is that the logical endpoint is that we say ‘woman’ when the individual is proudly a trans woman, and has no difficulty about identifying themselves as such. I have no wish to dance on a pinhead, but if we stop talking about trans people as being trans, then to my mind we are in danger of removing the ‘T’ from LGBT from the completely opposite direction that anti-trans campaigners currently seem intent on doing.
For me the answer to this is respect and accommodation of difference. The challenge to achieving this has been the toxic, hateful, threatening and unhelpful tone of debate. This is not something I recognise from any other LGBT campaigns and it is this that has created a distance from this debate for me and led me to speak up. Some folk have said I am brave to do so, I don’t feel brave, but I would feel like a coward if I didn’t speak up.
I support equality for everyone in Scotland to live an authentic and fulfilling life. As the amended Bill is not yet published it is not possible to answer this in any detail, or indeed until the upcoming consultation is completed.
I want to see reform to the GRA. I want the experience of trans people in that legal process to not be demeaning or disheartening. I do not know if ‘Self ID’ as initially consulted on is the answer. What I have found challenging is the reaction from some to safeguarding questions that can’t simply be dismissed as coming from transphobes. For me, the problem is that the majority of this debate has taken place on Twitter, where the extreme standpoints are amplified way beyond their actual status, and the voices for calm reflection are ignored. I am convinced that, like any piece of proposed legislation going through parliamentary scrutiny, that answers will be found. But those answers certainly won’t be found on social media. I look forward to getting to the point where the lives of trans people can be made easier, and shown respect, but where any legitimate concerns have been properly addressed, valued and quantified so that we can all move forward with confidence. This respect must also be reciprocated to women whose voice must be given meaningful space.
My biggest concern is that there has been a growing attempt by MAP (minor attracted person) and paedophiles to add their initials to the LGBT+ group. I will resist this with every fibre and the challenges to GRA must build safeguarding into any legislation. Failing to do so could damage our community irreparably.
I am confident that the concerns that have been expressed about non-trans people – and most specifically predatory cis-men – trying to misuse GRA reform can be fully addressed in the legislation. As I said, there are already plenty of voices and organisations out there saying that the reality is that those risks can be managed, but unfortunately these are not being heard in the maelstrom of abuse that flies around on Twitter. What is shameful is that the message being used by some is that any potential risk that exists comes from trans people. It does not.
I haven’t turned my back on anyone, quite the reverse. I am standing up for things I have always felt important. Women’s sex based rights, child protection and the Trans communities visible and valued place in our society. We cannot simply dismiss concerns that are expressed and hope that those with concerns say “oh, that’s fine then”. We can reform GRA, improve the lives of trans people, and give confidence, especially to women who have concerns, that those improvements can happen without any degradation in their sex based rights. I hope that everyone in the LGBT community will work towards those ends.