Scots want people to self-declare their gender.
If you started life as a man, have transitioned to a woman, then you could alter all your records to show you have always been a woman.
Do we really want this?
That was the impression from the headline “Majority back Scottish Government plans for legal self-declaration”.
The headline suggests a wide debate had taken place about the issue and the result was in – who knew?
One of the striking things about the trans issue, in political terms, is how rapidly it has gained attention, and a level of acceptance.
What the gay and lesbian movements took decades to achieve was done in a few years.
What has been missing is any debate.
Fifteen thousand people responded to the consultation on the government’s proposed reforms to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act.
These reforms are about removing bureaucratic hurdles around trans identity – such as the ability to directly change the gender on a birth certificate, and to do this from the age of 16.
Of the 15,000, 60% approved these ideas, so about 9,000 people.
Interestingly, less than 50% of all the responses came from Scotland, with the rest made up of groups elsewhere in the UK or the world.
The list of respondents to the consultation includes TransInterQueer Berlin, Australian Radical Feminists and Newfoundland and Labrador Feminists and Allies.
It is a quirk of Holyrood that consultations are global.
Mind you, these are not the only surprising names on the list – the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon and Relay also felt the need to submit an opinion.
It is possible the majority for self-declaration on gender is largely made up of people who do not live in Scotland. It is statistically and procedurally correct, but a weak claim. I do not think it is helpful.
Scots are tolerant of people who struggle with identity.
The Scottish Social Attitudes survey charts a growing tolerance of gender reassignment.
I can find no polling data on self-declaration, or on what age the NHS should be helping people transition.
This is an important omission, as we don’t know what Scots think on these questions.
To transition is one thing, but people want to know if it is right that a teenager should take such a drastic decision, or if it makes sense to allow people to self-declare their gender.
There is a sense that we are neglecting our duty of care to others, and to young adults in particular, by not examining these matters more thoroughly.
For a majority of Scots to accept self-declaration would require a proper debate.
This is in the interests of trans people, who should see that legal recognition is one thing, but social acceptance of the law quite another.
It must be a living hell to be born as a woman, but believe you are a man, or vice versa. It takes the notion of not being happy in one’s skin to profound and desperate extremes.
That people should have the right to transition from one identity to the other seems correct.
However, it is highly problematic to assert that being a woman is a choice rather than dependent on reproductive organs.
Being a man has everything, and nothing, to do with that organ.
We are all entitled to self-declare an identity, but none of us can requisition the identity of others.
Allowing a person born in one gender to declare they are another is clearly misleading, both to them and us.
If a person was born male and now lives as a female, then that feels like the biggest thing in their life.
It is essential to their own truth to identify as a someone who has made an astonishing journey.
Much as it would be essential to discuss in a loving relationship – it is the fundamental truth about that person.
If it is true of love, then surely it is also true of life in general.
This is not about sex, but the far more important matter of being.
I doubt many of us knew that the 2004 Gender Recognition Act was law, and only a handful know of this new Act.
The political classes prefer to keep such legislation low profile for fear of stirring up a mob spiting hatred towards others.
It is the strategy of quietly letting the law develop in the hope that society gradually catches up.
However, big changes need courageous champions.
The laws on abortion, gay rights and gay marriage passed because people were prepared to defend the idea in the full glare of public scrutiny.
Uncomfortable, no doubt, and bound to attract a bunch of nutters who wish you dead, but democratic change was ever thus.
If we are a tolerant nation, and this is to be our law, then there should be no fear in giving the matter greater prominence.
We need to hear voices, stories, and substantive research to settle that queasy feeling that we are going too far, too fast and too soon.