By Rab Bruce’s Spider

As a heterosexual male, I have rarely offered an opinion on the reform of the Gender Recognition Act. The debate about Trans rights seemed to concern matters about which I had no experience or knowledge, so I felt it best not to come out with sweeping statements which were ill-informed and might be offensive.

Now, however, I realise that I had fallen into the trap which many proponents of the new Bill have set. Anyone who expresses concerns over the new legislation is quickly labelled as anti-Trans and vilified for their reactionary attitude. However, I do believe I can speak for most opponents of the legislation when I say that I am not anti-Trans. What I am against is poorly thought out legislation which removes all barriers to exploitation by predatory individuals (usually men) who wish to take advantage for their own purposes. It is the legislation, not the people it is intended to help, which presents a problem for many people. Sadly, by conflating opposition to the legislation with opposition to Trans people, the advocates of the new Bill have created a volatile environment in which discussion is overshadowed by abusive comments and a disregard for the views of others. It has also, I believe, done a great disservice to genuine Trans people who may experience a harmful backlash because of the angry environment that has been created.

Let me state right now that nobody should suffer any abuse no matter who they are. I have noticed that one reason being put forward for the new law is that trans people suffer discrimination. That is wrong, but I cannot help thinking that many other people suffer discrimination on a regular basis either because of the colour of their skin, their accent or a disability. Now, it is not good enough to accept that Trans people should put up with discrimination simply because other groups also suffer, but equally, any legislation intended to prevent such discrimination really needs to be fit for purpose.

I have said many times before that some people will always seek to find a way around any rules or laws in order to exploit gaps in that system. That applies whether it is something like avoiding paying tax, fiddling expenses claims or gaining a position of power over vulnerable people. We have seen in the past far too many examples of predatory men taking advantage of vulnerable people, often children, with awful consequences for the lives affected. This is why a system of PVG checks was put in place. Now, all such rules are to be swept aside if someone merely declares they identify as a person of the opposite biological sex. To me, that feels like giving predators a green light, and if even one person is harmed as a result, that is one person too many.

Of course, supporters of GRA reform are asserting that Trans people have rights, and that is quite correct. Their rights should be as protected as anyone’s, but this legislation strikes me as making those rights a smokescreen which predators can exploit.

Let me try an analogy with something I do have experience of. If I have understood the intent of the new GRA correctly, then it will soon be easier and cheaper for me to be legally treated as a woman than it will be for me to renew my Blue Badge Disabled Parking Permit. That doesn’t seem right to me. Since I am permanently and provably disabled, why do I need to keep paying renewal fees and undergoing face to face interviews, producing documentation to verify my status?

I hope that most readers will realise that the reason I need to undergo this often humiliating experience is to prevent other people abusing the Disabled Parking system. Indeed, many able-bodied people already abuse the system by parking in Disabled spots for convenience because they clearly have no conception of just how difficult and dangerous it is for a disabled person to park in a normal parking spot.

But what would happen if the Government decided that anyone could simply identify as Disabled and use a Disabled parking spot without needing to provide any evidence at all? I think we all know the answer to that. Most people would respect the safe spaces, but some would park there, thus causing potential harm to genuinely disabled people. And that harm could result not from any malicious intent but simply due to selfishness and a lack of consideration. Compared to the potential harm the new GRA could result in, that seems almost benign.

Once again, for the hard of thinking, the problem here is the legislation, not the people it is intended to help. There needs to be a recognition that checks and regulations are required in this as in so many other aspects of life in order to prevent predatory individuals taking advantage of the gaping loopholes in the proposed law.

I don’t care how a person identifies. That is up to them. What I care about is the safety of vulnerable people, and I fear the Scottish Government has lost sight of that potential danger. To say that this legislation is required because other countries are doing it is a rather facile argument. Most countries used to regard slavery as legal and normal. That did not make it morally right.

The new Bill is not law yet. Let’s hope enough MSPs realise the flaws and prevent it passing in its present form.