Protecting and enhancing rights of trans and non-binary people

When it comes to LGBTI+ rights, we have a lot to be proud of. We have a Scottish Government which has proven its commitment to improving the lives and guaranteeing the rights of all of our citizens, including those that identify as trans and non-binary.
For LGBTI+ people today, the progressive policies pursued by the Scottish Government has not just protected the basic rights of our community – but enhanced them. Indeed, Scotland has now been ranked the best in Europe for LGBTI rights for two years in a row.

It is vital, however, that we maintain progress. There are still areas of the law that need to be developed in order to guarantee full equality for all members of our community.

There are still perceptions in certain sections of society that need to be challenged. When one in four of the children in Scotland who identify as trans face bullying, discrimination and hate crime on a daily basis, we must do more.

When statistics show that more than 40 per cent of trans individuals have contemplated suicide, and many have ended their own lives, we must do more.

In Westminster, through the work of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, I had the opportunity to work with a number of trans and non-binary individuals and support networks that have been agitating for legislative change.

Reina, one of the many trans women who wrote to me throughout our committee inquiry said:

“Being trans is not a choice. It isn’t something where the person wakes up and just decides to be a particular way. Being this way is something that a person is born with, and which they have to try and struggle with throughout their lives, In a society that hates diversity and constantly attacks them – even kills them – for not conforming to the restrictive ideals of control freaks. Life is hard and usually short for someone who’s trans. There is a lack of respectful education and health care. There is a lack of support and understanding.”

Her words exemplify just why we need to protect trans rights. Life can be incredibly difficult for trans people. That’s why I was so proud that the SNP manifesto for the 2016 Scottish Parliament election committed to training teachers on equality and to reviewing the Gender Recognition Act to ensure it is in line with international best practice for trans and non-binary individuals.

As SNP’s spokesperson for Equalities, Women and Children and a campaigner for the rights of LGBTI+ equality, it is a privilege to be able to share my experience of the efforts of our Scottish Government to continue progress in this area.

The progress made in Scotland stands as a positive example to other nations. While the UK was once a world leader in LGBTI+ rights, passing pioneering laws such as the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010, the current UK Government has allowed these laws to become outdated.

In fact, Theresa May’s threats to leave the European Convention on Human Rights may mean the hard-won rights of equalities campaigners will be stripped back.

I am determined to make sure this does not happen, and I speak out every day to urge the UK Government to follow Scotland’s commitment to LGBTI+ rights.

Following a disappointing response from Tory Ministers to the Westminster Women and Equalities Committee report on trans equality, published in January last year, I have kept up pressure on the UK Government to make positive changes.

And I continue to make the case for the Scottish Parliament to have control over all equalities legislation, which I believe is the best option for Scotland.

If we had control over all LGBTI+ issues at Holyrood, I am confident Scotland would further enhance its status as a world leader on equality. I am equally confident that as an independent nation we could protect and enhance the human rights of all.

– Angela Crawley is SNP MP for Lanark and Hamilton East and Westminster Spokesperson for Equalities, Women and Children.