A Dundee councillor and women’s campaigner has criticised the “toxic” debate around LGBT rights as the council restated its support for changes to gender recognition laws.
Coldside administration councillor Anne Rendall said Dundee City Council had given “quite considered” responses to the Scottish Government’s plan to reform the Gender Recognition Act in Scotland.
Under the proposed Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill – consultation on which is open until March 17 – the age limit at which an individual can change their gender will be lowered from 18 to 16.
The proposed amendments have sparked alarm among women’s rights groups – but LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) campaigners say the overhaul is much-needed.
In its response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the bill, Dundee City Council has restated its support for making it easier for transgender people to self-identify.
It previously voiced support for the proposals in March 2018.
Ms Rendall told councillors: “Our responses here are quite considered though there’s considerable discussion and toxic comments around this.
“It’s not for us to interpret the law. The things being debated are becoming toxic and I don’t think it’s helpful.
“We’re quite clear on our position as regards the law and the interpreting or misinterpreting or otherwise (of the consultation).”
Ms Rendall co-founded Feisty Women, a women’s campaign group advocating for pension equality for older women.
The party’s equalities spokeswoman is currently Councillor Lynne Short.
Her predecessor, openly trans councillor Gregor Murray, resigned from the SNP amid claims of “institutional transphobia” within the party.
The debate over reforming the Gender Recognition Act has caused concern among women’s rights groups who claim granting additional rights for transgender people would infringe on hard-won rights for women.
They include campaigner Susan Sinclair, who warned that the implementation of mixed-gender toilets in Dundee schools would lead to a rise in sexual harassment.
Dundee City Council says it has had no complaints to date about the shared spaces, which feature floor-to-ceiling cubicle doors where only the sinks are shared.
LGBT groups such as LGBT Youth Scotland and Stonewall say the changes are needed to enable transgender people to live their lives in the same way as others.
And Scottish ministers have been keen to point out that a reformed Gender Recognition Act would not diminish women’s rights – and would have strict safeguards in place to prevent abuse of the system.
Applicants would need to prove they had lived in their intended gender for at least three months beforehand – and would have to wait a further three months before being allowed to make the final decision for legal recognition.
They must also give a legally binding confirmation that they wish to live permanently in their new gender – with a new criminal offence created to punish those who make false applications.