Ok, that was a clickbaity headline. Sorry! Of course the Sunday Times has published a transphobic article: it does so every Sunday, and has done for a long time. (If you can find exceptions to this in the last couple of years, that would make for an interesting blog post in itself: what on earth could have been important enough to squeeze out the anti-trans agenda?!)
There’s nothing particularly remarkable about today’s article by John Boothman. (Though the name’s new to me, it’s plain to see that he’s no newcomer to the paper’s small but prolific anti-trans unit. I’m not sure if he’s the same John Boothman as the one who was head of news and current affairs at BBC Scotland for a time. It wouldn’t surprise me, but that’s not what I’m interested in just now.) I just thought it was a while since I’d picked apart an anti-trans piece in the UK media. So here we go!
First of all, the headline: ‘Edinburgh University urged to review “dangerous” policy on trans students’.
It’s even more clickbaity than mine, and immediately suggests to the casual reader that Edinburgh University – an institution I still have some fondness for, having spent 14 years of my life as a full-time student there, and several more intermittently involved in one way or another – is pursuing some kind of outlandish policy in respect of its trans students. Double points for not revealing whether that policy supports trans students or harms them!
The headline only really applies to the first half of the article, so I’ll split the rest of this post into two sections, with more-accurate headlines for each half.
Anti-trans hate group attacks Edinburgh University for upholding the Equality Act
Not shit-stirringly awful enough for the Sunday Times, so of course they weren’t going to choose a headline like this.
Ooh, a leading women’s campaign group! Which one would that be, I wonder? They clearly think the University of Edinburgh is particularly unsafe for women, which is certainly alarming. The article never mentions them by name – unless we’re meant to infer from the second paragraph that For Women Scotland is the group they’re talking about. I suppose, to the uninitiated, they do sound as though they might be a women’s campaign group. But as anyone who has more than a little knowledge of their activity will attest, their campaigning is exclusively against trans people. And even if they are a women’s group, they certainly don’t lead on anything except hate. (Oh, and the first of two ‘concerns’ here!)
The university’s policy is simply in line with historical precedent, as enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, which recognises ‘gender reassignment’ as a protected characteristic alongside sex/gender. The only thing I find slightly concerning here is this idea that the university agrees on access to single-sex facilities on a case-by-case basis. If true, it does indeed sound as though the university is overstepping the mark. When I was last at the university, not so many years ago, I certainly didn’t have to negotiate access to women’s toilets. That would have been ridiculous.
This made me laugh, the idea that a For Women Scotland spokesperson could deal a critical blow to the university simply by asking them a dog-whistle question about female students’ privacy and dignity! Scathing! By the way, when I was a student, I was a female student. Also, ‘opposite sex’? Come on, get with the times! (Lowercase ‘t’.)
Where would a transphobic article be without mentioning ‘self-identification’, a concept of which gender-critical people have such a slight grasp. And there’s the old ‘biologically male’ too, just used to misgender trans women without actually calling us ‘men’. And how much ‘female accommodation’ does the University of Edinburgh actually have? I’d be very surprised if they have any gender-segregated accommodation at all. That sounds pretty archaic to me.
An extra voice here: Ann Henderson was Rector of the university from February 2018 (when I was still enrolled as a student) to February 2021. She was known at the time for her transphobic attitude, and various anti-trans hate groups welcomed her into the fold. (In June 2021, she wrote an anti-trans ‘reflection’ for Women’s Place UK, which I won’t link to here.) Trans people who call something ‘transphobic’ generally know what they’re talking about. Ann’s belittling of trans students is disgraceful. Another dog-whistle here too in the ‘sex is biological and immutable’ slogan.
Two short paragraphs end this part of the article, the first paraphrasing ‘a spokeswoman’ from the university defending their trans-inclusive policy, and the second noting that The Equality Network and Scottish Trans Alliance had been asked to comment (but had presumably considered it a complete waste of their time to engage with this kind of journalism).
Transphobic politician and former politician opine on trans healthcare in Scotland
They often do. Transphobic MPs and MSPs (and occcasionally former MSPs) are wont to opine on all manner of things trans, regurgitating the same well-worn and uninformed gender-critical talking points over and over and over again.
Which senior SNP MP, I wonder? Which former Scottish Greens leader? (Hint: there are none.) Here comes our second helping of ‘concerns’. As I understand it, although decentralisation of gender identity services is a good thing, the fact that trans children attending a gender identity service in England were being put at risk is not grounds to claim that the same applies to a gender identity service for children and young people in Scotland.
What a surprise that the senior SNP MP in question is none other than my über-transphobic MP Joanna Cherry QC. A little disappointed, but not too surprised, to see Robin Harper joining forces with her. (Pedantic note: he was only ever (co-)convenor of the Scottish Greens – the party’s first ever co-leaders are the incumbents, Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie.) Their call for the closure of Scotland’s only gender identity service for trans people under 18 strikes me as an opportunistic attempt to disrupt trans children and young people’s healthcare provision following the decision to close England’s counterpart.
And which other NHS Scotland services are set up centring ‘clinical governance, debate and research’? Debate? Seriously? How many hospitals do you know of that have debating halls alongside wards, operating theatres, outpatient clinics etc.?!
England’s Tavistock gender identity service has failed to provide adequate and timely healthcare to young trans people, thanks to heavy-handed gatekeeping and a number of trans-antagonistic staff. That’s what put trans children and young people at risk, not its London location. However, not having to travel far to receive healthcare is definitely a good thing!
This recommendation by Hilary Cass is extremely disappointing. Being trans is not a mental illness. The fact that NHS England and NHS Scotland alike view treatment of trans people as something that should be led by psychiatrists puts England and Scotland alike at odds with world-class standards of trans health care. Paediatric mental health services should have nothing to do with health care for trans children.
And the article concludes by noting that the Scottish Government will be taking the findings of the Cass review into consideration, and that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is satisfied that the Sandyford is doing a good job.
Reading articles like this is something that does actually have a negative impact on my mental health! But if I can occasionally, in some small way, counteract the dominant UK media narrative, I feel that I should.