Transforming Scottish gender identity services - Lorna Slater

The holiday season is a time for people and families to come together, but for some it can also be very difficult.

Lorna Slater, minister for the circular economy and Green co-leader
Lorna Slater, minister for the circular economy and Green co-leader

A survey by Pink News, an LGBTQ+ news site, found that 8 in 10 of their readers feel that they have had to hide who they are when they are with relatives over the festive period. The report included a lot of sad stories of people feeling prodded and pushed about when they would be ‘settling down’ or having to avoid answering uncomfortable questions about their personal lives.

The writers quote one respondent who said her biggest issue is her father "who up until last year has deadnamed me on any gift tags, he still refuses to use my actual name or pronouns.” There is no doubt that many of our LGBTQ+ friends and siblings will have experienced a great deal of anxiety and pain at a time of the year that is meant to be for celebration.

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Last week I was very proud to announce the Scottish Government’s plan for transforming gender identity services. This year’s Scottish budget included £2 million worth of crisis funding for trans healthcare services for the next financial year. This is part of a £9 million package to support healthcare provision while the service is transformed over the years ahead.

Our plan puts trans people at the heart of decisions about their healthcare. At present trans people can wait years for an initial appointment let alone treatment. This plan is a key part of our commitment to reduce waiting times for trans healthcare to bring them in line with national standards.

Equality is a big part of the cooperation agreement that me and my Scottish Green colleagues negotiated with the Scottish Government.

We will also reform the Gender Recognition Act to allow self-identification and remove some of the bureaucracy and trauma from the existing system.

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We are also introducing a ban on so-called “conversion therapy”, protecting LGBTQ+ people from attempts to change their sexuality or gender. This will be another big step that will have a positive impact and help LGBTQ+ people for years to come.

The changes can’t come soon enough. The last few years have been particularly hostile ones for far too many.

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Reported transphobic hate crimes have quadrupled across the UK over the last five years. Meanwhile, trans people and LGBTQ+ rights organisations such as Stonewall have been targeted and ridiculed by far too many media commentators and politicians, which has caused a great deal of pain and distress.

There has been a lot of progress over recent years; with the scrapping of the homophobic section 28, protections for LGBTQ+ workers and the introduction of equal marriage. These were all major milestones and the result of decades of campaigning from the community and its allies. These gains should be celebrated, but we still have a lot to do if we are to make Scotland a truly equal society.

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It is heartbreaking to think of the generations of people who were stopped from presenting as they felt or being with the people they loved. So much misery has been inflicted so unnecessarily.

Everyone deserves to live a full and happy life. I am looking forward to the day when all LGBTQ+ people can get the right access to the support and services they need. I want us to build a future, and a country, where nobody has to hide who they are and everyone can feel safe being themselves.

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Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity