Pride: We must march for equality for Trans community too – Kezia Dugdale

Today I’ll march through the streets of Edinburgh to mark Pride. A more colourful celebration you would struggle to find even amid the most flamboyant Edinburgh fringe events.

Saturday, 22nd June 2019, 6:00 am
The feelgood factor should not obscure the fact that the Pride march is a political statement. Picture: Greg Macvean

You’ll see rainbow flags and glitter at every turn, but look harder and you’ll really just see people who are proud to be who they are.

Of course it’s a party and in recent years, the feelgood factor has been capitalised on and some people are worried about the over commercialisation of Pride. Coffee cups branded with Pride flags, well-known high street clothes retailers flogging T-shirts made in Bangladesh with supportive quotes on them and big sponsorship deals are now commonplace.

Personally I’m pretty comfortable with the idea of the LGBT community being cool and something people want to be associated with. Acceptance and inclusion are at the heart of what we have been fighting for over decades.

However, there is no point in taking a relaxing sip from your rainbow-clad cappuccino if gay men are assaulted in this city for holding hands on a Saturday night.

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Just two weeks ago, two women who had been on a date in London were violently assaulted on a late night bus service.

A group of teenage boys who clearly thought it “cool” for two women to be together found it uncool when they refused to kiss on demand for their benefit. Somehow, we’re supposed to call that progress.

So, Pride is party, but it always was and will also remain deeply political. It will be political for as long as young people arrive at the door of The Rock Trust in this city declaring themselves homeless because their parents have kicked them out of their family home for having the bravery to come out.

It is political for the men and women who seek refuge here in Scotland because it is illegal to be gay in their home countries and even possibly a crime, punishable by death.

It is political for our lesbian and gay friends in Northern Ireland who still cannot get married.

Now it is political for the trans communities in this city who find themselves under the spotlight of the Scottish Parliament’s agenda.

My inbox has received thousands of emails over the last fortnight in advance of the Ministerial Statement from the Scottish Government earlier this week regarding the announcement of their planned review of the Gender Recognition Act. Most of those who have got in touch with me have been supportive of reform. However, some are clearly very worried about what the changes might mean for women’s rights.

I’ve met with those who are concerned and I’ve had open and frank discussions with constituents and organisations who are opposed to reform. However, over my time as an MSP I have been contacted by numerous constituents who are trans and I’ve heard first-hand how difficult their lives can and have been on an almost daily basis in their efforts to just be recognised for who they are.

I therefore have reservations with some of the arguments I have repeatedly heard from those opposed to reforming the Gender Recognition act that either trans people do not exist or, if they do exist, they are psychologically unwell. If someone denied my right to be recognised as a gay woman, or suggested that I was ill because I was gay, I would have an irrational response to that.

That’s why I personally think that Shirley-Anne Summerville, the Scottish Government Minister leading on this issue got it right in her statement offering clear principled support for reform, but recognising wider support for reform must be built. I strongly believe that people should be able to live their lives free from prejudice, and it is unacceptable that trans people continue to face discrimination every day.

Therefore, while we celebrate Pride in Edinburgh this weekend, we must remember that our fight for total equality is far from over and in particular for Scotland’s Trans community. The fight goes on.