Q&A: Nicola Sturgeon on Gender X passports, ‘conversion’ therapy and gay blood bans
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has addressed a number of LGBT issues including gay blood bans, the recognition of people who do not identify as male or female, and ‘gay cure’ therapies.
Ms Sturgeon answered a number of questions on LGBT issues ahead of tomorrow’s general election.
The party leader who recently called on Labour’s Ed Miliband to work with the party to deny another Conservative-led coalition government. addresses issues such as Gender X passports,
Read the full Q&A below
Q – Alan Digney (Compulsory sex education): I’m really grateful for all the SNP has done for marriage equality and such, but I’ve often felt the real problem lies in education. From an early age I was taught the wrongs of racism which was fantastic, but homophobia seems to be something schools don’t want to tackle at all which I know from being bullied in school every day for being gay.
Do you think it’s time we start teaching in all schools that LGBT people exist and that it’s perfectly normal so we can combat the discriminatory attitudes against us in the future? Obviously this doesn’t mean teaching them about gay sex as many seem to think it means, just that sometimes two boys or two girls can like each other and not always a boy and a girl?
A: The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that all children and young people receive high quality relationships, sexual health and parenthood education (RSHPE) in order to respect, protect and fulfil their human rights as they grow up. RSHPE is an integral part of the health and wellbeing area of the curriculum. While individual schools may agree arrangements to accommodate teachers’ personal views, they remain obliged to offer pupils a full, objective and balanced awareness of all aspects of relationships, appropriate to their age.
The Scottish Government launched updated guidance for RSHP education in 2014 that recognises the importance of it addressing diversity and reflecting issues relating to LGBTI young people or children with LGBTI parents, such as same sex marriage and hate-crime reporting.
Q – (Out LGBT SNP candidates): The visible inclusion of LGBT leaders as candidates and MPs is one demonstrable way of showing a commitment to inclusion and respect. Outside of Stewart McDonald in Glasgow south do you have other out LGBT. Candidates in the election?
A: I would ask you to judge the SNP by our actions: we’ve passed one of “the most progressive equal marriage laws in the world”; we put the LGBTI community at the heart of the Glasgow Commonwealth Games; and we’re working to end homophobia in sport.
As a party we’re working to increase the diversity of our elected representatives at all levels, including ensuring Scotland’s LGBTI community is represented in Parliament. The SNP already has a number of LGBTI members of the Scottish Parliament and Ministers in the Scottish Government. At this election we have a fantastic team of LGBTI candidates who, if elected, will be a strong voice for Scotland and for progressive policies across the UK.
Q – James Morton – In the SNP manifesto you mention potential improvements to the Equality Act. Will the SNP support widening the Equality Act protected characteristics to ensure protection from discrimination for all intersex and transgender people?
A: The SNP Scottish government is fully committed to equality for transgender and intersex people and added the ‘I’ to LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) earlier this year as a visible symbol of that commitment.
We are working closely with partners such as the Scottish Transgender Alliance to further develop our understanding of intersex issues and learn from international best practice. The next phase of our “Scotland believes in equality” campaign will include a focus on LGBTI equality. The SNP will seek to maintain the protections provided by the Equality Act 2010 and will ask the government to engage with key stakeholders on potential improvements. We will also prioritise devolution of powers over equality policy.
Q – Becky Kent (Gender X passports): The International Civil Aviation Organization permits the gender field of passports to have an M for male, an F for female or an X for unspecified gender. However, the UK Government currently refuses to issue any gender X passports. Will the SNP support transgender equality by pushing the UK Passport Office to allow people gender X passports?
A: We are committed to promoting trans and intersex equality and understand that the recognition of non-binary gender identity is one step that some countries have taken to achieve this. I believe this is something that should be certainly explored by the UK Government.
Q -Nick Batley (Gay blood ban): Could you please talk about your views on men who have sex with men donating blood? Currently, they are allowed to do so, but only after one year of not having had sex with a man. Plenty of research suggests this ban is unnecessary. Would you keep, reduce, or eradicate the ban?
A: This is a clinical decision. SNP Scottish Government will make this decision based on advice from the expert UK Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissue and Organs.
Q – Jess Coal (Updating the Gender Recognition Act): The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is over ten years old now. Would your party pledge to support a full review of the Act, with a view to bringing the UK in line with the recent Statement on Identity Recognition issued by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)?
A: While many of the issues covered by the Gender Recognition Act 2004 are devolved, many remain reserved to Westminster. We would like to see the Scottish Parliament have increased responsibility for equalities law so that we can take a look at these issues in the round and take the same progressive approach to transgender issues that we have already taken as a government.
Q – J. Kathryn Leigh (Gender identity) – Would you support a change gender recognition law at 16 for those young transgender people who have transitioned in their early teens. This would allow their Nat Insurance and other documents to be correct when they start work or go to university thus respecting their privacy.
A: The SNP Scottish government continues to have dialogue with the transgender community to identify ways in which we can continue to support and help transgender people, particularly for young people. Indeed, the Scottish Government was the first government in Europe to provide direct funding to a transgender organisation and has provided funding to the Scottish Transgender Alliance since 2007.
Q – Bishop of Buckingham The Rt Rev Alan Wilson: The legislation around equal marriage contained important protections for the consciences of clergy opposed to marrying gay people, but left the many whose consciences lead them to believe they should marry completely unprotected and subject to harassment and victimisation beyond any consideration of what goes on in the Churches of England and Scotland. This has led, in one instance, to an Archbishop, effectively a qualifications authority within the meaning of the Equality Act, blocking someone from a promotion within the NHS. Many other licensed clergy are now in fear of their position in public service jobs in which they had felt safe. What plans do our politicians have to remedy this manifest injustice?
A: I think your question is in relation to the Westminster legislation, the SNP Scottish Government brought forward its own legislation and I was proud that the SNP Scottish Parliament passed the equal marriage legislation by an overwhelming majority. In our legislation it is for religious bodies to set their own rules for the appointment of members of their clergy.
Q -Cameron Byrne: How do you plan to tackle homophobia in schools?
A: The SNP want every child and young person in Scotland to grow up free from bullying and we want them to develop mutually respectful, responsible and confident relationships with other children, young people and adults.
The Scottish Government believes that bullying of any kind is unacceptable, regardless of the motivation, and should be tackled quickly whenever it arises. We know that children and young people’s wellbeing can be severely impacted by bullying and we take this very seriously. A Toolkit for Teachers Dealing with Homophobia and Homophobic Bullying in Scottish Schools has also been produced.
Q – Clive Shutler – Should this country put more pressure on the homophobic Commonwealth countries,to legalise and protect its gay citizens?
A: The immigration and asylum process is reserved but the SNP has a strong record on speaking up for asylum seekers and refugees. In Scotland we have a policy of integrating asylum seekers and refugees from the start into our communities. A strong group of SNP MPs will continue to champion the rights of asylum seekers and refugees in Westminster.
Q Lord (Guy) Black of Brentwood (Reparative therapy): It’s concerning that in 2015 there’s still a belief, held by some, that gay people can be “cured”. Do you think it’s now time to bring forward legislation to ban “reparative therapy” for gay people, and would you do so?
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A: The SNP Scottish Government has already made clear that such activity does not happen in Scotland’s NHS and will not be permitted to happen. These activities are not ‘therapies’ and have no place whatsoever in our society or health service.
Q – Harry Small (Overseas LGBT rights): What more can be done by the UK government to end discriminatory treatment and persecution of the LGBT community in the Commonwealth and beyond?
A: The LGBT community was put at the heart of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year – there should be no barriers at all to participating in sport. The Scottish Government funded the first ever Pride Housewhich was central to raising the profile of homophobia and transphobia in sport during Glasgow 2014 and welcomed over 6000 people through its doors over the course of the Games – including athletes and celebrities. During the Games the Rainbow flag was flown from government buildings, including St Andrew’s House, the first time this has been done over a Scottish Government building.
Too many LGBTI people in too many countries still face the most extreme forms of prejudice and hate – our voice must be one of those arguing and advocating for equality, tolerance and love. That’s why we support the creation of a special envoy within the Foreign Office to promote the rights of LGBTI people throughout the word, as an integral part of UK foreign policy.