Scottish Conservative Party leader Douglas Ross has received blistering backlash for insisting that trans women are not women, and therefore cannot use single-sex toilets.
Speaking on BBC Scotland’s The Nine on Tuesday (26 April), Ross addressed a Scottish Conservative Party local election manifesto pledge to “ensure that there are single-sex spaces available in all council-run facilities, including schools, parks and swimming pools”.
The manifesto confusingly links the proposal to the SNP’s support of Gender Recognition Act reform, which will not affect trans folks’ access to single-sex spaces.
Presenter Martin Geissler asked Ross: “Just to be clear, single-sex facilities, can trans women use the women’s single-sex facilities?”
“No,” said Ross. Asked if trans women are women, Ross again responded, “no.”
Stumbling on his words, he continued: “No. She is a female, sorry, she is a male who has changed her sex but has not changed her gender.”
Having mixed up the concepts of sex and gender Douglas Ross later corrected himself, but doubled down on the sentiment.
Speaking on Good Morning Scotland on Wednesday (27 April), Ross said: “I misspoke in a later comment in that interview. I’m very clear that people can change their gender, they cannot change their sex. They’re biologically born male or female but there are options to have gender-neutral changing rooms and toilets.
“Indeed in the Highland area I cover, there were proposals for schools to have all gender neutral toilets but parents and pupils raised concerns and they’ve now gone back to the drawing board.
“There will be male changing rooms, female changing rooms and there will be gender-neutral changing rooms.”
Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, meaning trans people are legally protected from discrimination. The only exception is if discrimination is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”.
It is unclear how Douglas Ross’ proposal to ban trans women from toilets complies with the act.
With the greatest of respect to Douglas he is badly informed. He needs to go read the Equality Act and the Gender Recognition Act. Here is the explanatory note to S7 to EA and relevant sections out of the Statutory Code of Practice on single sex services. pic.twitter.com/Ho38zwtFIA
— Sue Pascoe (She/Her) (@suepascoe001) April 26, 2022
How to say “I don’t know anything about trans women and their rights under the law” without actually saying “I don’t know anything about trans women and their rights under the law”. pic.twitter.com/oPCH0ZO7e2
— Stéphanie Says… (@StephanieJaneG6) April 26, 2022
Are the Scottish Tories saying they’ll break the Equality Act 2010 which makes clear that single sex facilities are trans inclusive by default, that that trans exclusion is only possible on a case-by-case basis where it is a proportionate means for achieving a legitimate aim?
— Euan Yours (@EuanYours) April 26, 2022
Scottish LGBT+ rights charity Equality Network said in a statement posted to social media: “Sadly Douglas Ross is woefully misinformed and confused on this subject, and is proposing an unlawful policy.
“It is unlawful under the Equality Act for public services to have a blanket policy of excluding trans people from services that match their lived sex.
“The proposal also shows no consideration at all for trans people, or for the experiences of those who have been successfully running trans-inclusive single-sex services for years.
“Difficult not to conclude that this is simply attempting to gain votes from a ‘culture war’.”
The proposal also shows no consideration at all for trans people, or for the experiences of those who have been successfully running trans-inclusive single-sex services for years.
Difficult not to conclude that this is simply attempting to gain votes from a “culture war”. (2/2)
— Equality Network (@LGBTIScotland) April 27, 2022
PinkNews has contacted Douglas Ross for comment on the legality of his party’s proposed policy.