SNP’s Mhairi Black hits out at ‘ludicrous’ newspaper smears on transgender people

The SNP’s Mhairi Black has hit out at a continued stream of negative stories in the British press targeting transgender people.

Black, the 23-year-old Member of Parliament for Paisley and Renfrewshire South, spoke out this week against the anti-trans coverage that has dominated the front pages of much of the British press for more than six months.

The Times and Sunday Times newspapers have published dozens of stories questioning transgender equality since the “trans hysteria” began, with activists importing tactics from anti-LGBT evangelicals in the US.

In her column in the Daily Record, the out MP hit back at the negative coverage, which threatens to undermine plans to streamline gender recognition laws in line with international standards.

Ms Black wrote: “Unsurprisingly, right-wing newspapers have responded with the same sort of hysteria, discriminatory attitudes, and ludicrous claims that they previously targeted at gay people in the 1980s, 90s, and more recently during the debate over same-sex marriage.

“Those newspapers need to take a long hard look at themselves – they are part of the problem.

“Trans people must be able to live their lives freely, without facing unnecessary barriers and discrimination. It’s not easy being trans in our society, but these reforms will help, just as they have in other countries like Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Malta.”

Mhairi Black MP (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

She added: “Even in Scotland, trans people face an almost unparalleled level of prejudice and discrimination – and that is something that should shame us all.

“Equality Network’s 2017 Hate Crime report found that 80% of trans people have been the victim of hate crime, including verbal abuse, physical attacks, and sexual assaults.

“For many trans people, receiving abuse is a regular day-to-day occurrence. It can’t be right that in the 21st Century many trans people can’t even walk down the street, get through their working day, or go out with their friends, without facing some form of prejudice.

“It’s time for all of us to recognise that our society has a serious problem with transphobia, and commit to doing something about it.”

The MP restated the SNP’s commitment to pushing forward with trans equality.

She said: “In November, the SNP government published a consultation on proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act in Scotland, to make it simpler and less intrusive for trans people to get legal recognition of their gender. That’s the process by which a trans person can get their birth certificate changed to reflect the gender they live as.

“These proposals are really important for many trans people, making it easier for them to get on with living their lives, knowing they have legal recognition of who they are.

“The reforms won’t eliminate the prejudice trans people face, but they are an important piece of the puzzle, alongside wider efforts to tackle hate crime, reduce discrimination, and change attitudes.”

Mhairi Black MP (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

The Scottish government recently vowed to push on with reforms to gender recognition laws, after progress was stalled in Westminster.

The UK government’s review was reportedly delayed last month after an anti-transgender media campaign, with The Times reporting that the issue’s “complex and divisive” nature had led to plans being stalled.

But the Scottish government has vowed to push ahead with devolved legislation on the issue.

A separate consultation on reforms to the GRA has already launched in Scotland.

The Scottish consultation considers proposals to make it simpler and less intrusive for transgender people to access legal gender recognition, and considers options to give non-binary people legal recognition for the first time in the UK.

The consultation, which launched in November, will close on March 1.

SNP Equalities spokesperson Angela Crawley MP told PinkNews: “2018 will be an important year for LGBTI equality in Scotland as the Scottish Government takes action on landmark transgender equality reforms”, confirming that “the SNP government will be working to improve transgender equality in Scotland”.

Angela Raynor and Nicola Sturgeon

Angela Crawley MP with Nicola Sturgeon

She told PinkNews: “The Scottish Government’s landmark proposals to improve gender recognition laws will help make Scotland a world-leader on transgender equality, by making it simpler and less intrusive for trans people to access their human right to legal gender recognition, and by enabling non-binary people to access recognition for the first time in the UK.

“Scotland is the first part of the UK to begin reforming the law – with a consultation on the proposals currently underway.

“I hope that trans and non-binary people will take this important opportunity to respond with their views and experiences before the consultation closes in March.”

Current gender recognition laws apply UK-wide by consensus, though the issue is technically devolved.

Ms Crawley said the SNP would also “continue to push the UK government to fully devolve equality law”.

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband has also recently spoken out about the anti-trans media movement.

Mr Miliband, the former leader of the Labour Party, dedicated an episode of his podcast ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ to transgender issues, spending an hour discussing trans issues in detail.

On the podcast the former Labour leader spoke to transgender activist Paris Lees, as well as transgender health expert Dr Helen Webberley, and an anonymous parent of a transgender child – three viewpoints largely excluded from most media coverage of trans issues.

Mr Miliband hit out at the inaccurate coverage in the press, accusing newspapers of propagating a “moral panic” similar to the anti-gay coverage seen in the 1980s.


Referencing a Daily Mail story attacking the Church of England over gender-inclusive school guidance, Mr Miliband said: “A moral panic has broken out, not about Brexit or Boris Johnson or the government falling apart, but about ‘boys wearing tiaras’.

“It’s all sort of classically ranty-pants Daily Mail.”

Addressing a story in the Sun about Drag Queen Story Time, he added: “Maybe the Sun should be having front-page things about pantomime?

“Our children are being corrupted! Little Eugene downstairs, only 18 months old, don’t take him to panto, because he’s going to be corrupted by panto!

“There’s a looming threat out there, not Brexit or the Red Menace, but panto!”

He added: “Isn’t the truth about this that they’re playing on people’s ignorance?

“This is a relatively new issue for people to get their heads around because it’s been so hidden. The whole question of gender identity, and people who feel the sex they were born with doesn’t reflect their true identity – the tabloids are playing on people’s lack of knowledge about this to stoke up a kind of moral panic.”

The politician added: “When I was growing up there was this thing about a book called Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin.

“It was the early 1980s and there was a very similar moral panic. The Sun wrote a story, ‘Vile book in school, pupils see pictures of gay lovers’.

“It turned out to be about Jenny engaging in such nefarious activities as walking down the street reading books. It wasn’t even on loan to kids, it was on loan to teachers.”

Speaking about the reasons for the ‘moral panic’, the former leader continued: “We’ve made massive progress. At the PinkNews Awards Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn both said, ‘we’ve got to update the Gender Recognition Act, we can’t have bullying against transgender people, being trans is not an illness’… and then we’ve got the Times, the Sun, the Mail, are stoking this up!

“These things don’t happen accidentally. The Gender Recognition Act is going to be updated, Justine Greening is the Education Secretary responsible for this, Maria Miller is the chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee that did a report on this and has taken quite progressive positions. I think this is an attempt by people coming from a certain viewpoint to have a go and knock this off course.

“It’s not okay what these newspapers are doing. It’s just not okay. There was a Times leader column [equating trans people to] Marquis de Sade.

“I looked up Marquis de Sade on Google, the first article I came across said, ‘The Marquis de Sade was many things – a rapist, a paedophile, and an eloquent, literary apologist for sexual cruelty’.

“If you’re the Times leader writer and you are listening to this, it’s not okay that you are equating trans people who is described like this. It’s just wrong that you’re doing that. I don’t know what they think they’re doing.

“They don’t think of themselves of supporters of President Trump, but in America President Trump is seen in the margins of this issue, because he’s against gender-neutral bathrooms and trans rights, reverses what Obama did on this, but the mainstream opinion in business, among Democrats and among some Republicans as well, is that this is a really important part of equality. They’re not in a mainstream position, these newspapers.

“In a way I think it’s a bit of a wake-up call, because I think progressives have a lot of other things to worry about with Brexit and all that.

“It’s really important that you worry about those things. Lots of us don’t know much about transgender issues, but you can’t leave them to somebody else – because otherwise nasty stuff gets written.”

The wave of contentious stories, many of which are facing complaints, comes after Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn both pledged their support for transgender equality at the PinkNews Awards.

The two leaders have vowed to support proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act.