Scottish government emphatically states ‘trans women are women’ in new guidance on gender representation


The Scottish government has included trans women under its definition of women in newly published guidance on gender representation on public boards.

Published Tuesday (June 2), the Statutory Guidance to the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 sets the objectives for gender equality in public authorities.

It states that women should make up at least 50 percent of non-executive members on managing boards — and it makes clear that this encompasses trans women, too.

The document describes “the definition of ‘women’ for the purposes of the Act” as follows:

“‘Woman’ includes ‘a person who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment (within the meaning of section 7 of the Equality Act 2010) if, and only if, the person is living as a woman and is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of becoming female.”

Trans women without a UK Gender Recognition Certificate or gender recognition from another EU Member State are still included as long as they meet certain criteria.

First, they must have the characteristic of gender reassignment as defined in the Equality Act 2010. This does not require them to undergo gender confirmation surgery to be recognised as a protected category — it is enough that they are proposing to undergo the process of changing an attribute of their sex.

The second criterion simply clarifies that this process must be to “reassign their sex to female”, rather than female to male.

The third requires them to be “living continuously as a woman”, with the qualification that this “would not require the person to dress, look or behave in any particular way”.


2019’s Trans Pride march in Dundee, Scotland
(Stewart Kirby/SOPA Images/LightRocket/ Getty)

Evidence that the person is living as a woman, the Act says, can include always using female pronouns, using a female name on official documents, and describing themselves and being described by others as a woman.

Trans women are already recognised and protected under the Equality Act, but this inclusive guidance has been welcomed at a time when trans rights are under attack.

“Hopefully it signals the intent of the Scottish Government in preparation for GRA reform following the consultation, temporarily paused due to COVID-19,” tweeted actor and vocal trans ally David Paisley.

The guidance from the Scottish government is a clear move in support of the transgender community, effectively granting trans women the same rights to equal representation on public boards as cis women.

Predictably, it has been opposed by anti-trans groups, including Women’s Place UK, which has submitted a complaint saying that the Act should not be brought forward with its current definition of ‘woman’.