Scottish Green Party reveals comprehensive plan to tackle ‘resurgence of homophobia and transphobia’

Scottish Green Party co-leaders Lorna Slater and Patrick Harvie

The Scottish Green Party’s LGBT+ group Rainbow Greens has produced a comprehensive LGBT+ manifesto in the face of a “homophobia and transphobia resurgence”.

The party has long been clear about its pro-LGBT+ rights stance, and co-leaders Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater launched their leadership in 2019 with a renewed drive to get more non-binary folk into politics.

Harvie, who became the first-ever openly bisexual MSP in 2003, told PinkNews that Scotland, and the UK as a whole, has been experiencing a “resurgence of homophobia and transphobia, the likes of which most of us can’t remember”, and that “we are seeing our community’s human rights under greater threat than in previous years”.

This, he said, means politicians need to be crystal clear about LGBT+ rights.

“I think it’s important that political parties say very clearly where they stand,” he said.

“I think our community should be a lot less willing to tolerate the idea that our human rights are some kind of optional extra. I think we should be saying that homophobia and transphobia are as unacceptable in our politics as racism, misogyny and sectarianism.”

As Scotland prepares for the 2021 Scottish Parliament election on 6 May, the Rainbow Greens have laid out specific aims for LGBT+ rights in healthcare, education, law, sports and COVID-19 recovery in a wide-ranging manifesto.

One of the areas where LGBT+ folk, especially trans and non-binary people, face the most significant barriers is health and social care.

The Rainbow Greens say in their manifesto that their priorities in this area include a ban on conversion therapy and unnecessary surgeries on intersex children, access to fertility services, equal blood donation policy and enhanced mental health provision “across all sectors for LGBT+ and intersex people by recognising the increased risk of mental health problems amongst LGBT+ people”.

The group promised to focus specifically on promoting an “informed consent model” for trans healthcare, to replace the current “gatekeeping model”. This means that gender-affirming healthcare services would focus on the individual and their knowledge about their own bodies and needs, rather than requiring them to “prove” their gender identity to healthcare professionals.

The Greens also said that they would continue to push for gender identity clinic (GIC) waiting times, which in most cases are years long, to fall in line with the 18-week NHS standard.

“In Glasgow, the waiting time just for a first appointment [at a GIC] is three years,” said Harvie.

“Then it’s another year and a half for a follow-up appointment, that’s not even the waiting time for treatment.

“I don’t think there’s any other form of healthcare where we would accept that level of poor standards in the NHS.”

When it comes to LGBT+ rights in law, the Rainbow Greens said the Scottish Green Party would aim to “secure the devolution of equalities, employment and immigration legislation to Scotland in order to fully implement protections for LGBT+ and intersex people in these areas”. 

These protections would include a sweeping reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), implementing legal recognition of non-binary folk and ensuring access to healthcare for trans kids, the decriminalisation of sex work, and ending “the humiliation of ‘tests’ to prove LGBT+ identity for LGBT+ asylum seekers'”. 

The Rainbow Greens also aim to make LGBT-inclusive education the standard in Scottish schools, promised to “work with sporting governing bodies to implement LGBT+ and intersex inclusive policies and maximise LGBT+ and intersex participation in causal and competitive sports”, and said it would make its approach to pandemic recovery one that would “reduce the effects of the pandemic on services for LGBT+ and intersex people”. 

The Scottish Green Party has faced backlash for its unequivocal support of the LGBT+ community, and last year MSP Andy Wightman even quit over his own party’s support of trans rights.

But Harvie said the party’s refusal to be “ambiguous” when it comes to queer rights is making them even stronger. 

“[Wightman] was no longer for whatever, for whatever reason, he was no longer able to accept our position on on trans equality,” he said.

“We’ve gained far more members than we lost as a result of that.

“I would hate to think that we would ever become ambiguous on this kind of issue.

“I am afraid that that’s very much the case for many political parties… It’s important that political parties stop treating our community’s human rights as an optional matter of conscience, and start treating them as an issue where political leadership is required.”