Nicola Sturgeon and Tinashe are voices of reason after JK Rowling’s ‘ugly’ Twitter rant

JK Rowling

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has rejected claims made by author JK Rowling that reforming gender-recognition laws will “harm the most vulnerable women”.

Speaking on The World at One on BBC Radio 4, Sturgeon said that Rowling is “clearly free to express her opinion” but “that’s not what this debate is about”.

Rowling took to Twitter on 5 March to comment on a new bill to reform gender-recognition laws in Scotland that was introduced in Holyrood last week.

It proposes modernising and simplifying the process by which trans men and women can obtain legal recognition of their gender – a process that hasn’t been changed since it was introduced in 2004.

Rowling’s tweet quoted a claim that “men are self-identifying in to [sic] female sexual assault recovery services” in Australia, with the Harry Potter author adding: “The law Nicola Sturgeon’s trying to pass in Scotland will harm the most vulnerable women in society: those seeking help after male violence/rape and incarcerated women.

“Statistics show that imprisoned women are already far more likely to have been previously abused.”

Sturgeon, whose government widely consulted women’s groups during the lengthy process of drawing up the new bill and found no evidence that changing gender-recognition laws for trans people would affect women’s rights, said that she “fundamentally disagreed” with Rowling and pointed out that “the rules haven’t yet changed”.

She said: “The legislation was introduced to parliament last week and it will now go through a full legislative process with all the normal parliamentary scrutiny.”

Clarifying that she hadn’t seen Rowling’s tweet, Sturgeon added: “She’s clearly free to express her opinion, as am I, as is everybody. But that’s not what this debate is about…”

Gender-critical activists in Scotland, like Rowling, have repeatedly claimed that making the gender-recognition process less archaic and intrusive for trans people will somehow adversely effect women.

But as Sturgeon pointed out: “This is about a process, an existing process, by which people can legally change their gender, and it’s about making that process less traumatic and inhumane for trans people, one of the most stigmatised minorities in our society.

“It doesn’t give trans people any more rights, doesn’t give trans people one single additional right that they don’t have right now. Nor does it take away from women any of the current existing rights that women have under the Equalities Act.”

Legal gender recognition in Scotland

Gender markers in passports, drivers licences and other documentation can be changed without going through the legal gender-recognition process as outlined in the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), so do not require a medical diagnosis.

However, gender-recognition laws across the UK mean that to change legal gender – important for marriage, pensions and taxes – trans people currently must obtain two medical reports.

The proposed Gender Recognition Reform Bill comes after two public consultations found clear support across Scotland for making the legal gender-recognition process easier to access for trans people.

This included support for removing the requirement that trans people are diagnosed with gender dysphoria before they can change the gender marker on their birth certificate, and allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to change their legal gender.

The proposed reforms will introduce a system known as “self-ID”, which has been successfully used without negative impact for several years in multiple other countries, to allow trans people to have legal recognition of their gender without being required to undergo invasive medical questioning.

While a small, loud group of gender-critical activists oppose the reforms – spearheaded by MPs like Joanna Cherry and Rosie Duffield, alongside public figures such as Rowling and broad swathes of the establishment media – women’s groups who responded to the first of Scotland’s public consultation on gender-recognition law reforms, which was open from November 2017 to March 2018, were overwhelmingly in support of the proposed changes.

There were 15,697 responses to that consultation, and 60 per cent of those who responded – rising to 65 per cent of people based in Scotland – said they backed plans to introduce a self-declaratory system for legal gender recognition.

Women’s organisations in Scotland, including Close the Gap, Engender, Equate Scotland, Rape Crisis Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Women 50:50 and Zero Tolerance, released a joint statement supporting a self-declaratory system for legal gender recognition in response to the consultation.

“We do not regard trans equality and women’s equality to contradict or be in competition with each other,” the women’s groups said.

Moreover, despite gender-critical claims to the contrary, recent polling also found that a clear majority of Scottish women back reforming gender-recognition laws to introduce a demedicalised, self-declaratory system.

One in four Scottish adults strongly support making changes to the gender recognition process to make it easier for trans people to get a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), which is the document that can then be used to update the gender marker on a birth certificate, according to a poll conducted by ComRes for the BBC.

And overall, 63 per cent of women in Scotland are strongly or somewhat supportive of the proposed changes.

JK Rowling faces widespread disdain for latest anti-trans tweets

Amid her criticism of Nicola Sturgeon – who is both the first woman to lead the SNP and the first female first minister of Scotland – JK Rowling found time, on International Women’s Day (IWD), to suggest that trans people and allies are trying to erase women.

Responding to a tweet from the Labour Party about International Women’s Day, and as the hashtag Trans Women Are Women trended online, Rowling said: “Apparently, under a Labour government, today will become We Who Must Not Be Named Day.”

Outlining why Rowling’s comment was in such poor taste, Novara Media journalist Ash Sarkar responded: “Domestic violence services have been cut to the bone, women have borne the brunt of welfare cuts, and vulnerable pregnant women are still being imprisoned for non-violent offences.

“But don’t worry ladies! This billionaire’s logged on with a real sense of perspective.”

However, the disdain JK Rowling received for her tweet was perhaps best summed up by American pop star Tinashe, who responded to Rowling: “Oh my god, SHUT UP.”

Meanwhile, several thousands of Twitter users responded in the same vein.