Humza Yousaf: SNP leadership candidate is Scotland’s final hope for trans rights reform

Humza Yousaf walking down a hall.

With the Scottish National Party’s future remaining uncertain, Humza Yousaf could be the saving grace on trans rights.

The cabinet secretary for health and social care launched his bid to become SNP leader on Sunday (19 February. Ash Regan and Kate Forbes have also announced their candidacy.

The winner of the race will take over from Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s first minister following her resignation last week.

A formal winner is expected to be announced on 27 March.

Yousaf’s support for transgender rights became readily apparent following his vote to pass the Scottish Gender Recognition Reform bill, in December.

He was among 86 MSPs to vote for the bill, which would have made it easier for trans and non-binary people to obtain a gender-recognition certificate (GRC).

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Yousaf subsequently shared his outrage when the UK government decided to block the bill earlier this year in what he and several others described as an “unprecedented attack” on the Scottish parliament.

Humza Yousaf speaks in Hollyrood.
Humza Yousaf voted in favour of the GRR bill. (Getty)

“I am firmly committed to equality for everybody because your rights are my rights regardless of who you are,” he said, following the UK government’s use of a Section 35 order to block the legislation.

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“My starting point is that I’ve been a minority in this country my whole life. I have understood that you have to fight for your rights, but my rights don’t exist in a vacuum or in isolation. They exist because other people’s rights exist too.”

His apparent support for pro-trans legislation comes in stark contrast to Regan, who resigned in order to oppose the GRR bill.

During Regan’s leadership campaign announcement, she said: “Women’s rights will never be compromised with me.”

The former community safety minister further claimed that voting for the recognition bill would somehow “put women and girls in danger”.

While Forbes was the only SNP MSP to abstain from voting, her track record on trans rights has also worried activists.

She was among the 15 who urged Sturgeon to delay the GRR bill, and later admitted she would have voted against the reform.

More recently, she’s said she would have voted against legalising same-sex marriage, that she doesn’t personally believe in having children outside marriage and stated she doesn’t consider trans women to be women.

Despite his support for the bill, Humza Yousaf has blundered in his sentiment towards LGBTQ+ people in the past.

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Two years ago, he attempted to exempt “criticism of transgender identity” from a proposed hate-crime law.

The proposed exemption would have prevented charges for cases where defendants expressed “criticism of matters relating to transgender identity”.

The government quickly u-turned on the amendment after a backlash ensued, with Yousaf apologising “for any hurt caused”.

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