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‘Hate has to feel unwelcome’: Protestors slam UK Government’s decision to blockgender reform bill

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

Scores gather at Castlegate for ‘Aberdeen Protest for Trans Equality’


By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Photo by Holly Ferguson


Activists, allies, and members of Aberdeen’s LGBTQ+ community gathered at Castlegate on Thursday, 19 January to protest the UK Government’s decision to block the Scottish Parliament’s passage of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill. Several speakers addressed the crowd before opening the microphone to anyone who wanted to speak.


The bill, which passed 88-39 in December, sought to simplify the process for transgender people to change their legally-recognised gender by obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). The bill lowered the age one could obtain a GRC from 18 to 16, as well as removing the need for applicants to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria and the obligation to provide evidence of having lived for two years as their ‘acquired gender.’


However, the bill has been prevented from receiving royal assent by the Secretary of State for Scotland, who raised a number of concerns about the effects of the bill on the 2010 Equality Act. As such, the bill cannot become law. This represents the first time that Section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998, which grants such powers to the Secretary of State, has been utilised in the twenty-five years since devolution.


Nicola Sturgeon swiftly responded to the decision, announcing that the Scottish Government would take the issue to court. She told the BBC, ‘In doing so we will be vigorously defending something else, and that is the institution of the Scottish Parliament and the ability of MSPs, democratically elected, to legislate in areas of our competence.’


Here in Aberdeen, anti-UK Government sentiment ran high. The Gaudie spoke to several protesters at the rally, including RB, one of the rally’s organisers, who commented: ‘It’s not enough to meet hate with love. Hate has to feel unwelcome. Hate has to feel unsafe. Bigots should not be allowed to speak the way they do about us. They should not feel welcome. Not anymore.’


Another participant, RS, said: ‘I think the importance of coming here and doing these rallies is merely just to raise awareness… as I said in my speech before, half of the people voting on this bill, we didn’t even vote in and they have no idea what the bill actually means. The Scottish Secretary couldn’t explain what the bill meant to trans people. So I think it's just important to try and raise our voices, and give people an understanding of what it actually is that’s going on with this bill, and what's going on in Parliament.’


Also at the rally was Elwing Brill, who told The Gaudie: ‘... We’ve been here today to protest the UK government blocking the GRA reform bill, which makes it easier to obtain a gender recognition certificate, which allows us to change our legal documents and live, die, [and] marry in dignity; and we’re here to say that this is an attack on democracy and an attack on our human rights that we will not stand for as a community…’


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