Alba Party MP claims homophobia 'is back at the behest of Stonewall'

24 Feb 2022 News

Neale Hanvey, Alba Party MP for Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath

Alba Party MP Neale Hanvey accused Stonewall of inciting homophobia due to its stance on trans rights this week.

The comments were made during a Westminster Hall debate on an e-petition calling for reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) this Monday.

Stonewall and others have called for reforms to simplify the process trans people go through to obtain legal recognition of their gender. 

Hanvey said: “Homophobia is back, and after all the years we spent battering down those barriers, it is back at the behest of Stonewall, and it is draped in a Pride flag. If we remove sex, there can be no homosexual. Sex matters. It is a defining characteristic of who I am.”

The Alba Party is a Scottish pro-independence party that was created by Alex Salmond in March 2021. Neale Hanvey is one of its two MPs. Though Hanvey opposed the reforms to the GRA, the majority of participants were in favour of them. 

Stonewall also came under fire in The Times last week. The charity said a report about teachers being advised “to avoid the ‘biased’ views of BLM and Stonewall” made “factually incorrect” claims about the charity. Stonewall complained to the newspaper asking for it to correct its article. The Times has since removed the charity's name from the headline.

Calls for reforms to the Gender Recognition Act

Stonewall, Mermaids and LGBT Foundation are among the charities that have been campaigning for reforms to the GRA. 

The process of gaining a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) can take up to five years. It requires a medical diagnosis of body dysphoria and that the trans individual live in their acquired gender for two years. 

The petition calling for GRA reform closed with 137,271 signatures. It called for changes that allowed transgender people to self-identify without the need for a medical diagnosis, streamline the administrative process and allow non-binary identities to be legally recognised. 

The news comes as Stonewall leads a coalition of 20 other organisations calling for the UK equalities watchdog, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), to be stripped of its independent status after it delayed reforms to GRA reform in Scotland. LGBT Foundation cut ties with the EHRC last month because of it

MPs views on GRA reform

Elliot Colburn, a Conservative Party MP, began the discussion. He asked the house to consider the transgender people in the middle of this debate: “They do not want this massive, toxic debate about their existence going on. They just want to be able to live their lives.”

Labour MP Luke Pollard agreed with the proposed GRA reforms. He said the process for gaining a GRA is “humiliating and dehumanising for lots of people.”

He said: “If we had that process to access any other public service in any other walk of life, we would all, regardless of our party, say that it was inefficient and uncaring and call for its reform.”

A couple of MPs, such as Conservative MP Miriam Coates, voiced concerns for women as a reason to oppose GRA reform. Responding to this argument, Pollard said: “We know from the experience of equality movements to date that we do not win by bashing one protected group with the rights of another protected group.”

Mhairi Black: 'History will judge us' if we do not go ahead with the reforms

 Scottish National Party MP, Mhairi Black, gave an impassioned speech in favour of GRA reforms.

Black said: “What we do know is that the current process is deeply invasive, traumatising, unnecessary and dehumanising.

“In the last decade, 17 countries have passed reform of some kind relating to their own Gender Recognition Act or equivalent, and there have been no complaints. There is no sound argument for this legislative change to be delayed anymore. 

“If we do not pursue the reforms, all I can say is that I hope history judges us as harshly as we deserve.”

SNP MP Joanna Cherry said she is a member of the charity Sex Matters supports the LGB Alliance. LGB Alliance's charity status is the subject of a legal challenge, with LGBT charities concerned about the language used when discussing trans rights.

Cherry was against the reforms the e-petition called for. She said: “It is not a modest reform; it is a reform with potential consequences, including those relating to the collection and use of data, to participation and drug testing in competitive sport, to measures to address discrimination barriers facing women and to practices within the criminal justice system.”

The debate closed with Mike Freer, minister for equalities, saying the government was committed to making it easier for people to apply for a GRC. He spoke of removing the word “disorder” from the GRA, not changing the equality act and aims to improve healthcare for trans people. 

Charities disappointed and call for further action 

Following the debate charities said that they were pleased with the support from MPs, but disappointed by the lack of concrete committments. 

Kieran Aldred, head of policy at Stonewall, told Civil Society News: “Yesterday’s debate showed that MPs from across the political spectrum support the pressing need to reform the Gender Recognition Act. It was wonderful to see so many women and LGBTQ+ MPs stand up for trans rights and dismantle myths around what reform means and who it affects. 
“It was disappointing that he [Minister Freer] did not commit to introducing any meaningful reform to the act. We urgently call on the UK government to follow the example of Scotland and commit to significantly reforming the outdated Gender Recognition Act.” 

Mermaids highlighted public support for the reforms. 

Head of policy and research at Mermaids, Kai O'Doherty, said: “There is a clear public mandate for [GRA] reform, with the majority of the public supporting legislative change - and resounding support from most MPs during Monday’s debate only adds to the chorus for reform.

“The government’s commitments in Monday’s debate to remove the spousal veto, to remove references to being trans as a ‘disorder’, and to review the information required by the panel are welcome - however, after over four years of promised reforms, it is now time for concrete action.”

TransActual, an organisation set up by trans people in response misinformation and transphobia, was also hesitant to trust politicians without further evidence. 

Chay Brown, director of TransActual, said: “We were much heartened by last night's Westminster Hall debate.
“It was therefore great to see MP's from all parties standing up for us, and we thank them for it. For they highlighted what we have said all along: 'we are human beings, and we just want to get on with our lives safely and with dignity'.
“At the same time, the devil lies, as always, in the detail, and we would need to see much more actual evidence of a change of heart before we can begin to trust the present administration with regard to trans rights.”

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