Scottish women’s groups warn Anas Sarwar that he “cannot hide any longer” and will be held to account on Gender Recognition Reform Bill

DECEMBER 2022

Grassroots organisations in Scotland have written a powerful plea to Anas Sarwar, the leader of Scottish Labour, on Monday 12 December urging him follow his conscience ahead of the Scottish parliamentary vote on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill on 21 December.
The letter was also sent to all Labour MSPs.


Dear Anas,

We are writing as representatives of grassroots organisations focused on the interests of women and children in Scotland, with thousands of members between us.

We urge you, Anas, to dig deep and have the courage to follow your conscience and vote against the Gender Recognition Reform Bill when it comes before the Scottish Parliament later this month. It is not too late to speak out against this Bill and to do what we hope you personally know is right.

We have seen the way you have been treating gender identity ideology: as a sticky political issue to manage your way through while employing tactics to manoeuvre as if it were Brexit or Indy.

We see your strategy to try to lie low until this all blows over, taking the middle ground on this ‘divisive issue with strong opinions on both sides’, rather than understanding this as part of a well-coordinated global effort to erode women’s rights, by annihilating biological sex as having any meaning in law or policy – an aim we find terrifying. If you have not understood this, you have not really listened. At least, you have not listened to us. You have listened only to those who want this law.

We see you and other senior party figures not taking seriously the most significant bill on the safety of women and children in Scotland’s devolved history by delegating the issue to a relatively inexperienced MSP who seems to be struggling with or unwilling to hold the Scottish Government to account.

We see without actually witnessing the smug smirks of relief and high-fives behind closed doors when you and your senior colleagues ‘do well’ in answering a valid question in public or through the media.

We also saw that you ignored an important opportunity to hold the Scottish Government to account following the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls’ critical statement on this issue. Ignore her advice at your peril.

You cannot hide any longer. We women see you, we are angry, and we won’t wheesht. Women’s hard-won rights are not a political game.

The GRR Bill is about violent male offenders locked in women’s prisons, like HMP Cornton Vale, with some of the most vulnerable women in our society.

It is the biggest medical scandal of our time, with lifelong implications for children and young people who have been sterilised and their healthy body parts sacrificed by the NHS.

Lesbian women are being thrown to the wolves and will be forced to open lesbian events and spaces to heterosexual men in possession of a Gender Recognition Certificate, in violation of their right to freedom of association.

Critically, the undermining of sex-based rights in the Equality Act – Labour’s flagship legislation – is at stake. Redefining ‘woman’ to mean a subset of our own sex category is undeniably a misogynistic attack. This is what the Scottish Government is trying to make sure happens, right now, in court. Making being a woman under equalities law depend on little more than saying a few words shows contempt for women’s real lives, real struggles, real fears.

The assumption that this will blow over and that Scottish Labour will have a relatively smooth ride to the next election is wrong. Any vote in favour of the GRR Bill will not end the controversy. The Scottish public has an increasing grasp on the implications of the GRR Bill and grows more furious as time goes on.

We will not let voters forget that you personally, as party leader, were knowingly and wilfully complicit in ignoring all the warnings, including from women in the Labour Party. All those who vote in favour of the GRR Bill will be held responsible for all its negative outcomes. Self-id of sex was brought in by stealth in other countries, with limited public and media scrutiny, but you must be aware of the growing resistance movements in these countries now that the impact is becoming reality.

We number in our thousands and we have a strong voice that we will continue to use. Many of us are politically homeless having previously been lifelong Labour supporters. Many others are reevaluating their previously steadfast pro-Indy stance given the significance of the Equality Act (2010) to this Bill. We value the strong leadership and determination of the Scottish Conservatives, who are unlikely political allies for many of us, in challenging this Bill. Yet, it is deeply disappointing that Scottish Labour have done little so far to scrutinise and hold the Scottish Government to account on this issue. There are thousands of potential Labour supporters amongst us, but never in our lifetime will we support a party that is so cavalier with the lives of women and children.

Today we make a deeply personal plea for you to remember what inspired you to enter politics and to apply those values in your decision-making on the GRR Bill. During your leadership campaign, you shared that your mother has been your greatest political inspiration based on her bravery and courage in times of crisis, and we urge you to genuinely consider what she would do in your position.

If you do not take a principled stance as leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, we will hold you accountable for the suffering of women and children in the years to come.

We look forward to seeing you oppose the manoeuvring to rush this Bill through Parliament before Christmas. At the very least, call for its postponement while more serious deliberations take place on its far-reaching implications for the safety of women and girls in Scotland. This pause will also give time for clarifications, through relevant pending court judgements, on the implications of obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate in relation to the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act.

As ever, any one of our organisations would be delighted to meet with you to discuss further.

We look forward to hearing from you.


LAST UPDATED: 29 January 2023
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Groups

Women Speak ScotlandScottish Feminist Network
Women’s Declaration International ScotlandWomen’s Rights Network Scotland
Audacious Women FestivalConcerned Adults Talking Openly About Gender Identity Ideology
Women Voting With Our FeetSafeguarding Our Schools Scotland

Individuals

Jean MarshallLisa Randall
Sally MillarMagi Gibson
Caroline MeagherKate Graham
Jeremy WickinsLucy Powls
Donna MuirChristine Lowden
Leanne YoungJennie Stones
Cath AllenLinda Killen
Dawn SusanSally Richardson
Vee ColvinMary Howden
Lucy A.Georgina Cosby
Geraldine Hamilton
PRIVACY POLICY

Letter to Peter Hope-Jones, Head of Gender Recognition Unit

February 2022

On 14 January 2022, WSS requested a meeting with Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, to discuss women’s and girl’s rights in Scotland due to the SNP’s proposed reform of the Gender Recognition Act.

On 24 January 2022, we were disappointed to receive a response explaining that due to the volume of meeting requests the Cabinet Secretary could not commit to meeting with everyone. Instead, we were offered a meeting with the Gender Recognition Unit.

We arranged a meeting with the GRU for 15 February 2022. We were given a 30-minute slot with Peter Hope-Jones, the Head of the GRU. This was a frustratingly short period of time in which to air our concerns and raise questions. Predictably, there was much that was left unanswered. However, we were encouraged to send in a follow-up letter as our questions might be addressed via this format.

You can read our letter to the Head of the GRU that describes the questions that were raised on the day of the meeting as well as a number of further questions that have yet to be answered by the Scottish Government on this issue.

PRIVACY POLICY

WSS seeking meeting with Scottish Government minister on GRA reform

January 2022

According to an article by the Scottish Daily Express, a Scottish Government spokesperson has said: “No group that has requested a meeting about the Gender Recognition Bill has been refused. Further ministerial meetings with a range of organisations, including those who have recently been in touch with a request, will take place ahead of the bill being introduced to Parliament.”

We note that the SNP promised in their manifesto to work with all interest groups, including women, on proposed changes to the GRA. Ministers have since met with five government-funded LGBT groups but no grassroots women’s groups.

Women Speak Scotland agree with policy analysis collective MurrayBlackburnMackenzie that “it is unreasonable to place responsibility for fulfilling a manifesto commitment on what are almost all exclusively volunteer-run groups working on shoestring with no public funding, no inside knowledge of the planned timetable and no established access to government”. Unlike the pro-self-ID lobbyists who have paid employees, we are a group of women from all walks of life, most of us juggling work and caring responsibilities, doing this on a voluntary basis.

Nonetheless, we welcome the Scottish Government’s professed willingness to meet with a wider range of organisations. We have written to Shona Robison MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, to request a meeting to discuss women’s and girls’ rights in Scotland, in relation to the upcoming proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act.

We will update on whatever response we receive.

Privacy Policy

Gender Identity: Census and Data Collection

(Last Updated: 17 October 2021)

UK will divide over census sex question
The Times – 05/10/2021

Sex, gender identity, trans status – data collection and publication: guidance
Chief Statistician (Scotland) – 22/09/2021
Roger Halliday, the chief statistician in Scotland, has chosen to ignore the findings of a public consultation. Analysis of the consultation noted that “disaggregating data between men and women can show where there is continuing discrimination which needs to be tackled.”
But Halliday has drawn up guidance that fails to acknowledge the importance of collecting data on sex. He states that information about whether a respondent is male or female should only be recorded in “a small number of instances”, “on an individual basis for a very specific purpose” and “on a case-by-case basis”.
The rationale he gives is that “asking individuals to disclose their sex may raise privacy issues.” Halliday notes that “in some cases this would have the potential to reveal a trans history that otherwise a person may wish to keep private”.

Sex and the census: why surveys should not conflate sex and gender identity
Alice Sullivan – 19/05/2020

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Writing Letters

Samples and templates to help you write your own letters.

Email your MSP and stand up for women’s rights
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Parents – Write to the EHRC
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Templates available at Fair Play For Women for:

  • General concerns
  • Single sex sports
  • Women’s prisons
  • NHS and mixed sex wards
  • Single sex toilets and changing rooms
  • The erosion of the word WOMAN
  • Women’s free speech and freedom of expression
  • Planned GRA change to self-id in Scotland

Use this general letter to express your concerns to your MP or other elected representative
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Prisons – Write to your MSP
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PRIVACY POLICY

Women’s Rights and Gender Identity

(Last Updated: 03 November 2021)

Substantial majority think people who change their legal gender from male to female by self-ID should not have full access to female-only spaces
Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase Poll – 31/10/2021

Just 20% of people in Scotland, and only 29% of SNP voters, support gender self-ID
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NHS hospitals will be given guidance on preserving single sex wards
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The trans rights that trump all
Women’s rights were not considered in legislation that allows trans people to effectively decide their own gender
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Julie Bindel, Melanie Newman

The Political Erasure of Sex
An overarching project which aims to document the process of policy capture in our public institutions, and how it is impacting the recognition and recording of biological sex in public policy, law, language, and data-collection.

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Gender Identity / Transgenderism

(Last Updated: 13 January 2022)

Stats for Gender – A single, easy-to-use portal for statistics and facts about gender.

Healthcare

Access to care and frequency of detransition among a cohort discharged by a UK national adult gender identity clinic: retrospective case-note review
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Sex changes are not effective, say researchers
The Guardian – 30/07/2004

History

Trans lobby and ‘LGBTQ+ history’
10/01/2022

The Trans Umbrella Is Older Than You Think
23/06/2021

L’arrêt A. P., Nicot et Garçon c. France ou la protection insuffisante par le juge européen des droits fondamentaux des personnes transsexuées
May 2017
Google translation into English
This court case by the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a sex reassignment procedure should not require sterilisation. However, it also ruled that States are allowed to maintain a medicalised sex change procedure. That is, a medical diagnosis as a condition for granting sex reassignment is not considered to be invasive of the privacy of transsexual people.

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Women’s organisations call on MSPs to reject Scottish Government’s proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act

September 2021

A joint statement by Scottish women’s organisations on women’s sex-based rights and the Scottish Government’s proposal to reform the Gender Recognition Act

Introduction

This statement has been issued by 14 Scottish grassroots feminist and women’s rights organisations in response to the Scottish Government’s announcement that it intends to reform the Gender Recognition Act (GRA)[1]. The First Minister offered an assurance that this new legislation will “not… remove any of the legal protections women currently have”. We welcome that commitment to women’s sex-based rights. However a central feature of the proposed Bill is the introduction of sex self-ID and we do not believe that this can be compatible with the retention of existing women’s rights and protections under the Equality Act 2010. We use the term sex self-id instead of gender self-id because the most significant aspect of obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC) is that it allows people to engage in the legal fiction that they have become a member of the opposite sex, despite the biological impossibility of such an action. This contributes to widespread confusion, which makes it increasingly difficult to name, define or identify women, or to protect our single-sex spaces. We therefore call on all MSPs to reject this Bill in its entirety.

We would like to take this opportunity to make clear what the Scottish Government would need to do to ensure this commitment to women[2] is kept.

We demand that women’s voices and experiences are heard and inform any legislative change.

To date the Scottish Government has predominantly engaged with a small selection of publicly funded trans-rights and women’s sector organisations, none of which consult with or claim to represent women’s views. Any legislative change must include meaningful engagement with a wide range of grassroots women’s rights organisations and take fully into account the needs of women.

Any changes to legislation must ensure that protections for women on the basis of our sex are strengthened, rather than weakened.

We oppose sex self-ID as it is detrimental to the overall interests and the sex-based rights of women. It would fundamentally transform our legal, political, social and cultural landscape with no objective assessment or analysis of the consequences for women and girls (or boys).

Removing any medical requirement from the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC) would open up the process to abuse[3]. It would be at best naïve and at worst criminally negligent to deny that predatory men will take advantage of any opportunity to gain access to women and girls when they are at their most vulnerable.

Additionally, removing medical diagnosis would remove protections and essential support to individuals considering transition but for whom this may not be the right course of action to deal with the distress they are experiencing.

In recent years, the Scottish Government and many other public organisations, including Police Scotland, the Scottish Prison Service[4] and the NHS[5], have operated an informal process of sex self-identification, effectively turning single-sex spaces such as hospital wards, prisons, youth hostels and changing rooms, sports, awards and women-only shortlists into mixed-sex provision. These decisions were undertaken with little or no consideration for the effect on women, especially in prisons. The Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments in these cases are usually not fit for purpose.

Increasing amounts of official data, which ought to record the protected characteristic of sex, are now being collected on the basis of someone’s self-declared gender identity (for example, Police Scotland recording male rapists and sex offenders as ‘female’[6]). This seriously compromises the integrity of the data and makes it even more difficult to develop policies to overcome the disadvantage, oppression and discrimination faced by women.

This self-ID by stealth ignores and undermines the protections offered to women by the Equality Act, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, CEDAW and elsewhere.

We believe everyone should be able to live their lives in safety, free from discrimination or harassment. However, we oppose the introduction of any measures increasing the rights of males who identify as women or other genders to access women’s spaces, services and occupational roles on the basis of such professed identity as this is incompatible with the sex-based rights of women.

The Scottish Government must maintain single-sex spaces for the dignity, privacy, physical, emotional and psychological safety of women and girls.

There has long been a widespread recognition of the need for women-only spaces and facilities. Excluding the entire sex class of males from such provisions for women has, until recently, been entirely uncontroversial, despite the fact that not all males are predatory, violent or present a danger to women. It is a proportionate way to protect women and girls from the minority of males who do present a threat. Furthermore, the exclusion of all males as part of helping traumatised women is a proven feminist approach within the MVAWG (Male Violence Against Women and Girls) sector.

Some males who say they are not men now wish to be given an exemption from this general exclusion. Yet male patterns of offending behaviour do not vary according to gender identity[7] and trans-identified males also retain male physical and social advantages. We believe this is neither fair nor safe for women, and therefore there is no case for allowing them privileged access to women’s spaces and facilities.

The Scottish Government must therefore:

  • ensure single-sex spaces, facilities and other provisions are fully protected;
  • strengthen the rights of women to create and access them through clear guidance;
  • ensure in-depth and thorough Equality and Human Rights Impact Assessments are carried out, especially in sectors and services where sex self-ID has been introduced by stealth ahead of legislation, so that public bodies in Scotland are not potentially in breach of their Public Sector Equality Duty.

The Scottish Government must guarantee that the human rights of women, including those to freedom of speech and assembly, are not adversely affected by legislative change.

We believe all people should be free to define themselves in whatever way they choose. But we reject the demeaning implication, outlined for example in the Gender Representation of Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018, that being a woman can be reduced to a series of pronouns, the name on a utility bill, a haircut or a dress.

Whatever label an individual chooses, the law must acknowledge that men cannot literally become women and women cannot literally become men. Women should not be compelled to act as though this is so, whether in our personal, professional, social or sexual lives.

Conclusion

We call on the Scottish Government to drop its plans to introduce sex self-ID and ask all MSPs to vote against such a Bill as it would have a hugely detrimental impact on women’s rights to safe single-sex spaces and freedom of speech.

[1] https://www.holyrood.com/news/view,gender-reform-bill-to-progress-after-review-of-consultation-is-2

[2] For the avoidance of doubt, in this document the word ‘women’ always refers to females unless the context makes clear otherwise.

[3] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/letting-criminals-self-identify-gender-putting-women-at-risk-8560wzkqt

[4] https://forwomen.scot/03/08/2021/the-status-of-women-in-scotland-prisons/

[5] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/nhs-greater-glasgow-and-clyde-withdraws-trans-advice-for-female-only-wards-5xmgxndd6

[6] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/rape-suspects-can-choose-to-self-identify-as-female-vfl678tg6

[7] https://committees.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/18973/pdf/


Last Updated: 24 JANUARY 2022
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Signatories

Frontline Feminists ScotlandWomen Speak Scotland
Sole SistersWomen Matter
Keep Prisons Single SexLiberal Voice for Women
Yes Women’s PledgeLabour Women’s Declaration
Conservatives For WomenIndependence for Scotland Party (ISP)
Brodie’s TrustAudacious Women Festival
National Network of Scottish FeministsWomen’s Human Rights Campaign (Scotland)

Aberdeen (City and Shire) FeministsArgyll Feminists
Ayrshire FeministsBorders Feminists
Clackmannanshire FeministsDundee and Angus Feminists
Dumbarton and Helensburgh FeministsDumfries and Galloway Feminists
Edinburgh and Lothians FeministsFalkirk Feminists
Fife FeministsGlasgow Feminists
Highlands and Islands FeministsInverclyde Feminists
Lanarkshire North FeministsLanarkshire South Feminists
Moray FeministsPerth Feminists
Renfrewshire FeministsStirling Feminists
Not for Sale in ScotlandALBA Women
Women’s Rights Network

Supporters

GC Men Scotland

Individuals

Lisa RandallJillian Nicol
Victoria RichardsMiriam Berlow-Jackson
Marjory SmithFiona Martin
Nina GriffithRosemary Griffin
Fiona MacdonaldGordon Dangerfield
(Scottish Solicitor Advocate)
Angela JukesLiz Panton
Stefanie MosesEileen Gilpin
Pauline CurwenLiz Elkind
Donald DickieLinda Hamilton
Tracey HynanJoanna Young
Mary MacCallum SullivanEurig Scandrett
Margaret Lynn HamiltonMaureen Beaton
Claire GowerDeborah Dudley
Jeannie MackenzieCarrie Jarvis
Ian MillerMairi MacIver
Margaret ParisAnn Hall
Catherine GillespieAnne Trevorrow
Denise FindlayLeanne Young
Cathryn ReillyLinda Craig
Jennifer GorrodJulia Lamb Tod
Rosemary Whyte

In the MEdia

North Edinburgh News

Comments

“I fully support this statement and commend all the organisations for working closely to send this strong statement. I hope Scottish Government takes note.”

“I wholeheartedly support these women’s organisations in asking the Scottish Government to look again at the SelfID proposed under a review of the GRA. 51% of the electorate in Scotland are women – adult human females and I absolutely object to the definition of my sex category to behind redefined to include men who insist on being called women, even though there is no biological evidence to prove this . Dressing up as a woman will never make them women but they want access to women and girls spaces, Women/females absolutely object to this. If you were so certain that the women of Scotland will agree to this then why don’t you do a consultation with adult female women who live in Scotland, not organisations and individuals with vested interests. Women are not giving up on this and your party will be very foolish to pursue a policy that WILL put women at risk.”

“I will be proud to sign this declaration calling on our elected representatives to scrap the GRA review. I believe the introduction of ‘self-id’ is dangerous in many respects. I expressed this in my response to the consultation exercise on the GRA reform.
It does nothing to help people with gender dysphoria who need specialist mental health care and not immediate affirmation. Autogynephilia among men is a condition that needs to be more widely recognised and treated. The fact that the cult of trans ideology seeks to stymie any discussion should be enough of a red flag to our government to halt the Bill and take much more time to explore the potential consequences. There are plenty of cases in Canada and America to be examined. Cases of men self-identifying their way into women’s prisons and shelters where they go on to assault and rape female inmates.”

Privacy Policy

Gender Identity: Children

(Last Updated: 03 November 2021)

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France starts to say “non!” to gender ideology
L’Express – 20/09/2021

Allowing 16-year-olds to change gender risks ‘opening floodgates’ to irreversible surgeries, SNP told
New figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, show there have been at least 51 cases in which trans males, born as females, under 18 have been approved for double mastectomies in Scotland over a six year period to April last year.
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‘Children have been very seriously damaged’ by NHS gender clinic, says former Tavistock staff governor
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Children’s gender identity clinic concerns go back 15 years
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Research indicates the brain does not fully mature until at least the age of 25
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Puberty blocking drugs: ‘For the past four years I’ve been stuck as a child’
The Times – 26/07/2019

Ethical issues arising in the provision of medical interventions for gender diverse children and adolescents
Dr. Bernadette Wren – 14/06/2019

It feels like conversion therapy for gay children, say clinicians
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When Sons Become Daughters, Part II: Parents of Transitioning Boys Speak Out on Their Own Suffering
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When Sons Become Daughters, Part III: Parents of Transitioning Boys Speak Out on Their Own Suffering
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When Sons Become Daughters, Part IV: Parents of Transitioning Boys Speak Out on Their Own Suffering
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When Sons Become Daughters, Part V: The Links Between Trans Identity, Gifted Minds, Categorical Thinking—And Anime
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When Sons Become Daughters, Part VI: Asexuality, Intelligence, and the Trans Co-Option of Intersex Discourse
Quillette – 07/06/2021

Privacy Policy

Gender Identity: Democracy, Lobbying, Corruption

(Last Updated: 14 January 2022)

Podcast – Nolan Investigates: Stonewall
BBC – 13/10/2021
Transcripts of all ten episodes by Fair Play For Women

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Civil servants to be asked to include pronouns in email sign-offs
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Stonewall equality list ‘bullies bosses and silences dissent’
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Avon and Somerset police paid Stonewall thousands learning to be LGBT ally
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“Only adults? Good practices in legal gender recognition for youth”
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06/08/2018

The Political Erasure of Sex
An overarching project which aims to document the process of policy capture in our public institutions, and how it is impacting the recognition and recording of biological sex in public policy, law, language, and data-collection.

Privacy Policy