OVER 160 women, including double Academy Award winner Dame Emma Thompson and SNP MP Mhairi Black, have signed an open letter in support of trans rights in Scotland.

Since the Scottish Government pledged to reform the Gender Recognition Act to be more inclusive of transgender people, critics have argued that proposals could impact on the rights of cisgender (non-trans) women.

Some have argued that by being able to self-declare your gender or non-binary status, services and safe places for women could be compromised.

However this letter takes aim at the "harmful argument" that women's rights are threatened by trans equality, with the letter's signatories stating that: "Trans people have played an integral role in every civil rights movement to date; from LGBT equality to women's causes.

"Attempts to airbrush trans people from conversations regarding equality and human rights, or to exclude them from advancements for LGBT and women's rights, have happened before.

"Such efforts may have re-energised, but they are nothing new, and we say as a collective of women: they are not representative of us. We support trans rights."

Written by Rhiannon Spear, a Glasgow City Councillor and Chair of Scottish charity Time for Inclusive Education (TIE), the letter calls for an end to attempts to "roll back the rights that trans people already have".

READ MORE: Gender Recognition Act debate is being used to roll back trans rights

Speaking with the Herald on Sunday, Spear said: "As Chair of Time for Inclusive Education, I believe it is important that we're able to have open conversations about advancing equalities within our society.

"However, the current narrative regarding trans identities and rights have made it difficult to have these conversations, and media sensationalism and misinformation has meant that rather than properly discussing much needed advancements we are now forced to revert to conversation about defending the existence of trans identities and protecting the current rights of the trans community.

"As a woman and a proud feminist, I know that advancing trans rights does not threaten my womanhood or my feminism. That stance is not only shared by this letter’s co-signatories; but by many women’s support services, networks, organisations and centres across the country - who have a long history and solid record of standing up for women.

"Defining womanhood by conforming to strict biological and physical attributes has been fought against by strong women long before my time. To now see some advocate that trans women are denied their rights and their dignity on these very grounds, I believe would be a devastating step back for women and for feminism."

Dame Emma Thompson, musician Lucy Spraggan, MSPs Gail Ross and Rona Mackay, and MPs Mhairi Black and Hannah Bardell are amongst the letter's signatories, which include women's aid workers, journalists and broadcasters, politicians, publishers, academics, third sector representatives, actors, lawyers, and equalities campaigners.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Trans rights are not a threat to me as a woman or to my feminism

Hannah Bardell, MP for the Livingston Constituency, said: "We all deserve to live our lives free from fear and discrimination. Scotland is a compassionate country, and we must hope that with compassion comes understanding.

"During LGBT History Month I was reminded of the battles hard won by activists and organisations who changed the hearts and minds of those who could not see past their prejudice, those who bought into the harmful argument that difference means danger.

"These attitudes still exist to some degree, it is far from over. But as we continue to work so that all in our community can enjoy our rights freely and fearlessly, we cannot stand by and let those very same arguments, prejudices and tactics be used against our trans friends.

"I am signing this letter because I believe compassion has been lost in the current discourse around trans rights. I’m worried about the impact of this, and that if this continues then true equality for all will remain a pipe dream. There must be space for people to make mistakes and to learn, and for discussions to be respectful and decent. In the interest of justice and of progress, we must learn to understand - not fear - lives different from our own."

The letter, when first published, had attracted the names of over 70 female celebrities, politicians and women's rights campaigners. This quickly grew to over 160 as the letter became public, with Spear indicating that further names are yet to be revealed.

Read the full letter now:


We, the undersigned, are a large and diverse group of women who are committed to ensuring that trans people feel welcome and safe within our society.

Recently there has been a rise in ill-informed articles and commentary, where writers have continually insinuated that trans women are not women. These same pieces misrepresent current legal statutes, equalities policies, and public attitudes in Scotland.

Since 2004 the Gender Recognition Act has realised, in law, the rights of trans women as women and trans men as men. Since 1999, the Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations and then the Equality Act (2010) have recognised, in law, the right of the trans community not to be discriminated against on the basis of their gender reassignment. The right of trans people to access gender specific services is an already settled legal matter.

Many national and regional news outlets routinely fail in their pages to recognise this legal reality. Instead, it is our perspective that some writers rely on recycling outdated arguments in an uncomfortable attempt to shoehorn trans identities into much needed conversations about gender-based discrimination and violence.

We believe that national conversations about gender-based discrimination and violence are necessary, however these conversations should not in any way attempt to roll back the rights that trans people already have in Scotland, nor spread misinformation.

In the Scottish Government's recent public consultation on reforming the Gender Recognition Act (2004) a majority of respondents supported gender self declaration, as well as recognising non-binary people. As a collective of women, we urge that trans-exclusionary writers do not suggest that their narrow and archaic arguments are in any way representative of the women of Scotland. They do not speak for us.

This is not an issue of Freedom of Speech. Both sides have a plethora of platforms to outline their position. However, it is imperative that these platforms should not be used to spread misinformation or misrepresent the law or the facts in this area.

When this conversation is reduced to allegations of "shutting down debate" whenever misrepresentation or misinformation is challenged, the result is to purposefully discount the position of many women - like us - who support the trans community. We will be heard.

Trans people have played an integral role in every civil rights movement to date; from LGBT equality to women's causes. Attempts to airbrush trans people from conversations regarding equality and human rights, or to exclude them from advancements for LGBT and women's rights, have happened before. Such efforts may have re-energised, but they are nothing new, and we say as a collective of women: they are not representative of us. We support trans rights.

Outlets and commentators have an ethical responsibility to consider the impact of their reportage, analysis and commentary particularly on the mental health of trans young people. Recently, data from Stonewall Scotland revealed that over half of trans people considered ending their lives last year. Trans people continue to face unlawful discrimination and violence. Routine misinformation and sensationalism is contributing to a cultural climate where this is legitimised. This has to stop.

Journalists, commentators, and publishers have a central role to play in ensuring Scotland is a welcoming and inclusive place for trans people.

The conversation has to change.

Rhiannon Spear, Chair of Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) and Glasgow City Councillor for Greater Pollok

Tiffany Kane, Vice Chair of Time for Inclusive Education (TIE) and Operations Manager at Common Weal

Dame Emma Thompson, Double Academy Award Winner

Laura Waddell, Publisher and Writer

Dr Jennifer Jones, Independent

Rosa Zambonini, Communications Manager to Member of the Scottish Parliament

Cllr Jennifer Layden, SNP Councillor for Calton

Dr Claire Askew, University of Edinburgh

Laura Wylie, Sexual Violence Prevention Worker at the Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (Dundee and Angus),

Sinead Daly, CEO of the Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (Dundee and Angus)

Christina Neuwirth, Writer

Kate Adair, SQIFF

Eve Livingston, Freelance Journalist

Kelly Given, Equalities & Mental Health Advocate

Jennifer Constable, Journalist

Rachel Hamada, Journalist

Leona Jack, Gender Based Violence Practitioner

Angela Haggerty, Journalist

Lynne Davies, Foster Carer

Amanda Stanley, Freelance Podcast Producer

Kaite Welsh, Author & Journalist

Hannah Bardell, MP for Livingston

Miriam Brett, International Finance Project Manager

Sarah Masson, or Co-Artistic Director of Shift, Shift Theatre

Fi and Charlotte Duffy-Scott, Co-Owners, Category Is Books, Glasgow

Claire Biddles, Freelance Writer

Erin Hardee, Schools Outreach Organiser

School of Life Sciences, University of Dundee

Dr Pat Cullum BA (Hons) DPhil FRHistS, FHEA, School Co-Ordinator for Student Experience, School of Music, Humanities and Media, University of Huddersfield

Gail Ross MSP, SNP Member of Scottish Parliament for Caithness

Dr Eleanor Janega, Guest Teacher at the LSE

Cllr Kim Long, Green Councillor for Dennistoun

Cllr Eva Murray, Labour Councillor for Garscadden/ Scotstounhill

Cllr Christina Cannon, SNP Councillor for Springburn/Robroyston

Cllr Martha Wardrop, Green Councillor for Hillhead

Bailie Christy Mearns, Green Councillor for Anderston/ City & Yorkhill

Cara Spence, Head of Programmes, LGBT Youth Scotland

Amy Irons, Broadcaster

Hannah Pearson, Queer Feminist Campaigner

Rebecca Crowther, PHD Social Science Researcher

Susan Ross, Police Scotland

Jane Friffin, Head of Partnerships, LGBT Youth Scotland

Michelle Sodo, Head of Operations, LGBT Youth Scotland

Nicola Booth, Head of Youth Work, LGBT Youth Scotland

Bridget Bradley, Teaching Fellow, The University of Edinburgh School of Medical Anthropology

Naomi McAuliffe, Scotland Programme Director, Amnesty International

Gayle Telfer Stevens, Olivier Award Winning Actor

Jen Ang, Lawyer and Director, Just Right Scotland

Lisa Clark, Senior Communications Officer, Children in Scotland

Mhairi McMillan, Solicitor, Logans Solicitors, Cumnock

Margaret Logan, Women’s Aid, Support Worker

Dr Brandi Lee Lough Dennell, Research Associate

Rona Mackay, SNP MSP for Strathkelvin and Bearsden

Hazel Marzetti, PHD Student, University of Glasgow

Pam Currie, EIS FELA President (Personal Capacity)

Fiona Robertson, SNP's National Women's and Equalities Convenor

Katherine O’Donnell, Journalist

Christine Burns MBE, Equality Campaigner and Author

Lucy Spraggan, Musician

Leeze Lawrence, Producer, Editor, Filmmaker & Trans Advocate

Helen Nugent, Journalist and Editor of Northern Soul

Janet Coulson, Actor and Creative Director of Firebrand Theatre

Paris Lees, Writer and Broadcaster

Marlene Zwickler, Agent and Producer

Elena Soper, Feminist and Activist

Mhairi Black MP, Paisley and Renfrewshire South

Dr Lindsay Clark, Post-Doctoral researcher

Jackie Brock, Chief Executive, Children in Scotland

Joanna Murphy, Chair, National Parent Forum for Scotland

Louise Oliver, Actor and producer

Lady Mary Hope, Lady Hope of Craighead

Audrey Barnes, Campaigns & Programmes Coordinator at YWCA Scotland

Jemma Tracey, Senior Participation Officer, Children in Scotland

Laura McGlynn, University of Glasgow

Bailey McCormack, Event Coordinator and Freelance Performer

Emma Rogan, Senior Policy Officer at Children in Scotland

Róisín McKelvey, Feminist PhD Researcher

Janine Ewen, Queer Feminist, Violence Against Women Campaigner

Mhairi Hunter, SNP Councillor for Southside Central

Sarah Currier, Feminist Blogger

Dr Caroline Scott (Constituency Office Manager for Nicola Sturgeon MSP)

Elizabeth Thomson, Campaigner at Amnesty Scotland

Cass Macgregor, Scottish Green, NHS Physio, PhD student GCU

Molly Mulready, Lawyer

Wendy Jordan, Community Development Officer

Hannah Boyle, Writer and Journalist

Dr Alexi Drew, Post Doctoral Researcher in International Security at King’s College London

Caron Lindsay, Scottish Lib Dem Spokesperson on Housing and Social Security

Emma McDougall, Learning & Events Co-ordinator, Children in Scotland 

Rachel Thomson, Chair of YWCA Scotland - The Young Women’s Movement

Sinead Collins, Social Care Worker

Lauren Toner, Senior Case Worker to a Member of the Scottish Parliament

Sarah Higgins, Volunteer Sexual Violence Support Worker

Lisa Ward, Sexual Violence Prevention Worker, Shetland Rape Crisis Non Executive Director, NHS Shetland

Carole Anderson, Chair, SWAN- Scottish Workplace Networking for LGBT People 

Ruth Aylett, Professor 

Bissie Anderson, Journalism PhD Researcher

Cllr Mary Campbell, Green Councillor for Portobello/ Craigmillar

Cllr Lynne Short, SNP Councillor for Maryfield and Dundee City Convener of City Development

Dr Rosemary Leslie, Veterinary Surgeon

Cat Smith, Artist

Ciara Maguire, Committee Member of the Scottish Queer Film Festival (SQIFF)

Michelle Cameron, Student and Feminist

Rececca Rae, Student and Feminist

Cllr Susan Rae, Green Councillor for Leith Walk, Edinburgh

Sophie Cameron, Author

Patricia Johnston, Member of Scottish Labour Edinburgh Northern and Leith CLP

Jess Yuill

Annie Wallace, Feminist, Activist and Actress

Lesley Smith, Documentary Maker

Susan J Rae, Women’s Support Worker

Professor Tanja Bueltmann, Historian & Citizens’ Rights Campaigner

Leyla Josephine, Poet and Theatre Maker

Melissa Jennings, Author

Nicole Kipar, LEADS, University of Glasgow

Kiera Wilkins, MA student of Central European University 

Cllr Julie McKenzie, SNP Councillor for Oban North and Lorn Ward 

Cllr Debbi McCall, SNP Councillor for Penicuik

Allie McGregor, Representative of Amnesty UK Feminists and Queer Feminist Campaigner

Val Waldron

Sara Lucia Carbonara, SEN Teaching Assistant

Susannah McWhirter, LGBT Activist

Hannah Nicholson, Writer and Performer

Cllr Elspeth Kerr, SNP Councillor for Drumchapel / Anniesland

Sarah Thoms, Campaigns Manager

Madeleine Fenner, Writer 

Alexandra Butler, Personal Capacity

Eilidh Thomson, Teacher

Esther Curran, Artist

Claire Black, Therapist & Counselling Coordinator LGBT Health & Wellbeing 

Juno Dawson, Bestselling Author

Lynsey Morgan, Secretary of PCS Union in Scottish Government and Member of Glasgow Feminist Collective

Chloë Minish, Political Advisor to Patrick Harvie MSP 

Katie Sproull, Co-Founder & Co-Convener of Glasgow LGBT+ Interfaith Network

Carly Bell, Member of Scot-Pep

Jennifer Maybanks, Trans Ally

Jamie Munsey, Actress and Feminist

Lorna Kelly, Research Scientist and Feminist 

Tomiwa Folorunso, Writer and Content Creator

Rohanie Campbell, Youth Worker and Sex & Relationship Educator

Julia Stachurska, SNP Students National Equalities Officer

Catherine Burton, Chair of Race Equality First

Katie Fisher, Programmer

Andrea Baker, Mezzo-Soprano and Creator of Sing Sistah Sing! 

Lorna Ward, Scottish Bi+ Network

Dr Penny Haddrill, University of Strathclyde 

Dr Chloë Kennedy, Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh

Kathryn Pierce, Founder, Somewhere EDI

Patrycja Kupiec, Director of YWCA Scotland - The Young Women’s Movement

Stella Hervey Birrell, Writer and Poet

Emma Walker, Mental Health Spokesperson, Scottish Liberal Democrats 

Lisa-Marie Ferla, Journalist and Blogger

Dr Marie Mathers, NHS Lothian LGBT+ Staff Network

Mel McKenna, Disability Advisor

Tara Hewitt, Director Purple Infusion, Founder NHS Trans Staff Network and Co-Founder Trans Equality Legal Initiative 

Emily Benita, Writer

Kirsten Salzer-Frost, Engineer

Lorna Low, Midwife, Mum and Lifelong Feminist

Cass Macdonald, Diversity Officer, North Edinburgh and Leith Liberal Democrats 

Rachel Plummer, Poet and Writer

Suzanne Martin, Small Business Owner

Sarah J Stanley, Artist and Musician

Tia MacFarlane, Personal Capacity

Kate Jarman, Director of Corporate Affairs, Milton Keynes University Hospital

Hannah Burke, Press Officer

Karen O’Kane, Primary School Teacher, Mother and Feminist

Amy Woodhouse, Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, Children in Scotland