West News Wire: More than any other time in her life, Heather Herbert feels content right now. The transgender person, age 47, transitioned in 2015 after relocating from Leicester, England, where she was born, some ten years earlier.
She made her choice after “doing a lot of soul-searching.”
According to Herbert, “I’ve always felt more like a girl, or a woman, than a man.” But when I was younger, I just lacked the words for it.
The word “transgender” had bad implications when she first heard it, including “that trans people were weirdos and unusual and all the other awful terms you can think of,” and it wasn’t until she met others who had gone through similar situations that she realized she was transgender.
The web developer has undergone hormone therapy and electrolysis, and is currently waiting for gender-affirming surgery.
But like others from Scotland’s transgender community, Herbert has been following the eruption of a long-simmering gender debate that has left the Scottish government and the British government at loggerheads.
In December, lawmakers in the devolved Scottish Parliament voted to pass the Gender Recognition Bill by 86 votes to 39, paving the way for trans people in Scotland to more easily change their legally recognised gender.
On January 16, however, the British government vetoed the bill, citing a conflict with the UK Equality Act.
That decision which marked the first time UK ministers used a so-called Section 35 order to block a piece of legislation passed by the Scottish Parliament was met with fury by Scotland’s nationalist First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Sturgeon, the left-of-centre leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP), labelled the move by the pro-union Conservative government of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak a “full-frontal attack”, exposing yet another constitutional fault line between Edinburgh and London.
Herbert, an active campaigner for the pro-independence Scottish Green Party, which has a power-sharing arrangement with the SNP government at the Scottish Parliament, echoed Sturgeon’s view.
“In a way, the Gender Recognition Bill is a perfect gift to the Conservatives,” she said. “They get to attack both LGBTQ+ people, Scotland and the Scottish government all in one move.”
For Herbert, and many others in Scotland’s trans community today, the personal is the political.
Scottish Labour Party parliamentarian Monica Lennon, who, like most of her Labour colleagues in the Edinburgh parliament, voted in favour of the gender bill, described London’s actions as a “cynical and dangerous power move by an out-of-control UK government”.
As supporters of gender reform in Scotland lick their wounds, critics of the legislation, who voiced concerns that making it easier for a man to transition into a woman could threaten the safety of women-only spaces, feel vindicated.