Scotland must unite to stand against transphobia to ensure everyone feels safe, secure and accepted, the equalities secretary has said.
Earlier this week, messages were leaked of a conversation between several SNP MSPs suggesting that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is “out of step” with colleagues over transgender rights.
In a blog post published on the Scottish Government website on Thursday, Shirley-Anne Somerville wrote that debate about the rights of transgender people is becoming polarised, but she said it is her duty to encourage respectful debate.
She wrote: “Setting out my own views and feelings on the matter – while trying to better understand those of others – is a first step.
“I am a strong supporter of trans rights and equality. I have met too many trans men and women, particularly young people, who struggle on a daily basis just to feel safe, secure and accepted for who they are, for me to be anything else.
“The hurdles they face and the damage they often suffer is immense. I want Scotland to be a place where we work to put that right, a country where they do feel safe, secure and accepted.
“So, I have no hesitation in calling myself a trans ally – and I hope trans women and men see me that way too.”
Addressing concerns raised over the rights of women, Ms Somerville said she does not feel any conflict between her support for trans rights and her support for women’s rights.
She added that she does not believe concerns raised over women’s rights should be regarded as being motivated by transphobia.
Ms Somerville said: “Just as the First Minister has herself said in the past, I personally don’t feel conflict between my support for trans rights and my support for women’s rights.
“But I know that some do feel that conflict – and that the issues they are raising are not motivated by transphobia but by a concern, sincerely felt, that space hard won by women down the generations will be compromised.
“Government has a duty to understand and seek to address the concerns being raised. This is something I have sought to do since taking this post, and to which I commit to continue to do.”
Following publication of the blog, Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “As both a #TransAlly and a proud feminist, I want us to understand and address the concerns being expressed, so we can build a Scotland where everyone feels safe and secure.”