Professor Dame Anne Glover: First Minister is wrong to ignore the science on gender identity
The first chief scientific adviser to serve a devolved Scottish Government has hit out at the SNP’s stance on reform of the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), saying that scientific evidence shows that sex is binary.
Professor Dame Anne Glover, who was Scotland’s chief scientific adviser between 2006 and 2011, said that proposed reforms that would allow trans women to legally self-declare themselves biological women and trans men to self-declare themselves biological men make no sense from a scientific point of view.
In a wide-ranging interview with Holyrood, Glover said it is important to be realistic about trans women remaining biologically male and trans men remaining biologically female because biology “predisposes us to certain diseases”.
“[A trans woman] is different because she was born sexually as a man - it’s the denial of that that makes me concerned,” she said.
“It doesn’t concern me that trans women and trans men want to have their rights verified - that’s completely valid - but the denial of basic biology and the psychology of women, particularly those that have gone through trauma, makes no sense to me.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly made it clear that her government wants to reform the GRA to enable people to self-declare their gender without any supporting medical evidence. The reforms, which the Scottish Greens have pledged to support as part of their recently sealed co-operation agreement with the SNP, would also allow trans people to legally erase all documentary evidence of the sex they were born with.
Numerous feminist organisations – and SNP politicians including Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry - are opposed to the proposals as they believe they would erode women’s rights. However, Sturgeon has dismissed these concerns, recently saying in a BBC Radio Scotland interview that they are “not valid”.
Glover said that makes no sense because it inherently denies the science at the same time as ignoring what governments are able to do regardless of the science.
“It’s valid for the first minister to say that often when developing policy there are different types of evidence,” she said.
“Science will be part of that but there will be moral, economic, philosophical and political arguments as well. Why would the first minister say that scientists might be well meaning but wrong? I don’t know where the authority comes from to reject that specialist knowledge and say ‘I’m right’.
“It would be legitimate to say I accept the scientific evidence but for moral, ethical or political reasons I’m still pursuing the GRA. That’s valid, but you can’t pick and choose science.”
In the interview Glover also discusses how Scotland is leading the way in biotechnology innovation, what it was like to study science at a time when women were expected to “get married and have children”, and how she felt on stepping down as president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh earlier this year.
Read the full interview in the latest edition of Holyrood, published next week.