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J.K. Rowling and Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland, are at odds over the country’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill after it was introduced to Parliament last week. The bill aims to simplify the means by which a trans person can legally change their gender through obtaining a gender recognition certificate. The certificate allows a trans person to receive a new birth certificate with their correct gender.
The current process for receiving a gender recognition certificate dictates that applicants have to be “medically diagnosed as having gender dysphoria, go through a minimum two year process and be aged over 18,” The Times reports. The reform bill no longer mandates medical evidence of gender dysphoria and lowers the age requirement to 16.
Under the proposed legislation, applicants would be required to live in their gender for at least three months before applying for a certificate, which would then be issued after another three-month “reflection period.” Applicants would have to swear they intend to live as their gender for life, as any false claim would be a criminal offense carrying a prison sentence of up to two years.
Rowling has used social media to publicly oppose the reform bill. As The Times reported: “Some groups have voiced concerns that the proposals could erode women’s sex-based rights and access to women-only spaces and services, including hospital wards and refuges.”
“The law Nicola Sturgeon’s trying to pass in Scotland will harm the most vulnerable women in society: those seeking help after male violence/rape and incarcerated women,” Rowling posted on Twitter. “Statistics show that imprisoned women are already far more likely to have been previously abused.”
Sturgeon appeared on BBC Radio 4’s “The World At One” this week and said she “fundamentally disagreed” with Rowling over the claim that the reform bill “will harm the most vulnerable in society.” The First Minister stressed that the bill is all about process and will not change safe spaces for women.
“This is about a process, an existing process, by which people can legally change their gender, and it’s about making that process less traumatic and inhumane for trans people, one of the most stigmatized minorities in our society,” Sturgeon said. “It doesn’t give trans people any more rights, doesn’t give trans people one single additional right that they don’t have right now. Nor does it take away from women any of the current existing rights that women have under the Equalities Act.”
Rowling continued to oppose the reform bill in a March 7 Twitter post, writing, “Multiple women’s groups have presented well-sourced evidence to Nicola Sturgeon’s government about the likely negative consequences of this legislation for women and girls, especially the most vulnerable. All has been ignored. If the legislation is passed and those consequences ensue as a result, the SNP government can’t pretend it wasn’t warned.”
Sturgeon reminded BBC Radio 4 listeners that “the rules haven’t yet changed. The legislation was introduced to Parliament last week, and it will now go through a full legislative process with all the normal parliamentary scrutiny.”
Rowling has been the subject of controversy for several years now due to her gender beliefs and a series of anti-transgender tweets posted in 2020. Rowling argued at the time that discussing gender identity negates biological sex. Several “Harry Potter” stars have spoken out against Rowling for her beliefs, including Daniel Radcliffe. The actor wrote a letter that “transgender women are women…Any statement to the contrary erases the identity and dignity of transgender people and goes against all advice given by professional health care associations who have far more expertise on this subject matter than either Jo or I.”
Sturgeon and Rowling’s public disagreement over the Gender Recognition Reform Bill is taking place a month ahead of the release of “Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore,” the latest “Harry Potter” sequel in which Rowling serves as co-writer and co-producer. The film is set for release on April 8 in the United Kingdom and April 15 in the U.S.