An international phenomenon – the curious case of “the insidious whim of self-identification”

By stewartb

There are times when a journalist pens a phrase that leaves a mark. I experienced this – and not in a positive way – when reading Kevin McKenna’s piece in The National on 2 December, entitled ‘The SNP’s woke team have been defeated – here’s what that means”.

Much could be written about his polemic with its attacks on the Scottish Government and SNP leadership but it merits no further amplification from me. However, one phrase is worth noting: “the insidious whim of self-identification”.

It was made in the context of negative criticism of proposed reform to legal gender recognition procedures in Scotland. This is an ‘issue’ I’ve kept quiet on not least because it seems persistently, and disappointingly and unhelpfully, to generate more heat than light. 

I am prompted to write here and now because of something I read on the subject by chance from another place last week. My objective is simple and limited – to find some perspective. And is offering perspective and/or providing context not two characteristics of The Tusker?

The government of Finland

The recently elected government of Finland has set out its legislative programme which includes this: “We must ensure that fundamental and human rights and legal protection are implemented equitably”.


From within the detailed text, the following extracts are notable in the present context:

Firstly: “Special attention must be paid to the rights of people in the most vulnerable position. There are still serious shortcomings in the position of certain groups of people, such as victims of intimate partner violence, elderly people, people with a disability, gender minorities, ethnic minorities, and asylum seekers.”

It goes on to state: “An act on the legal recognition of gender that respects peoples right to self-determination will be enacted. The requirement of infertility will be removed from the act, and medical treatments will be separated from the change of legal gender.”

And: “Gender can be changed, upon application, by an adult who presents a reasoned account of his or her permanent experience of representing the other gender. A period of reflection for those who wish to change their gender will be introduced.”

“As part of the reform of personal identity codes, to be carried out based on a study by the Ministry of Finance, gender will no longer be specified in the personal identity code.”

And finally: “Gender will be added among the motives that constitute grounds for increasing the punishment as specified in chapter 6, section 5 of the Criminal Code.”

About the Finnish government

Should it be of relevance to your own assessment of what is being proposed in Finland, note this.

On 14 December, 2019 The Guardian reported on the election of the new Finnish government with this headline: ‘Feminism comes of age in Finland as female coalition takes the reins”.

The new five party coalition government elected 34-year-old Sanna Marin as prime minister. Marin became the world’s youngest sitting PM. With a women now heading the government, all of Finland’s five major political parties have women as leaders: Katri Kulmuni, age 32, leads the Centre Party; Maria Ohisalo, 34, leads the Green League; Li Andersson, 32, leads the Left Alliance; and Anna-Maja Henriksson, 55, leads the Swedish People’s Party of Finland.

When the BBC profiled Marin in November 2020, the article included this: ‘There are also plans to reform the Trans Act, a law that currently requires those seeking legal gender recognition to undergo years of mental health screening and, unless they are already infertile, enforced sterilisation.’

It quoted Marin: ”Everyone should have the right to determine their own identities. And the programme supports this”.

The BBC article asked if Marin considers trans women, women: “It’s not my job to identify people, … It’s everyone’s job to identify themselves. It’s not my place to say.”


Another government led by women pursuing ‘the whim’?

The internationalisation of ‘the whim’

But perhaps it’s just Scotland and Finland pursuing ‘the whim’? A report published by the European Union in June 2020 entitled: ‘Legal gender recognition in the EU – The journeys of trans people towards full equality” examines the variation in existing procedures across the EU to obtain legal gender recognition (LGR).


The report groups countries together into ‘clusters’ depending on how easy or difficult it is to access LGR. “The least accessible requirements are based on a more paternalistic or pathologising approach, whereby the state (via courts or other bodies) or medical experts are seen as best placed to assess the gender of a person. The most accessible frameworks reflect the self-determination approach, where trans people are best placed to identify their own gender. Legal clusters are ranked from the least accessible procedures (clusters 1 and 2) to the most accessible procedures (cluster 5).” 

So It looks as if ‘the whim’ has been affecting governments in many countries. It seems that the Scottish Government is not alone in its ‘whim’!

End note

Given what some in Scotland write on this subject, it’s sometimes seemed (to an ill-informed me) that the reform proposals from the Scottish Government must surely be extreme, outlandish, without precedent, plain reckless or merit some other pejorative description. And then to compound this, I come across Mr McKenna’s ‘the insidious whim’.

I am willing to admit that I don’t have full understanding of all facets of the proposed policy reform – and perhaps me being me, I never can! However, I trust that useful perspective can be gained from what is given above: at a minimum, I hope it causes readers with a vote in Scotland to pause for reflection before opting for outright condemnation.

It seems to me in light of what can be learned from perspective is that there is much more to the policy of reform than a ‘whim’. And there surely is more to this than what is indicated by certain vocal opponents who seem to argue that the Scottish Government is simply, wholly wrong – perhaps irredeemably so – in seeking to enable change, change similar to that already evident in many other parts of Europe.

17 thoughts on “An international phenomenon – the curious case of “the insidious whim of self-identification”

  1. Interesting, thanks.
    Here’s my tuppence worth and I may be wrong on many counts…
    I think there is no question that all humans are equal and should not be discriminated against. The GRA has been in place for some time, but many want it reformed for further protections, which is understandable if that legislation was/is not fit for purpose. I am not very read up on this, but my take on it was that self ID would be written into new laws re GRA. That being any man can self ID as a woman, basically, no questions asked, say, they are arrested for stealing, they can say they are a woman, so that crime is recorded as being female. The whole idea of self ID seems very different to ‘self determination’?
    There have been cases where men have committed terrible crimes against women, (in the US in particular) but then decide they themselves ID as a woman, and are locked up in a woman’s prison only to go and attack the women there. That crime is recorded as a female crime, that’s where it gets scary and riciculous. The whole thing stinks of interference from very high up imo, used to divide and also roll back women’s rights, long fought for. It’s bizarre. Most people want their fellow humans to be considered equal, but the self ID was/is doing the opposite, removing the rights of some in society, and writing that into law in effect.
    Trans rights are crucial, there does need some tweaking of the GRA it seems, but not to the detriment of any one else, ie women.
    The whole issue has been taken too far, and used to divide people where no division should be. It’s a gift to the powerful, it was once religion, then sport, anything really that could be used to divide and control the people so that a few could reap the benefits (riches) while the little people are scrapping with one another! Easy peasy to do.
    GRA, amend it yes, but, self ID has been the real dangerous aspect of this, far as I can gather. Sadly some have taken it too far and perhaps not understood what is at stake, and how they themselves are being manipulated by the powers that be.
    Lastly, after Brexit, re Scotland, EVERYONE’S human rights are at risk, no one will be made a special case at the hands of the BritNat state, except of course, the very rich at the top.
    It’s a sensitive subject, and at times has seemed to go beyond any logic, or reasonable thought, not good for a conducive discussion on this,
    and in a way, I have thought it’s a fad, and there will be something else along to try control people. We shall see, but it certainly started to look like some were more intent on GRA and self ID than an independent Scotland ever becoming a reality. It would be easy to centralise power and control the narrative to stymy that for good.
    In order for anyone to keep their human rights, Scottish independence is absolutely crucial, remove the HRA, which they are planning to do, and you have a UK regime who really are a law unto themselves, not what I want to see in a 21st century Scotland.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. There seems to be a great deal of misinformation being peddled about the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA) and the proposed reforms. Much of the misinformation/misdirection appears to be aimed at giving the impression that this is solely a Scottish Government initiative. It is not.

    The GRA Act 2004 was passed by the UK Government in response to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR). Holyrood agreed to the Act via a Sewel Convention.

    So Gender Recognition has been in place since 2005. Almost 5000 people have gone through the process set out in the Act. It is estimated, note estimated, that several hundred thousand people are living as transgender but without any legal standing.

    In 2016 the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee recommended reform of the Act

    In the 2016 Holyrood Elections every party included reform of the GRA in their manifestos. Something those who use the GRA against the SNP to further their own agenda rarely if ever acknowledge.

    In 2018 the UK Government consulted on reforming the GRA in England and Wales. The Scottish Government carried out a 16-week consultation to which there were 15,000 responses. Since then further concerns have been raised therefore the SG has withdrawn the proposed Bill that was the subject of the consultation and restarted the process from scratch.

    Ms Somerville outlined what the SG proposed in her statement to Parliament in June 2019 where she said:

    “However, I am acutely aware of how divided opinion is on this issue and I want to proceed in a way that builds maximum consensus and allows valid concerns to be properly addressed.
    For that reason, we will not introduce legislation to Parliament immediately.
    Consultation on draft bill
    Instead it is my intention to publish a draft Gender Recognition (Scotland) Bill later this year.
    The Bill will be formally introduced to Parliament only when there has been a full consultation on the precise details contained within that draft bill.
    This consultation will include draft impact assessments, including a comprehensive updated Equality Impact Assessment, to ensure that all rights are protected in a balanced way.
    This additional step in the process will, I hope, give parliament and all stakeholders the opportunity to consider and respond to specific proposals. And it will allow discussion to move from the general to the detailed.
    All aspects of the draft Bill will be open for consultation. We will take forward the legislation when that process has taken place and we are content that responses have been analysed, concerns allayed and that we can introduce a bill that has the support of this Parliament and the of public. We will inform Parliament of the timetable for legislation once this process has been completed.””
    Note: the consultation ended on 17th March 2020. [Note: the entire process has been put on the backburner by the UK Gov and the Scottish Gov.]
    This is a link to the full statement Ms Somerville made to the Scottish Parliament in June 2019

    And a further quote from the statement on women only spaces such as toilets.
    “”One particular area of concern that has been raised about gender recognition reform – both during and since the consultation – is the impact it will have on the provision and protection of single sex or women only spaces and services.
    “Presiding Officer, it is vital to be clear on this important point.
    “The Equality Act [2010] already allows trans people to be excluded, in some circumstances, from single sex services where that is proportionate and justifiable, including where a trans person has legal recognition. The Government’s proposals to reform the Act will not affect that position.””

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And DOESN’T exclude in dubious circumstances. And pushed through legislaton or not, it is already having an impact on young girls. Many schools have already started letting Self-ID males access to Girls toilets & changing rooms and it is causing a great deal of concern to the girls & their parents. Sorry but I don’t give a lot of credence to anything Shirley Anne Somerville says. She is a firm advocate for GRA & does all she can to ignore dissenting voices – including parents of girls in the above situation.


      1. The only legislation that is in place is the Gender Recognotion Act 2004 and that does not allow self-ID. Therefore anyone who does self-ID, and some do, they do not have any legal protections or rights in their acquired gender. Therefore it seems odd that the schools are according rights to self-ID people that they do not need to do as the current legislation stands.


    2. ‘Something those who use the GRA against the SNP to further their own agenda rarely if ever acknowledge.’

      I guess you don’t read Wings then or many of the other indybloggers, certainly none that i read. Never listened to the Labour leader candidates in their internal election making fools of themselves?
      I wish someone more knowledgeable than me could comment on Somerville and her quotes. All i know is that her words seems far from what is happening in the real world.
      In the real world stickers reading “Seahorses ARE horses. Hotdogs ARE dogs. There is no debate. #WarOnWomen.” and “I ❤ JK Rowling” are being reported as hate crimes.
      It is this altering of reality to fit an ideology which i am disturbed about, and would be equally against no matter the subject, if it didn't also adversely affect women, especially in women's prisons and rape-crisis centres etc.

      The words 'Self-ID' are a misnomer. No one cares about how people self- ID, what thy care about is forcing it on others. Changing scientific and sociological data is not self-id. Sex based rights mustn't suffer because of gender-based rights. They are not the same no matter what the trans-activists believe and want to force us to believe.
      We need to slow the hell down on this whole topic. This is going to take years to sort out the backlog of a mess that has been created. Scotland is still allowing puberty blockers for kids for fucks sake. There was so much dodgy science exposed in the Tavistock trial that needs winding back. All the false information about Laws on access to women's toilets is also being exposed. Tavistock didn't even have the data on the sex and autism of their 'patients' to give to the court. What data there is, shows that far more girls are being treated than boys. This is important because it can show sociological factors. Facts matter. Sex matters.

      It feels like the tide is turning and truth is starting to prevail. Once we have started sorting out fact from fiction and allowing women back into the discussion, only then we can have a rational debate.
      Right now the HCB is pushing GRA through the back door.
      There is no rush with this, we need to stop pushing these Acts through when they are both so full of a multitude of flaws.
      We need to have reasonable debate about whether not being offended is a human right. We also need to sort out priorities. GRA is not a high priority.
      Right now it is such a mess you pull one thread and the whole carpet comes with it.
      The indoctrination of children in schools is another part of this. Now that the NEC has been changed, we can hope that that whole area is going to be re-examined. I have an autistic niece, it scares the hell out of me that she would have been totally susceptible to their brainwashing when she was younger. Obsessiveness and autism plus queer-theory, drug companies and cosmetic surgeons is a horror story but a very real one.
      Then there is 'age of consent' how is that going to work out?
      Age of consent for genital operations (whites only please)
      Age of consent for pregnancy and child birth
      Age of consent for sex and yes queer-theory and trans-umbrella gets into some very murky waters

      Trans activists want to change the meaning of sex and woman, some are even saying the word 'woman' is transphobic (strange they rarely talk about the word 'man'), meanwhile the vast majority of the population probably don't even know what they mean by 'trans'. I didn't until about 2 years ago in fact i don't think i really knew for certain until a few weeks ago. Last week one activist even declared that using personal names to avoid pronouns was transphobic.
      The world has gone mad and we need to slow the hell down and look at all this calmly, reasonably and compassionately from all sides. The rush stinks of something underhand. maybe this isn't MI5 but i am sure there is more than one MI5 agent thinking, god if i wish i could take credit for this.


  3. I really know nothing on this subject. I am aware of a wide spectrum of human sexual modes, but can only account for my own experiences.
    As this seems to be a hot topic, how many people are involved? We also know there are some creepy people out there who will try to exploit access to toilets they should not be near. How to stop them?
    Personally, if caught, I would paint their entire heads with indelible ink. (If it were orange we could have a whole bunch of Trumps!)
    Keep them at home for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gavin – maybe, rather than man/woman silhouettes they should use a sort of road sign with (how to phrase this politely?) male accoutrements(?) either as is or crossed through. Message being whatever you identify yourself as, those in possession through this door, those without, that door.

      I hasten to add, that I’ve absolutely no problem with anyone who believes they’re in the wrong body wishing to change that. It does raise the whole question of what constitutes male and female though. Which is veering way O/T, so I’ll stop.

      BTW – I feel that orange might invoke prejudice against gingers. NOT wise in Scotland! 😀 What do you think of a fetching magenta?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I am from a family of red hair, though mine was more sandy coloured.
        Magenta good. Perhaps striped. Certainly day-glo !


  4. Since sport seems to be one of the areas frequently raised here is what the GRA 2004 says
    “”GRA 2004
    This about Sport from the act
    “”(1)A body responsible for regulating the participation of persons as competitors in an event or events involving a gender-affected sport may, if subsection (2) is satisfied, prohibit or restrict the participation as competitors in the event or events of persons whose gender has become the acquired gender under this Act.
    (2)This subsection is satisfied if the prohibition or restriction is necessary to secure—
    (a)fair competition, or
    (b)the safety of competitors,
    at the event or events.
    (3)“Sport” means a sport, game or other activity of a competitive nature.
    (4)A sport is a gender-affected sport if the physical strength, stamina or physique of average persons of one gender would put them at a disadvantage to average persons of the other gender as competitors in events involving the sport.
    (5)This section does not affect—
    (a)section 44 of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (c. 65) (exception from Parts 2 to 4 of that Act for acts related to sport), or
    (b)Article 45 of the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 ( S.I. 1976/1042 (N.I. 15)) (corresponding provision for Northern Ireland). ]


  5. Over tge ladt few days The National has run articles by McKenna, David Pratt , Richard Walker and others claiming the party is terribly split.
    If media don’t run articles declaring the party is split the public don’t have any inkling about a split.

    How split is the party really?


  6. Sp Start Again
    Over the last few days The National has run articles by McKenna, David Pratt , Richard Walker and others claiming the party is terribly split.

    If media don’t run articles declaring the party is split the public (and much of the membership) don’t have any inkling about a split.

    How split is the party really?


  7. Interesting and informative as always, however, NOTHING should be taking priority over independence, post independence we can afford the distractions, right now it’s all hands to the pumps.

    Without being a nation state in our own right it will not matter a damn what these issues are or what legislation is brought forward now, it will all be swept away by a malicious Tory Party bent on subjugation.
    That must not be allowed to happen.


  8. Kevin McKenna referring to self-ID as an ‘insidious whim’ should not be used to dismiss this serious issue. A paper published by Edinburgh University Press is more informative. Regarding the much cited ‘international best practice’ it states: “Asked why the draft Equality Impact Assessment did not cite international evidence to support the view that legal self-declaration was unlikely to have negative effects on single-sex services, the Scottish Government responded that its review “did not find any relevant research from these jurisdictions in relation to these statements”.” In other words, the ‘international best practice’ is untested.

    Click to access reform-under-the-radar.-advance-copy-7-may-2020.pdf


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.