On 1 June 2023 Police Scotland posted the following tweet:
We submitted a Freedom of Information request for a copy of the Police Scotland LGBT Allies Toolkit, pictured in the second frame. We also asked for details of all groups and organisations consulted on its development, and a copy of the underpinning Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA).
In response, Police Scotland sent us a copy of the Toolkit, which can be accessed here. Police Scotland did not hold any information on organisations consulted during its development, nor a copy of the EQIA. They told us the EQIA ‘was not conducted by Police Scotland’ (7 July 2023). As an official Police Scotland product, this felt surprising.
In a follow up request we asked how many people had signed up to the ‘Allies Pledge’, which is set out in the Toolkit (see below). Police Scotland told us it did not know, as it was not responsible for the Allies programme.
‘Over the past two years Police Scotland and the Scottish LGBTI Police Association have worked together to launch an LGBT Allies network, however The Scottish LGBTI Police Association are now fully responsible for the Allies programme as such Police Scotland do not hold information regarding the number of officers and staff that have signed up to the pledge scheme.’Police Scotland, 6 September 2023
Impartiality and good relationships
Police Scotland is required to act impartially. Police Scotland Professional Standards state, ‘We act with fairness and impartiality. We do not discriminate unlawfully or unfairly.’ The Code of Ethics for Policing in Scotland underscores impartiality for officers, who are expected to ‘help deliver a professional and impartial service’, ‘face all challenges with self-control, tolerance and impartiality’, and ‘be guided by the principles of impartiality and non-discrimination’.
As acknowledged in the Police Scotland Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2022-26 (EDI), under the Public Sector Equality Duty, Police Scotland is also required to ‘Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it’. The EDI Strategy also acknowledges that there is no hierarchy of protected characteristics (2022: 10).
This blog considers the Police Scotland LGBT Allies Toolkit in relation to police impartiality, and its duty to foster good relations between people with different characteristics.
We argue that in actively promoting a scheme that requires people to commit to the idea of gender identity as an uncontested truth, whilst appearing to allow no organisational space for those who do not share that belief, Police Scotland is at risk of failing in its PSED duties. The analysis highlights operational risks that arise from the Allies scheme and Police Scotland’s related organisational outlook, and questions how a scheme that asks officers to ‘evangelise their allyship’ to certain groups can be reconciled with a commitment to police impartiality.
The Allies pledge
The LGBT Allies Toolkit invites staff and officers to sign a pledge, to show their commitment to being an LGBT ally. The expectations of an LGBT Ally are shown below:
We could not find a similar Police Scotland pledge scheme for people with any other diversity or protected characteristics.
Some of the material in the Toolkit overlaps with that in the Scottish LGBTI Police Association ‘Guide to trans allyship’, also dated 2022.
Only the LGBT Allies Toolkit contains a pledge, and is badged as an official Police Scotland product.
Gender identity as a contested truth
Underpinning the allies pledge, the Toolkit treats the idea of gender identity as an uncontested truth. It tells employees that ‘‘gender identity isn’t a decision or a choice’ (Police Scotland, 2022: 18), and defines this as ‘a person’s innate sense of their own gender… which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth’ (ibid. 32).
‘Sex’ is defined as ‘biological, genetic, or physical characteristics…’ (ibid. 32). It is also something that is ‘assigned to an infant at birth’ (ibid. 31). ‘Assigned gender’ is ‘given to an infant at birth typically based on the infant’s external genitals’ and ‘may or may not match the person’s gender identity’ (ibid.). The assumption that this metaphysical belief system needs to be adopted by allies underpins the Toolkit.
A widely-held opposing view is that biological sex is real, important and immutable, and that any belief any person has in gender identity is an entirely separate matter. Following the ruling in Forstater v Centre for Global Development Europe, this view is covered by the protected characteristic of religion and belief in the Equality Act 2010. The ruling also means a lack of belief in gender identity is protected in law. This position is not acknowledged or discussed in the Toolkit, despite its emphasis on inclusivity.
The Toolkit defines an ally as ‘a (typically) straight and/or cis person who supports members of the LGBT Community’ (Police Scotland, 2022: 31). Employees are urged to ‘Speak up as an advocate and evangelise your allyship among others’ (emphasis added) (ibid. 14).
Recommendations include putting pronouns on email signatures, asking people what their pronouns are (ibid. 15), commemorating International Pronouns Day (ibid.17), and avoiding gendered language:
‘Make a conscious effort to stop using gendered language. Some terms, phrases and colloquialisms reinforce gender as a binary construct. When you walk into a room, do you address people by saying “Hi, guys?” or “Ladies and gentlemen”? Consider more inclusive language such as “Hi, everyone” instead.’ibid. 16
According to the Toolkit, good allyship also extends to financial decision-making, and the allocation of Police Scotland resources:
- Reconsider your support. When you are thinking about donating time or talent to an organisation, or when you are considering a new supplier, consider whether they have inclusive policies. If they don’t, ask how you can help.
- ‘Think about where you spend your money. And if you have responsibility for a budget, think about where you spend the organisation’s money. Support LGBT owned and friendly businesses that have policies and practices to ensure equal treatment for employees and customers.
Several suggestions pertain to more ‘evangelical’ activity. Allies are recommended to ‘Deliver a short presentation to your team on non-binary or trans identities’, refer colleagues to the Toolkit and ‘have a conversation about it’ (ibid. 17), and start meetings with an ‘Inclusion Moment’ (ibid. 24).
‘Inclusion moment’ materials are provided in an Police Scotland online package (developed separate to the Allies scheme). Described in the Toolkit as ‘a brilliant way to engage and upskill allies’, ‘moments’ can last from ten minutes up to an hour (ibid.). The package is public facing and can be accessed here.
The Inclusion Moments package also includes linked external resources for employees to ‘discuss as a group’, four of which pertain directly to LGBT issues, as shown below.
LGBT 101: An introduction to the Queer Community’ video
The ‘LGBT 101: An introduction to the Queer Community’ video (see Annex 1 for a full transcript) describes allies as ‘non-queer folk who support and love the queer community’.
Departing from established scientific fact, the video asserts that biological sex is on a spectrum, with ‘intersex’ located in between male and female.
The video tells viewers that bigender people, ‘live their lives at both extremes at different times, living both as a man and a woman’, whilst gender fluid people, ‘may identify differently at different times’. Allies are expected to use the ‘appropriate pronoun for the situation’ (and to know what this is).
Sexual orientations detailed in the video include demisexual, skoliosexual, and polyamory. Genders include ‘Third Gender’ and ‘Two Spirit’.
Gender and Pronouns video
A Gender and Pronouns video, also linked in the Inclusion Moments package, shows a female cartoon character, voiced by a male actor (see Annex 2 for a full transcript). Using emotive scenarios that refer to systemic violence and psychological trauma, it effectively tells viewers that stating a person’s actual sex can have ‘severe unintended consequences’.
And that this can cause ‘real psychological trauma’.
Conversely, asking about a person’s pronouns shows that you care about their ‘safety and humanity’.
The 2022/23 HMICS Annual Report describes Inclusion Moments as a way of facilitating discussion on challenging issues, and ‘a fine example of Police Scotland developing a capability and sharing this with the rest of policing, for the greater good’ (HMICS, 2023: 8). The College of Policing has also endorsed the package, stating:
Inclusion moments provides a safe space for open conversations about DEI-related topics. Engagement survey results from the pilot demonstrated increased awareness of and confidence having DEI-related conversations, and self-reported evidence of behaviour change. This is likely to have a positive impact on employees feeling valued, having an increased sense of belonging, and becoming better allies.College of Policing, online
We have not reviewed the full resource. We would however, strongly question the value or appropriateness of the materials outlined above. Whilst those hosting the ‘Inclusion Moment’ are asked ‘to ensure that all views are freely expressed’, it is difficult to see how the muddled, unscientific jargon, presented as statements of fact in the LGBT 101 video, or the hyperbolic language used in the pronouns video, could facilitate open discussion.
The Toolkit urges people to ‘educate yourself and stay informed because terminology is constantly evolving’.
‘Don’t rely on LGBT people to educate you. If you hear acronyms, terminology, or references you’re not familiar with, commit to getting the answers. Never make assumptions. Learn from your mistakes. If you get something wrong, apologise, make it right, move on and learn from the experience.’Police Scotland, 2022: 13
Terms listed in the glossary include ‘omnisexual’, to describe ‘people attracted to people of all genders across the gender spectrum….’ (ibid. 32), and ‘pansexual’ for whom ‘gender is not a determining factor for attraction’, some of whom ‘describe themselves as ‘genderblind’ (ibid.). Refelcting the underpinning belief system, ‘cisgender’ is defined as ‘someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth (ibid.).
In a departure from conventional usage, ‘bisexual’ is defined as ‘an umbrella term used to describe a romantic and/or sexual orientation towards more than one gender’ (ibid. 31) (the Explanatory notes in the Equality Act 2010 define bisexual as attraction to both sexes). The Glossary explains further that ‘Bi people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including, but not limited to, bisexual, pan, queer, and some other nonmonosexual and non-monoromantic identities’.
Among the various definitions, this tells Police Scotland employees that ‘homosexual’ is a medical term and ‘considered stigmatizing’, and uncritically describes breast binders. More examples are shown below.
constellation – noun : a way to describe the arrangement or structure of a polyamorous relationship.
lipstick lesbian – noun : Usually refers to a lesbian with a feminine gender expression. Can be used in a positive or a derogatory way. Is sometimes also used to refer to a lesbian who is assumed to be (or passes for) straight.
metrosexual – adj. : a man with a strong aesthetic sense who spends more time, energy, or money on his appearance and grooming than is considered gender normative.
spiritual attraction – noun : a capacity that evokes the want to engage in intimate behavior based on one’s experience with, interpretation of, or belief in the supernatural (e.g., religious teachings, messages from a deity), experienced in varying degrees (from little-to-none, to intense). Often conflated with sexual attraction, romantic attraction, and/or emotional attraction.Safezone Project, LGBTQ+ vocabulary glossary of terms: archived link
Ally flags are also featured in the Toolkit. Appendix (ii) shows images of 13 flags that ‘represent the different identities within the LGBT community’.
What about employees who don’t believe in gender identity?
What at first glance might appear to be relatively anodyne commitments to creating ‘safe environments’, using ‘inclusive language’, and encouraging ‘diversity of thought’, take on a different tone, when the detail of what this means is examined. These exhortations rely on adhering to a deeply contested belief that sex is assigned, rather than being an objective material fact, and matters less than a non-falsifiable self-description of gender.
In recommending that employees use pronouns, deliver presentations on trans and non-binary identities, and spend public money on organisations with similar values, the Police Scotland Allies scheme is asking its employees to profess and promote to others a belief that something called gender identity overtakes the material reality of sex as a physical, immutable characteristic in human beings.
Stating your pronouns is not a neutral act. It is, as Sex Matters explain, ‘a statement that the words ‘he’ or ‘she’ do not refer to your sex but your innate internal gender identity’. It hinges on sex denialism and suggests that ‘when you refer to other people as ‘he’ or ‘she’ you are referring to their innate sense of gender identity and not, in general, to their sex as you perceive it ’. Terms such as ‘cis’ are similarly contested. Many people view the term as regressive and sexist, and believe that its reliance on feminine and masculine stereotypes diminishes women.
Many Police Scotland employees will not share a belief in gender identity, for feminist, religious, or other reasons. Some gay or lesbian officers and staff will object to single-sex attraction being reframed as attraction based on gender identity, as per the LGBT 101 video. There appears to be no allowance made for these employees in Police Scotland’s nominally ‘inclusive’ worldview.
This is a problem for Police Scotland because it has a statutory duty to foster good relationships between those with different protected characteristics. Instead, Police Scotland appear to be treating some beliefs more equally than others, and putting its limited financial resources into actively promoting those beliefs.
A similar outlook is reflected in some Police Scotland business areas. Its policies require female officers to search men who self-identify as women (and vice-versa) (see section 12.6), allow men charged with rape to be recorded as women, and expect female employees to share facilities with men who identify as women, regardless of ‘transition’ (see page 11). Police Scotland has stated in terms that it is not interested in the sex of those responding to its public surveys, only their ‘gender identity’:
‘As we don’t deliver services where the physical sex characteristics of a person would change how we deliver those services, e.g. health services, we do not need to know someone’s biological sex characteristics. What is important, is how they identify their gender.’Police Scotland, June 2021
See further here:
This wider organisational outlook is also relevant to how hate crime reports and/or staff complaints are dealt with. Police Scotland officers are tasked with recording both hate crime reports and hate incidents, which do not meet the threshold for criminality. As the Appeal judge, Dame Victoria Sharp stated in Miller v College of Policing, the business of recording hate incidents is not trivial:
‘the recording of non-crime hate incidents is plainly an interference with freedom of expression and knowledge that such matters are being recorded and stored in a police database is likely to have a serious ‘chilling effect’ on public debate’.Miller v College of Policing, 2021: paragraph 73.
Next year the vaguely worded Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act will come into force, and Police Scotland officers will be faced with deciding what crosses the line with respect to stirring up hatred in relation to transgender identity, including what counts as ‘abusive’:
This briefing paper contains forty real-world examples that demonstrate how low the threshold for behaviour or communications considered to be abusive already is. They show how it can be deemed hateful or transphobic to advocate for female-only spaces and services, or to collect data on biological sex. They show that women across the UK have already faced serious consequences for asserting that biological sex matters: they have lost their jobs, faced disciplinary action, been interviewed by the police, and had details recorded on police databases.
It does not instil confidence that Police Scotland is encouraging officers to ‘evangelise their allyship’ and promoting partisan online materials which effectively tell officers that naming a person’s sex may have ‘severe unintended consequences’.
That the Hate Crime training package for officers has been developed in conjunction with organisations that promote embedding particular beliefs about gender identity in policy and law is a further cause for concern.
Where next for Police Scotland?
‘Sex denialism claims that sex doesn’t matter. Whether you’re a man or a woman depends not on your body, but on your inner sense of identity. A male person who says that he is a woman should be treated, referred to – and even thought of – as a woman for all purposes; and vice versa. Various things follow. If a man wants to join a support group for female survivors of male sexual violence, then provided only he says he’s a woman, he must be welcomed in.’Naomi Cunningham, Barrister 2022
The Police Scotland outlook can be broadly characterised as one of sex denialism, at least in some business areas, and in the workplace culture it is promoting.
In relation to the workplace, we think Police Scotland is at risk of failing to meet its PSED requirements to foster good relationships between those with different characteristics. Police Scotland needs to provide ways to ensure that officers and staff who do not subscribe to a belief in gender identity can voice their opinions, talk openly, discuss and challenge policies, without fear of being viewed as bigoted or discriminatory. It needs to take the Forstater ruling seriously, and to find practical ways of resolving practical points of conflict within the workplace and in its policies.
More broadly, pledging commitment to a scheme that treats the contested idea of gender identity as an unassailable truth and asking officers to ‘evangelise’ their allyship to a particular group based on this belief is wholly at odds with police impartiality. By contrast, a Q&A published by the Christian Police Association’s (CPA) includes this: ‘Q: I don’t feel that I am called to “evangelise” within the Police Service. A: The CPA make no demands on you to do this.’
That Police Scotland chose to resource this particular project, over the space of two years, in what is one of the most contested areas of policy and law, against a backdrop of severe budget pressure, raises serious questions about how the organisation understands its responsibilities towards impartially.
It is equally concerning that Police Scotland have no record of how many officers have signed up to the scheme, and that ownership now lies with a staff diversity group. Given the nature of the training materials and processes, for officers subscribed to the scheme there is a clear risk that their ability to impartially handle cases where they are expected to assess the presence of prejudice or hate in this area may be compromised. A similar risk applies to those who have engaged with the Inclusion Moments materials discussed above, outwith the Allies scheme.
In England and Wales, the Home Office has commissioned HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) to undertake a review of political activism in the police, and ‘the extent to which involvement in such activities may be impacting on the effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy of operational policing… by influencing policing policy, priorities and practice.’ This will cover:
Home Office, 2 September 2023
- policies and processes that go further than, or contravene, obligations set out in the Equality Act 2010, and how those impact operational decision making
- the quality and neutrality of associated training provided to implement such policies and processes, and by which organisation(s) this is delivered
- the selection process for groups that are consulted on revisions to policy or process, how decisions are made on which policies and processes are selected for amendment, how the views expressed by those groups are balanced against others, and what consideration is given to other groups that may be impacted as a result
- the involvement of staff networks in the development of policies and processes, and the use of police resources and time dedicated to such networks and whether they are involved in contested political matters
- communications with the public on these issues, including social media.
There are strong grounds for a similar review in Scotland, where there is a clear risk of undue influence from internal activism.
Sex undisputedly matters in policing. It is the ‘single strongest predictor of criminality and criminalisation’, and is writ large on routine policing. No-one has ever demonstrated that offending tracks gender identity rather than sex. The only available systematic research undertaken in this area that we know of supports the view that sex matters, however a person identifies. See further here:
At the same time, Police Scotland is promoting ideological materials that tell its employee’s sex is on a spectrum and that it is gender identity that counts.
As an organisation, Police Scotland remains defensive when challenged in this area of policy. For over two years it has maintained that allowing men charged with rape to be recorded as women is in line with its ‘values’. See further here:
Despite the reputational damage this position appears to be inflicting, Police Scotland has shown no indication that it is willing to engage with critical voices (it has blocked our website from its network).
Whether Police Scotland takes any action, or can even recognise the conflict between its allies pledge scheme and the need for police impartiality, will provide some indication as to if, and how. far the organisation understands the problem it has created.
Lastly, we think that the Scottish Police Authority and HMICS need to pay much closer attention here: to the materials that Police Scotland is developing and/or endorsing; to the language it is using and assumptions that underlie its policies; and who Police Scotland is listening to.
Annex 1: LGBT 101: An introduction to the Queer community
Hey everyone! Welcome to this super neat introduction to some concepts within the LGBT community. There are so many buzzwords, vocabulary and definitions floating around in the media it can be hard to dissect what it all means so this brief video will introduce you to some basic concepts.
The LGBT acronym
Okay, there’s a lot to get through. First the LGBTQ+ Acronym. Let’s break that down.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Ally. Now all of these words deal with one of four key traits every person, queer or not, has.
Biological sex is the physical anatomy with which you are born.
Gender identity is the personal feeling and conceptualization of one’s own gender on the spectrum between male and female.
Sexual orientation is the gender to which a person is attracted either romantically or sexually in relation to their own.
Gender expression is how a person chooses to outwardly show their gender identity.
In simple terms. Biological Sex what you have; Gender Identity, what you feel; Sexual Orientation, who you love; Gender Expression, how you look and act.
Okay, we just broke down the acronym and we talked about the four traits. Now let’s put them together. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Asexual refer to sexual orientation.
Intersex refers to differences in biological sex which can also be related to being transgender and both of those are related to gender identity.
Queer is an umbrella term used by most of the community to refer to anyone who identifies as part of the community.
Questioning refers to people who are, you guessed it, still questioning their sexuality or gender.
Allies are non-queer folk who support and love the queer community.
Now, the first idea to talk about is that of a spectrum.
The LGBTQ+ community widely accepts that the four aforementioned traits are all on a spectrum, a scale between two opposite points. Traits can fall on either extreme or anywhere in between.
Alright let’s jump in and start with terms relating to gender identity.
First, biological sex. The extremes on this spectrum are biological male and female. These are determined mainly by hormones and organs. For males this means testosterone, a penis, testes and secondary sex characteristics like body and facial hair and a lower voice. For females this means oestrogen, a vagina and the internal reproductive organs for pregnancy. Female secondary sex characteristics include breasts, wider hips, and higher voice.
Intersex is the term used to describe [people] whose combination of hormones, internal sex organs and genitals do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies.
Another spectrum is the scale between boy and girl. Boys may use masculine pronouns he/him/his and feel masculine. Girls use she/her pronouns and feel feminine. Anyone who identifies outside the gender binary falls under the umbrella term of genderqueer.
Halfway between the extremes is gender-neutral. This means someone who identifies as neither a man nor a woman. They often choose neutral pronouns: they/them/their or a variation of the invented pronouns ze/zir/ze.
Someone who is gender fluid may identify differently at different times. A bigender person lives their life at both extremes at different times living both as a man and as a woman. With both gender fluid and bigender people it is important to listen and respect the appropriate pronoun for the situation. Agender people don’t identify with any gender and often use gender-neutral pronouns.
So we already established that gender identity is the gender you feel inside. When your internal gender identity matches your born biological sex that’s called cisgender. If they don’t match, transgender.
Transgender people experience gender dysphoria or the uncomfortable feeling that their mind and body don’t match. Often trans people will choose to transition using hormone replacement therapy and/or various surgeries to change their bodies to match their identity.
It is never okay to ask a trans person where they are in their transition. If they want you to know they’ll tell you.
Mind body alignment also lies on a spectrum.
Gender expression is how people choose to show their gender to the outside world. This refers to the ways in which we each manifest a masculinity or femininity; it is usually an extension of gender identity. Each of us expresses a particular gender every day. The clothes, we wear how, we style our hair or even the way we stand. Drag kings and queens are people who explore gender as an art form their cross dressing is a form of gender expression.
But you cannot assume anything about their gender identity or sexual orientation based on how they choose to dress.
Speaking of sexual orientation. That’s our last spectrum and it refers to whom you are attracted. On one end we have heterosexual or attraction to someone of the opposite gender. Opposingly, there is homosexual or attraction to the same gender. In between is bisexual attraction to both genders. Pansexuality is attraction to all gender including those that lay outside the binary someone who is asexual is not attracted to any gender.
Attraction can be broken down even further into both romantic and sexual. One is an emotional attraction the other is physical; these attractions do not always have to align. For example someone can be panromantic, emotionally attracted to all genders, but asexual, not physically attracted to any gender.
There are several other more nuanced prefixes: demi, skolio, poly, to name a few. Other genders such as third gender and two-spirit also exist. Some of these identities can be confusing and hard to understand if you’ve never been exposed to them before. But if a person defines themselves in a way that is new to you it is okay even important to respectfully ask what that identity means to them.
These are just a few of some offensive and hurtful terms that are used [to] describe some People in the LGBTQ Community. These terms are mostly old-fashioned and are often used out of ignorance rather than malice. However they can all be slurs used maliciously on purpose to hurt people’s feelings.
But the biggest message you should take away from this video is the importance of letting someone define their own gender and sexuality.
Respect their pronouns. Respect their chosen name. Respect their appearance. And respect their choice in partners.
Share this video on your favourite social media platform and spread the word. Use these new vocab words to define yourself! I am a gay cisgender female. Who are you?
Source: Youtube transcript (emphases added): archived link
When we incorrectly assume one’s gender identity, we’ve misgendered them. Accidental misgendering happens all the time. A simple apology is the best way to move forward, but it can still be uncomfortable and embarrassing for all involved.
Beyond being awkward, these flubs can have severe unintended consequences. Those of us who have had to reckon with our gender identity may feel vulnerable, exposed, insecure, or out of place when misgendered.
Many of us have faced systemic violence which targets nonconforming gender expression. And being misgendered can cause us to experience very real psychological trauma.
Lucky for us, we have tools to avoid these mishaps. Proactively asking people what pronouns they use, even when their gender expression seems obvious, shows that you care about their safety and humanity without forcing them to disclose the details of their identity.
By sharing your own gender pronouns in email signatures, online profiles, name tags, and business cards, you’re normalizing equitable respect for all gender identities. You’re also making it easier for the most vulnerable of us to share our pronouns.
Through open communication, we can create trusting relationships and kinder, more inclusive environments for all.
Source: Youtube transcript: archived link