Non-Binary Working Group minutes: 17 November 2021

Minutes from the meeting of the Non-Binary Working Group, held on 17 November 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Dr Ben Vincent (Chair)
  • Vic Valentine, Scottish Trans
  • Sarah Anderson, LGBT Youth Scotland
  • Megan Snedden, Stonewall Scotland
  • Katrina Mitchell, LGBT Health and Wellbeing
  • Non-Binary Community members
  • Dr Peter Dunne, University of Bristol
  • Jolanta Lisicka, Older People’s Health Unit, Scottish Government


  • Catrina Steenberg, LGBTI Equality Team Leader, Scottish Government

  • Paul Sloan, LGBTI Equality Team, Scottish Government
  • Chloe Coldwell, LGBTI Equality Team, Scottish Government


  • Oceana Maund, Scottish Trans
  • Dr Carolynn Gray, University of the West of Scotland
  • Laurie Donaldson, LGBTI Equality Team, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions

The Chair welcomed attendees and each attendee introduced themselves.

Note of last meeting (16 September 2021)

The previous minutes were agreed as accurate and the group were reminded to put forward any requests for alterations to be made to the subgroup minutes by the end of the week.

Government support systems (benefits, access to housing, homelessness)

The Group reported that when trans people suffered transphobic harassment from neighbours, it was often not considered grounds for being able to be moved to new housing, forcing them to continue to suffer abuse.

It was noted that in a number of services for people in vulnerable situations, such as crisis services, non-binary people experienced difficulties. One example was that many homelessness services were gender segregated with many homelessness services eg. Salvation Army, having policy of housing people by sex assigned at birth (or had done in the past). Non-binary people may not feel comfortable interacting with services that operate in that way. The Group said that there was a major gap in LGBTI homelessness services in Scotland. They called for ring-fenced funding for crisis services and said that there were currently no LGBTI-specific domestic abuse services that they were aware of. Non-binary people needed to be able to have the agency to say “this is the binary sex I feel comfortable being grouped with” but LGBTI-specific services would be preferred. It was noted that homelessness statistics were much worse for trans people with a quarter of trans people having experienced homelessness.

The Group said it would be useful to have a breakdown of which crisis services were funded by Scottish Government and what they are doing for LGBT people. It was said that many services have been closed and that they should be reinstated with help from the Scottish Government.

The Group noted there was no specific data on non-binary people’s access to these crisis services and there was a lot of overlap within the LGBTI community which is why specific data is difficult to find.

It was stated that, in making recommendations, the Group must look at the issues with engaging with just one provider or a centralised service. Problems were often complex and sometimes involved more than just one issue. For example, homelessness for LGBTI people of colour would be different to the experience of white LGBT people. There were also added complications that came with homelessness as a result of domestic violence. The Ubuntu service in Glasgow was mentioned. This service is explicitly intersectional, LGBTI inclusive, non-binary inclusive and they do not ask about immigration status. However, it was appreciated that this makes it difficult for these types of services to get Scottish Government funding.

The issue of intentional homelessness was raised and the duty of care of councils was discussed. It was stated that people could be facing transphobia but this might not be deemed dangerous enough for them to be forced into homelessness and therefore they did not get support. The Group agreed that recommendations should include information about context which is sensitive to trans and non-binary people’s situations, for example issues around intentional homelessness.

The Group asked if they could have an update from the Scottish Government on progress that had been made on commencing the Local Connection and Intentionality provisions in the Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003, following the public consultation on this in 2019.

Action: SG officials to get an update on these provisions that have not been commenced.

Members said that some organisations had to support young people to advocate that they did not become intentionally homeless. It was stated that familial abuse is not always considered domestic abuse. Young people are often asked to provide evidence that they have been ‘kicked out’. This was a particularly bad situation for young people as they were not covered under domestic abuse assistance services since familial abuse was not considered domestic abuse.

Special support systems (domestic abuse, hospice care, child protection)

The Group were given a chance to review some documents from policy areas. Members raised the issue of the Scottish Government using the acronym LGBTI in relation to child protection without mentioning intersex children as these young people had specific needs.

The Group said that child protection did not help intersex children as the NHS performs non-consensual genital surgeries on intersex children which was said to be an entirely cosmetic surgery. The group urged that this be addressed if using the LGBTI acronym.

Members noted that there was a problem with the amount of gender monitoring at the point of access of these services and this was harmful to non-binary people. They urged there to be a different approach to crisis services in this regard. Crisis services must also be intersectional as requiring this type of gender monitoring was detrimental. They stated that this must be supplemented with community-based action.

The Group brought up the difficulties faced by trans parents and decision-making for child protection where the trans parent was factored into the decision over a child’s protection. Members said that social workers raised questions around children’s welfare when they had trans parents, especially for those who had recently declared their trans status.

A trans young person was more likely to be interpreted as a child protection case. Children and young people in care routinely had sensitive information recorded and this followed them throughout their whole lives and this stigma should be addressed.

Education (at all levels)

The Chair reinforced that the Group would be discussing education at all levels and across multiple age groups.

Members reported that non-binary people had to advocate for themselves in a binary system that was not set up to include them. They asked for teachers to be involved in further training at all levels. This may be assisted by the embedding of the UNCRC and making children and young people aware of their rights. It was suggested that updates could be made to SEEMiS. It was suggested that schools needed to discuss changing rooms and other spaces. It was reported that young people were often misgendered in the classroom due to lack of awareness and training from teachers.

The new trans inclusive guidance was published in August, which was broadly viewed as being good.

Access to sport

It was highlighted that access to sport is a human right. 30-40% of trans people had faced discrimination in a sports setting and 40% avoided sport for this reason. One main problem was attitude and ‘lad culture’ was seen as acceptable, with issues such as sexism and transphobia commonplace, due to the use of gendered language. This must change to make sports more inclusive for trans people, non-binary people and women to feel more comfortable..

Changing rooms and toilet facilities were an issue - particularly with swimming pools. Often you needed to go through changing rooms to access the pools. Open showers and open changing areas left many people feeling uncomfortable and this actively discriminated against non-binary and trans people who may feel uncomfortable due to lack of privacy.

Members said that gyms are often split up into gendered areas reliant on stereotypes. For example, women in gyms use cardio equipment to lose weight and men try to bulk up.

They stated that gyms should reduce the number of mirrors so users were not forced to look at themselves the entire time. It was noted that gym equipment was often set up for tall men and this was not accessible for everyone.

Several sports-specific issues were mentioned. One example was water sports where people were forced to wear gendered and form-fitting clothing which non-binary people might feel uncomfortable in. The issue of not being able to access swimming pools without first entering binary gendered changing rooms in most cases was also raised.

The Group agreed that access to competition is a controversial issue which grabs attention in the media. Participants stated that sport is a very gendered environment which was designed for men, with women being an afterthought and trans people were perceived as a risk. It was highlighted that trans men can run in the men’s category but trans women and non-binary people have to be separated accordingly.

The Group was content that Scottish Athletics had included compulsory non-binary category that is inclusive of anyone who wishes to compete in this category. However, the Group recognised that this has also led to international complications. The Group discussed how other issues were considered fair such as certain countries having taller teams for certain sports and different funding levels depending on the country. The Group highlighted how these disadvantages were considered fair but including trans men was considered unfair.

The Group also recognised that there were accessibility issues as many trans people had disabilities or chronic illnesses, which were a barrier to sport.

The Group stated that trans and non-binary people faced more financial barriers as many had lower incomes.

Sport Council Equality Group (SCEG) released a document for transgender inclusion in sport. Membersfelt that this was transphobic as it stated trans inclusion in sport was not safe. It was reported that SCEG recommended that Scottish governing bodies used their framework.

The Group stated that PE at school was very gendered. For example, boys played football and girls were less engaged. Participants said that this segregation was unnecessary as some activities did not need this.

The Group said that the construction of facilities in a gendered way sent the wrong message about consent around people’s bodies and lacked privacy. There were good examples of gender neutral changing facilities in Edinburgh but also examples of inaccessible facilities.

Members expressed disappointment that they felt that they could not begin to improve things for non-binary people as they were so preoccupied with countering anti-trans rhetoric.

Inclusion of non-binary people in rural areas

The Group said that many services were offered in the central belt and this left behind rural areas.

Participants highlighted that access to healthcare was a particular barrier and this was felt worse across rural areas.

Poor and unsafe public transport services for visibly queer people was reported to be a particular issue for young people as they were particularly reliant on these services.


The Group had already agreed topics of Health and Gendered Law. The Chair asked if participants wanted to propose other subgroup topics.

The Group gave the feedback that they did not like having the subgroup meetings happening so close together so would like these to be more spaced out. They also felt that the meetings were too long and this made them inaccessible for some. It was proposed that further meetings would last an hour.

The Group decided that the next subgroups would be on Sport, Crisis Services, and Government Support Services, with a possible addition of Education depending on Group responses.

It was decided that the healthcare subgroup would be reconvened solely to go over draft recommendations.

It was important that going forward Scottish Government officials were at relevant subgroups.

Action: SG officials to check the process of the recommendations going to Ministers, including whether they would be published.

Next Meeting and close

The proposed subgroups were Healthcare (confirmed), Legal Recognition/Gendered Law (confirmed), Crisis services, Sport, Support Services, and possibly Education.

There would be one final meeting before the submission of the recommendations, in late February, with the purpose of reviewing and signing off the recommendations.

Action: SG officials to organise a final meeting at the end of February.

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