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16 February 2021

Trans Scotland - a Timeline: Part II - to the Gender Recognition Act

Part I: to to the Wolfenden Report

Part II: to the Gender Recognition Act 

Part III: after the GRA


Ewan Forbes (pdf) was to assume the Baronetcy after the death of his elder brother. His cousin, John Alexander Cumnock Forbes-Semphill, contested the inheritance on the grounds that Ewan was female. A two-year court battle ensued, first in the Scottish Court of Session where Dr Charles Armstrong gave evidence that Ewan was intersex, and then the case went to the Home Secretary (the future Prime Minister), James Callaghan. A letter from Ewan’s sister was produced to the effect that he was female, but Ewan’s wife testified that they had normal intercourse. The Session judge decided that Ewan was “predominately male”, though intersexed. Callaghan, after consulting with the Lord Advocate, directed that Sir Ewan Forbes (he had dropped the ‘Semphill’) should be entered in the Roll of Baronets as The 11th Baronet of Craigievar and The 20th Lord Semphill, Sir Ewan Forbes of Craigievar. All public records of these events were removed, although some knowledge survived in newspaper archives. The case was deliberately not made available as a legal precedent – in particular April Ashley’s barrister in Corbett vs Corbett 1970 was forbidden to mention it. More


Sexual Offences Act enacted in England and Wales (but not Scotland or Northern Ireland), decriminalising male homosexuality in private between consenting adults over 21.

The closing sessions of the in camera Ewan Forbes case took place as the UK Parliament was debating the Sexual Offences Act. If the case had been allowed as legal precedent, there would have been a paired advance of gay and trans rights together.


May: Formation of Scottish Minorities Group (SMG).

Virginia Prince, visiting the UK, visited Beaumont Society members in Scotland.


Bobby MacKenzie, from a small Scottish fishing village, was in London and living as female.


Scottish Minorities Group launched Edinburgh Gay Switchboard.


The first International Gay Rights Conference was held in Edinburgh, leading to the formation of the International Lesbian and Gay Association in 1978.

Scottish Minorities Group bought 60 Broughton Street to set up a gay centre in Edinburgh, with a café, information centre, meeting rooms and befriending service.

Lindsay Kemp opened Flowers, a mime and music show based on Jean Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers at the Edinburgh Festival. Kemp played Divine, the trans character.


Dr Martin Whittet in Inverness was willing to treat trans men and women. Word got out and trans persons from Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester (including a young Stephen Whittle) drove north for a consultation.


In Glasgow, 534 Sauchiehall Street became Britain's first named Gay Centre.


Scottish Minorities Group (SMG) became Scottish Homosexual Rights Group (SHRG).


Sandra MacRae, lawyer, who had been Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) candidate in Edinburgh 1966, 1970, 1973, left wife and job, and transitioned. In 1979 Sandra joined the legal services department at Inverness District Council.


Scottish Homosexual Rights Group (SHRG - previously SMG) opened a Gay Club on Queens Crescent.

Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, brought Scots law on male homosexuality into line with English law. It was decriminalised if in private and both parties over 21.


Lavender Menace – Scotland’s first LGBT bookshop – opened on Forth Street.

Scottish TV/TS Group started social support meetings in Edinburgh.


Sandra MacRae, lawyer, had surgery in Glasgow in 1984. She held posts with Angus District Council and with the Ethnic Minorities Law Centre in Glasgow. She worked in private practice in East Calder before returning to Dundee to set up Alexandra MacRae & Co. She specialised in immigration law and working for ethnic minority groups.

  • Ian Banks. The Wasp Factory. Macmillan, 1984. The first published novel by Banks. Told in the first person by Frank Cauldhame, who lives on a Scottish island with his father. The younger Frank was told that he had lost his genitals when attacked by a dog. He also killed three relatives. At the end of the book Frank discovers that he had been born female and his father had been feeding him male hormones. Wikipedia.
  • Ewan Forbes. The Aul' Days.Aberdeen University Press, 1984. An exercise in nostalgia.


Robert Miller, one of Britain’s most successful cyclists, raised in Glasgow, won one prize after another in the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta a Espana etc. See 2017.


The all-girl singing group Fascinating Aida performed at the Edinburgh Fringe, and Adèle Anderson was read, which led to her being outed in the press. However the other members of the group were very supportive.

Ruby Todd, a co-ordinator of the Scottish TV/TS Group was in the press in that he was refused access to buses in that when dressed femme he did not match the photograph on his his bus pass. More.


Claudia, one-time opera singer from Glasgow, was referred by Russell Reid and had surgery in London.


Bobby MacKenzie, still in London, had been suffering from Huntington’s Chorea since 1978. She chose to end her life at the age of 38.


Section 28 (2A in Scotland) passed by the Thatcher government prohibited the 'promotion' of homosexuality or transgender by local authorities, which then included schools.


Lily Savage, drag comedian, at the Edinburgh Fringe posed with firemen after setting off the alarms, was then on front page of the papers, and went on to make the shortlist for the Perrier Award.


January: Scottish TV/TS Group launched its newsletter, Tartan Skirt, edited by Anne Forrester.

Sandra MacRae  was the SNP candidate in Glasgow Provan election in 1992, taking 21.7% of the vote and coming second to Labour.


Stuart Lorimer, future consultant psychiatrist at Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic, graduated from Aberdeen Medical School.


The first Scottish Pride March held in Edinburgh. This was then an LGB event. However the organisers began consulting with trans people.

Glasgow LGBT Centre was opened on 4 November on Dixon Street.

October: Last issue of the Tartan Skirt, No 16 edited by Anne Forrester. She was succeeded by Julia Gordon.

Julia Gordon ran a trans support group in Inverness, and also worked with the LGBT charity Reach Out Highland.

  • Val McDermid. The Mermaids Singing. Harper Collins, 1995. A detective novel. The serial killer is revealed to be a trans woman who kills men that do not return her affection. Wikipedia.


Bette Bourne, drag performer, delivered the Alasdair Cameron Memorial Lecture, Glasgow University,

The Second Scottish Pride held in Glasgow. It finished with a festival on Glasgow Green.

The Sex Offenders Bill (UK) 1996 to set up a sex offenders registry. As originally written gay and bisexual men would have been included for consensual sex when heterosexual men with the same age disparity would not. Campaigners in London had succeeded in getting this section removed from the English part of the bill. It was noticed only just in time that the same removal from the Scottish section had not happened. This required LGBT activists to quickly learn how to lobby.


Sandra MacRae  disappeared and it transpired that £18,000 was missing from her law practice. After seven weeks she was arrested at King's Cross Station, London, and appeared and was arraigned in Dundee. She admitted to embezzling money from a client's account in order to pay her Dundee firm's debts. She was struck off and later sentenced to 15 months. She then made history as the first trans woman in the UK to be sent to a women's prison. She served the time in the women's wing at Craiginches Prison, Aberdeen.

The Third Scottish Pride held in Edinburgh. Trans people were fully involved this time.

Pride Scotland included a workshop on trans inclusion. Julia Gordon from Inverness attended as part of Reach Out Highland. Agreement was reached that Equality Network should be created.


Eight performance pieces at the Tramway, Glasgow, included Diane Torr’s Mr EE in Bull.

  • Jackie Kay. Trumpet. Novel about Scottish jazz musician Joss Moodywho is found on his deathbed to be female-bodied, a secret known only to his wife Milly. Trumpet wins the Authors' Club first novel award and the Guardian fiction prize.


Following a referendum, and the Scotland Act 1998, a devolved Scottish Parliament/ Pàrlamaid na h-Alba; was established in Edinburgh, and members elected.

Equality Network produced a manifesto for the new Scottish Parliament calling for legal gender recognition and gender identity non-discrimination policies.


Jackie McAuliffe, London sex worker and pianist, was featured in a panel discussion Genetically Modified Fame at the Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival. She received hundreds of letters, many from other transsexuals.

LGBT activists campaigned to repeal Clause 2A (Section 28) which prohibited discussions of gay and trans topics in schools and anywhere at local government level.  A Keep the Clause counter campaign, backed by the Daily Record (Scotland’s best-selling newspaper) and the Roman Catholic Church, put homophobic billboards all over Scotland, and Brian Souter of the Stagecoach Group (Britain’s largest privately owned public transport company) provided £1 million for a postal poll re the Clause. Fewer than a third of voters returned the poll form, although of them 87% voted to keep the Clause..

Most Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) regarded the poll as invalid, and voted that Clause 2A (Section 28) be repealed in Scotland as part of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000: only Conservative MSPs voted against repeal. It took three more years for Section 28 to be repealed for England and Wales.

The LGB activist organisation, Stonewall, opened a Scottish office. It was made clear that being LGB only was not acceptable in Scotland, and so Stonewall Scotland was LGBT inclusive from the start. This was not so of the English Stonewall for another 15 years.


Sandra MacRae appeared in court again and was sentenced to three years when another embezzlement of almost £100,000 came to light. It was taken from an elderly client before her death, and then from the estate. Shares had been sold, and the proceeds put into accounts in MacRae's name. This time she was jailed for three years.

The Convention Rights (Compliance)(Scotland) Act complies with the European Convention on Human Rights and repeals the law that had criminalised gay sex where more than two people are present. The repeal was enacted 2 years later in the rest of the UK.

Singer Song-writer Simon Ruth de Voil set up Scotland’s first trans youth group.


Jo Clifford's first play about being transgender, The Night Journey.

Diane Torr, male impersonator and coach who had grown up in Aberdeen, put on a Man for a Day workshop in Glasgow.

Sandra MacDougal had transitioned in 2000. Previously MacDougall had been with the army in Northern Ireland, and was featured in several newspapers in 2002 when her transition was not going very well, and she was suffering abuse from people in the small town in Ayrshire where she lived. Lynn Conway included Sandra in an article, still available, on transsexual regrets. See 2015.


ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) Europe conference in Glasgow is the biggest ever.

Pride Scotland went bankrupt. That year’s and subsequent prides were organised by Pride Scotia.

Diane Torr presented another Man for a Day workshop in Glasgow


Helen Savage, vicar and wine expert, from Northumberland, completed transition as a patient at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

Claudia, who had surgery in 1986, was now expressing regrets. She was featured with a full-page photograph in David Batty’s article on detransition. “Mistaken identity”. The Guardian, 31 July 2004.

Gender Recognition Act (UK) was passed, Birth registration is a devolved matter, so Scotland could have chosen to pass its own gender recognition legislation. However the then Scottish government, a Labour-Lib Dem coalition preferred to accept the UK legislation. Input was taken from Scottish civil servants and from The Equality Network. The latter called for a non-medicalised self-declaration, but this was rejected.

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