IT didn’t take long for Lisa Mackenzie to become aware that raising concerns about self-ID and Gender Recognition Reform from a women’s perspective came at a cost. In 2019, along with Dr Lucy Hunter Blackburn and Dr Kath Murray (her colleagues in the feminist think-tank mbm) she’d co-authored an article for Scottish Affairs detailing what they regarded as poor processes within the Census Bill and Scottish Prisons policy.

Mackenzie was then working on policy for the Royal College of Nursing. “We submitted what we thought was quite a dry, policy-focused paper around the census and about what it might portend for other areas of Scotland’s civic infrastructure,” she said.

“It was accepted; distributed for peer review and received positively. And then we received an email saying that there was a problem.”

READ MORE: Gender recognition reform: How MBM fought Scottish Government's plan

It transpired that a junior staffer at the publisher – Edinburgh University press – had complained that this sort of material shouldn’t be in print.

“This person said it was homophobic, Islamaphobic, anti-Semitic: you name it. We felt quite sick at seeing these descriptions. We were absolutely horrified to see this written down about our work.”

Dr Murray adds: “It was about policy capture and how the Scottish Prisons Service and census authorities had only consulted one side of this debate. We documented it meticulously with the use of FOIs. Thankfully, the editor responded robustly."

As a courtesy and in the interests of transparency, Mackenzie mentioned her co-authorship of the article to her employers at the RCN. Not long afterwards she was summoned by her manager and told she was being investigated for breach of contract and failure to follow conflict of interest policy.

“My manager couldn’t tell me what was wrong about my work with mbm but I was still told ‘you have to reflect on your values and whether or not they’re compatible with those of the RCN’. I felt sick as I’d always upheld the RCN’s values and those of all the protected groups.

“My problem was that in policy-making the rights of one group were being elevated above another’s. I realised I could no longer work there.”

Murray, Blackburn and Mackenzie have also become alarmed at the extent to which they believe Police Scotland has embraced trans activism. Dr Murray said: “This is an organisation, remember, which on a daily basis deals with the reality of male violence against women.”

The Herald: Lisa Mackenzie, Lucy Hunter Blackburn and Kath MurrayLisa Mackenzie, Lucy Hunter Blackburn and Kath Murray (Image: free)

They’ve called on Police Scotland to record the sex of rapists accurately and will be appearing before a Holyrood committee tomorrow to discuss this.

“When the new gender guidance emerged, Police Scotland were asked about their position and simply replied that it had ‘evolved’. They said it was future-proofing for reform of the Gender Recognition Act. Then they effectively said it was in line with their values to tell male offenders like Isla Bryson [who was convicted of two rapes] and Andrew Miller [who plead guilty to child abduction and sexual assault while dressed as a woman] that they can get to choose what sex they want to be recorded as.”

They cite the case of Nicola Murray, who had taken to social media to relate how two police officers had arrived at her door in connection with something she had tweeted. “They said this was an instance of a ‘non-hate crime incident’ which nonetheless had to be recorded,” said Dr Murray.

“So, after it had already appeared in the press, we wrote an article expressing concerns. What were the police doing here; why is this person’s details being recorded? And what are the implications in the Hate Crime legislation coming down the line?

“Then we get an email from Police Scotland saying that this isn’t what had happened. We were asked to take down our entire blog. We refused and asked them to tell us what, in their opinion, had happened. They refused to answer whether an incident had been recorded. We were left with a he-said; she-said situation"

They all seem bound by a profound concern for social justice and enabling marginalised groups to access it. Lucy Hunter Blackburn puts it like this: “I’m an anodyne, centre-left, equality and social justice nice-lady.”

READ MORE: All of us have a duty to calm down on the trans debate

They’re in no doubt that what’s really driving the political classes’ advocacy for gender theory and their attempts to marginalise and silence women like them is because in terms of cost it’s the path of least resistance.

“If they really cared about children who are distressed about their bodies for whatever reason,” said Dr Hunter Blackburn, “then they should inject money into CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services). In Scotland there is a massive cohort of children not getting access to the support they need.

“But the nice shiny thing they think they can do for them is this cheap alternative: ‘we can validate your identity rather than doing the hard work of caring for you and helping you through this really difficult time in your life’. Self-ID is just a cheap policy solution.”

Instead, they say, any cost there’s been has been borne by women, especially women from economically marginalised communities. “The costs are hidden,” says Lisa Mackenzie. “They’re the women who no longer go to that swimming session or who discharge themselves early from hospital.

“They’re the women who decide not to consult with domestic violence services because they can’t get a guarantee that it will be women-led. Class really matters here. Middle-class women can buy their way out of their concerns.

“Economically marginalised women are largely voiceless as they’re often unable to access the means of fighting back.”

They all share concerns about those who use gender activism as a shelter for implacable misogyny. “It’s in the number of times I and other women get lectured by a man about having the wrong feminism,” says Lisa Mackenzie. “That’s misogyny: that I as a man know better than you as a woman what you are. It’s an attempt to invalidate me.

“It’s about dividing generations of women by preventing one group – older women – passing on their knowledge to younger women. It’s an attempt to break this bond between women across several generations. It’s pernicious.”

They feel too that some bad actors see self-ID as an opportunity to gain access to young women through name changes and other means.

“The way to think about child abusers,” says Dr Hunter Blackburn, “is to think about a roof and water. If there’s a single chink in your roof the water will get through. You see it in youth organisations; in sports coaching; in the church.”

As ever, when there’s suspicious activity around young people it’s often middle-aged women who call it out when they see it and just as often are ignored.

A police spokesperson said: "The sex/gender identification of individuals who come into contact with the police will be based on how they present or how they self-declare, which is consistent with the values of the organisation. 

"Police Scotland requires no evidence or certification as proof of biological sex or gender identity other than a person's self-declaration, unless it is pertinent to any investigation with which they are linked as a victim, witness or accused and it is evidentially critical that we legally require this proof, or there is reason for further enquiry based on risk. We would look for the most sensitive way to acquire this information."