A mum who “self-identified” herself as a man to gain access to a male dormitory at a Highland hostel fears women are being placed in danger if predatory men were able to reverse the role.
Trish Budge, 47, carried out the “experiment” in light of a Scottish Government review of the Gender Recognition Act and legislation on “self-declaration of sex”.
The married mum-of-one from Wick said she inquired with Hostelling Scotland regarding their position over gender and they confirmed in an email: “Regardless of transgendered status, we will book an accommodation based on how our guests choose to be recognised.”
Bosses at Hostelling Scotland, who run the venue, say it was an “isolated” incident – but admitted they have reviewed their procedures since it happened in April.
But Mrs Budge voiced her concerns, saying: “This means that any male guest can choose to be recognised as a female, and be allocated a bed in a female dorm. Similarly, female guests may choose to be in a male dorm.
“In order to test how this policy would actually work in practice I decided to self-declare myself to be a man and set out to see if Inverness Hostel would recognise me as such and permit me to sleep in a male dorm.”
After registering she arrived and spoke to the receptionist who, upon realising she was a woman, invited to move her to a female dorm.
But Mrs Budge told her she “self-identified as male” and was given a keycard to an all-male dorm.
She said: “It was very strange. I am obviously a woman, the receptionist knew I was a woman, everyone in the queue behind me knew I was a woman.
“Yet no-one would state the obvious because I uttered the words ‘self-identify’.
“The implications of this are enormous. If the situation is the same for men who choose to be recognised as women, Hostelling Scotland’s policy gives any male, for the price of £22, easy access to sleeping women and numerous others showering.”
Mrs Budge accepts some people are happy to sleep in mixed accommodation at hostels, but many are not and would prefer a same-sex dorm.
She said: “Women, quite reasonably, think they are undressing, showering and sleeping in a completely female environment with no expectation that a male-bodied room-mate may walk through the door at any minute, or appear in the neighbouring bed late at night. Privacy, dignity and safety concerns have been brushed aside.”
A spokesman for Hostelling Scotland said: “We have looked into this isolated incident at Inverness Hostel where a female guest had pre-booked and sought access to male shared accommodation. This issue has never arisen before.
“We have reviewed our procedures and have made all of our teams aware of the appropriate approach to gender presentation issues. Our number one priority remains the safety and comfort of everyone.”
Gender Recognition Act 2004
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows people to apply to the Gender Recognition Panel to obtain legal recognition of their acquired gender.
At the time of the acts introduction it was considered to be a piece of ground-breaking legislation, however, the Scottish Government now feels the act requires a reforming process to simplify the process of acquiring a different gender.
The cabinet secretary of communities, social security and equalities, Angela Constance, believes the requirements laid down in the act are “too intrusive and onerous.”
Under reforms suggested by the Scottish Government, the requirements for applicants applying to change their gender would change, with the need to provide medical evidence and lived in their acquired gender for a period of two years abolished.
A statutory declaration to assure full understanding of the implications of a person’s application would remain, as would the intention to live in their acquired gender for the rest of their lives.
Gender recognition is a devolved matter; however, the Gender Recognition Act 2004 extends across the whole of the UK. The Scottish Government has committed to working with the UK Government to ensure, should reformation of the act take place, mutual acceptance of Gender Recognition Certificates would remain across the UK.