Culture Wars: Gender Recognition Reform Bill and Hate Crime

It’s election time in Scotland and one aspect of recent elections from the populist parties such as the Johnson Tory party is to use emotive social media to create Fear Unnerving and Doubt (FUD) around cultural issues. I took a quick look at the two main ones which people bring up, knowing that I write from a position of privilage as a white straight middle aged well off landed voter.

The Hate Crime and Public Order bill was recently passed by parliament and supported by all the non-Tory parties.

This creates the idea of aggravated offences where if you’ve broken the law it’s even more broken if you do it based on the victim’s membership of a group:

And it create a new offence for threatening or abusing someone or communication threatening of abusive material to someone to stir up hatred against a group.

All of this seems very sensible, it doesn’t crimialise people for making flippant remarks, doesn’t criminalise anything except what a reasonable person would consider to be abusive, the next parts of the legislation set a high standard of proof, and it’s followed by a load of defenses around human rights and of freedom of speech and religion.

In normal leadership the Tories would want to be seen as the party of law and order and fully support this, but under Johnson they just want to support threatening and abusive behaviour.

The other issue is the Gender Recognition Reform proposed bill which never did make it through parliament, but may come back in the next session. I’ve never seen anyone explain this properly, not even SNP ministers, but it’s all set out in the government notes.

It de-medicalises legal gender recognition for transgender people. This is the same as being gay has been de-medicalised for many years, being gay isn’t a psychological problem that should be dealt with by doctors and it was degrading back when it was treated as such. The current law is degrading by forcing transgender people to be medicalised when there’s no need and should be tidied up.

But nothing in the proposed law affects equal rights, nor could it. Those are governed by the Equalities Act 2010 and reserved to the UK government. Single sex services such as toilets or refuges against domestic abuse can exclude trans people as needed in line with a risk assessment. This has worked well for over a decade and it’s very puzzling that the SNP leadership don’t just point that out.

Instead we have an essay by Joanna Cherry ( which starts with unrelated lies: “Lesbians are same-sex attracted. We are attracted to women’s bodies not to male bodies. To say we must be attracted to male bodies is homophobic” nobody has ever suggested this but this is writing which is clearly designed to put fear into people worried about the unrelated issue of Gender Recognition.

There’s also an article by Joanne Rowling ( where she similarly wrongly conflates gender recognition with the unrelated, reserved and decade old Equalities Act “When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.” This is a lie, as the Equalities Act doesn’t require surgery or hormones for transgender inclusion. Rather the Equalities Act has a much wider definition of transgender protection which doesn’t involve the Recognition which the SNP are proposing to de-medicalise:

“ A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person's sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex.” Equalities Act 2010.

It’s easy to blame this on social media, it is perfectly made for incomplete arguments to be thrown around and raise emotions rather than truth, but I guess it was no better back in the section 28/clause 2a days when equally the media seemed incapable of reporting normally on the topic and politicians were scared to defend it properly. It’s creating quite the toxic politics, I had to remove a trans-phobic sticker from a lamp post recently. There are real issues around that need dealt with in this election: why is England the worst country in the world for Covid deaths, with Scotland not far behind? why is the UK government taking away freedoms and breaking international agreements? would a goods border with England be worth the gains of independence?

In summary: Hate Crime Bill limits abusive behaviour but only when unreasonable and does not affect free speech or religion. Gender Recognition Reform de-medicalises being trans gender but does not affect Equalities legislation which is reserved to Westminster and a decade old.