A sound of Rowling thunder

Scotland’s government and police seem determined to turn themselves into a laughing stock


This article is taken from the May 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

“Do not ask for credit, as refusal often offends.” This sign was common in my childhood, when many shopkeepers hung it behind the till in the hope of heading off unreasonable requests before they caused unnecessary conflict. It’s a principle that would have stood Scotland’s government in good stead when designing its new hate crime law, which passed in 2021 but came into force on 1 April this year.

Fittingly, given the date, much of the advance commentary focused on the seeming determination of Scotland’s government and police to turn themselves into a laughing stock. An asinine “hate hurts” public information campaign was fronted by a fuzzy, bright red muppet-like “hate monster”. Amongst the hundreds of third-party reporting centres, where people could stop by to dob in their neighbours, were a mushroom farm and a sex shop.

Speaking from a soft play centre, the first minister, Humza Yousaf, promised police would deal harshly with “vexatious complaints”. How is that supposed to work when complaints can be anonymous?

The new law’s less comedic aspects include the vast amount of time that will be wasted on trivial complaints, the secret recording of allegedly hateful people’s names on the say-so of complainants, and the opportunity for bully-boy activists to co-opt poorly trained police officers as their personal enforcers.

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First the overstretch. A wider definition of hatefulness, and all the publicity, will mean much more reporting: 3,000 reports in the first two days alone. That will mean many more “non-crime hate incidents” — complaints that do not meet the threshold for investigation. Records may include the name of the alleged perpetrator, who will not necessarily be notified.

This is not a hypothetical risk. Murdo Fraser, a Tory MSP, is currently taking legal action to get his name removed from one such record, which he found out about only because it was mentioned in a separate complaint to Holyrood’s ethical watchdog. His “non-crime”? He tweeted that identifying as non-binary was no more valid than identifying as a cat.

Trans ideologues have convinced the criminal justice system to see things their way

The new law defines the crime of “stirring up” hatred concerning transgender identities as encompassing speech that is merely “abusive” rather than “threatening”. If that doesn’t terrify you, it should.

Over the past decade trans ideologues have convinced the entire criminal justice system to see things their way. Most forces now record criminals as whichever sex they “identify as”, meaning a sharp rise in rapes and sexual assaults supposedly committed by women. The Equal Treatment Bench Book, a guide written by judges for judges, says everyone in court should be referred to using their “preferred pronouns”.

Many police officers and judges now think that “misgendering” — referring to someone’s sex when they don’t want you to — is akin to calling a black person the n-word. To take one example, in 2018 three drunk transwomen (men who identify as women) drop-kicked and stamped on a teenager in a tube station.

This was a vicious attack that left the victim hospitalised — and yet in 2020 the perpetrators walked free from court after the judge blamed the victim, saying that the 19-year-old wouldn’t have been attacked if he hadn’t used “offensive, transphobic and abusive” language. What had he said that was so heinous? That these men weren’t women because “you need a fanny to be a woman”.

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Legal commentators are infuriatingly prone to brush away all criticisms of a law, short of it being likely to lead to unjust convictions. They seem blind to the misery of investigations that do not lead to charges and trials that do not result in guilty verdicts. Yet these are very real risks of a law that the trans lobby praised in the expectation that it would force everyone to use activist language.

If you are reported for “abusive” words about a trans-identified person, the police can ask you to come into a station for a “voluntary” interview — voluntary in name only. If you refuse, you risk arrest. They can seize your phone and computer to search for evidence that those words were part of a pattern of behaviour. As criminologists like to say, “the process is the punishment”.

Small wonder, then, that campaigners for women’s rights fear the criminal justice system being weaponised against them. Those rights rely on being able to exclude men from women’s spaces on the grounds that they are not women.

Already the criminal justice system comes close to excusing a three-on-one head-stomping because the victim accurately identified the assailants’ sex. The new law further elevates transgender identity claims above all other considerations.

When it was passed, its many flaws were pointed out by critics and ignored by Scotland’s government. Nicola Sturgeon was in her pomp, and the trans lobby was cruising from victory to victory. Three years later, opponents are more numerous, organised and determined — and they have a champion.

J.K. Rowling exposed the folly of Scotland’s hate crime law with a series of tweets

On its first day in force, Scotland’s canniest political operator, J.K. Rowling, dealt the law a devastating blow with a thread about ten transwomen. Some are rapists and paedophiles; all transgress women’s rights in one way or another. First, she described them as ladies, lovely lasses, wonderful role models and the like, and then came the punchline: “Obviously, the people mentioned in the above tweets aren’t women at all, but men, every last one of them.”

Police Scotland quickly confirmed that it had received numerous reports about her tweets but would be neither investigating them nor recording a non-crime hate incident. But what of truth-telling women without her fame and fortune? “If they go after any woman for simply calling a man a man,” Rowling then tweeted, “I’ll repeat that woman’s words and they can charge us both at once.”

It now looks likely that, in a pleasing example of the law of unintended consequences, the main effect of the new law will be a lot more misgendering. Women who have plucked up the courage to speak as an act of civic resistance will be joined by many more who no longer see the need to twist their language or stay silent.

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I’d drafted my own provocation before Rowling did it better. I no longer fear that saying it is genuinely risky, but I’m angry enough about the outrageous entitlement of those trying to remake everyone’s language to match their delusions that I’m determined to do so anyway:

  • Being a man or woman is a matter of biology, not identity. The share of women who don’t have penises is 100 per cent, not 99.9 per cent, as Keir Starmer has claimed.
  • No man can be a woman, not even if he wears a dress, wig and makeup, changes his name, says his pronouns are “she/her”, gets a gender-recognition certificate or gets castrated.
  • Calling “transwomen” men isn’t hateful. It’s ordinary speech and essential to delineate women’s boundaries.
  • No men, and that includes “trans women”, should be allowed into women’s spaces or sports, or be hired to do a job that was lawfully advertised as for women only.
  • “Transwomen” who enter female-only spaces are abusing women.
  • A “transwoman” who carries out an intimate search or medical procedure under the pretence that he is a woman should be prosecuted for sexual assault.
  • Sexuality is a matter of objective sex, not subjective gender identity. A “transwoman” who is sexually interested in women is a straight man, not a lesbian.
  • Telling children they can change sex, and that their feelings define their identities, is a lie that encourages mental unwellness.
  • Rising trans identification amongst teenage girls is a social contagion spread by indoctrination in schools and on social media.
  • Children should never be prescribed puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones. Parents should no more be allowed to consent to these life-changing drugs on their behalf than to consent to a daughter undergoing female genital mutilation.

If you’re a man who identifies as a woman and you find these statements “abusive”, the solution is in your hands. Don’t put yourself in situations where women’s rights depend on stating your sex, and don’t dictate our language. Do not demand compliance, as refusal often offends.

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