Depending on how it is said, saying that trans women are not women could soon be breaking the law in Scotland – that’s according to Scotland’s Justice Secretary. Proponents of freedom of speech fear that trans activists could use the law as a weapon against their enemies.
Humza Yousaf, the Justice Secretary said that saying gender is fixed is not hate speech against trans individuals unless the intention was to “stir up hatred.” His remarks follow criticism from public figures such as Rowan Atkinson and Chris Brookmyre, who felt that the hate crime bill would have a “chilling effect” on the public debate of controversial social issues.
“When people start throwing around accusations of hate, especially when those people are perceived to have an authority, we think there will be a chilling effect,” said Susan Smith, the director of For Women Scotland, an organization that opposes affording full women’s rights to trans individuals who identify as women. “The stirring up part of this bill has the potential to make life very much harder for a number of people by using this law as a weapon.”
Last week, the women’s rights advocacy group Murray Blackburn McKenzie expressed its concern that defining a woman as an adult female would lead to an investigation by the police. Yesterday, the justice secretary clarified that it would only be an offense if the intention were to incite hatred.
“Expressing an opinion that ‘a trans woman is not a woman’ in itself is not going to lead to a prosecution under this legislation,” Yousaf said.
“It may well be offensive to some, it may be controversial to others, it may be absolutely the mainstream view for many others, but simply expressing the opinion is not in itself criminal.
“If the behavior that accompanies that expression is proven beyond reasonable doubt that it was intended to stir up hatred and was also threatening or abusive, then of course you may well face some criminal sanction.”
Free speech advocates felt that the law would be used by trans activists “as a weapon” against activists with opposite views. However, the Scottish Trans Alliance (STA) denies such allegations calling the claims “absurd.”
The STA also said that free speech proponents were trying to undermine a law supposed to protect minorities from “transphobes, homophobes, and racists.” Hunter Blackburn of Murray Blackburn McKenzie countered by pointing out that the STA was already misusing the law as they asked the police to investigate “Woman. Noun. Adult human female,” stickers plastered around Edinburgh University.