Some people seem to want to be arrested for hate crimes without actually committing them.

The news that a prominent writer was devoting Easter Monday to saying things on X, formerly twitter, in the hope that she might get arrested for hate crimes says significantly more about her than it does about the new hate crimes legislation.

Indeed, it seems to indicate that there is a willingness on the part of anti-trans campaigners to use absolutely anything to get more publicity. Their voices have been heard very loudly. What has been less apparent in this debate are the voices of those who have actually been victims of hate crimes.

I happen to be one of them. In 2019, someone was convicted of threatening and abusive behaviour against me and that crime was regarded as having been aggravated by sexual orientation and transgender prejudice. Yes, that’s right, I’m an actual victim of transgender hate crime even though I don’t happen to have a transgender identity myself.

What that relatively short episode in my life did for me was open my eyes to the kind of prejudice that is being thrown at trans people constantly, every day, every week, every year.

The Herald: Kelvin Holdsworth headshotKelvin Holdsworth headshot (Image: free)

That prejudice uses the same language as the prejudice that I remember when I was a young gay adult 30 years ago.

Hatred against those who are perceived of as hateworthy is usually expressed by individuals but that hatred rarely appears from nowhere. It is part of a culture. It emanates from deeply unpleasant social and political movements. And it suits the needs of those who wish to stoke divisions in society to amplify the fears of those who might otherwise be untroubled.

The debate about trans rights is but the latest example of that. All this seems suddenly urgent as though trans people have been granted outrageous new freedoms that impact the lives of others to their detriment. In fact, trans people have been protected against discrimination since the Equality Act was passed in 2010.

The political hullabaloo over Gender Recognition Certificates is a recent construct. Those arguing that the Scottish Government has suddenly begun extending the rights of trans people to the detriment of women have some explaining to do. If trans people have had the right to be treated without discrimination within the gender definition of their choice since 2010, why the fuss now? You didn’t need surgery to gain those rights or have any medical treatment. The law has, quite rightly been protecting people from anti-trans prejudice for quite some time.

So what changed this week? Well, the law has changed to offer extend protections against “stirring up hatred” to protected characteristics other than race. (Protection against stirring up racial hatred in Scotland has been in place for some time.) Those protesting against these laws seem to be demanding that Scotland should retain their right to stir up hatred against others. Similar laws are already in place in other parts of the UK and that makes it particularly difficult to think why Scotland should be the refuge of those who wish to promote hate. It seems to me that Scotland shouldn’t treat their voices as respectable either.

The Scottish Parliament passed this new legislation by a significant majority with support from a number of parties. It has my support too.

As a victim of hate crimes in the past, do I think that this is all that needs done? Actually it isn’t. The victims of all crimes need a better resourced and less chaotic Procurator Fiscal service than is currently the case. Court processes are not designed to be kind but endlessly delayed cases can make them feel deeply unfair.

A very small number of people may end up being accused and convicted of stirring up hatred by these new laws than might have been the case without them. Those convictions will be a welcome signal of a progressive nation prepared to protect the vulnerable.

Prominent figures mis-gendering trans people are unlikely to be committing a crime by doing so. So if literary twitterers are not going to be regarded as criminals under the new hate crimes legislation, what are they going to be regarded as?

The answer is straightforward. They are demonstrating that they are simply rude.

Discourtesy isn’t criminal. It is, however a window into the soul. The deep sadness and bitterness of those most active in disparaging trans individuals is plain to see. They should not be arrested and should not be prosecuted, even when they seem desperate to become twitter martyrs.

They should merely be pitied.

The Very Rev Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral, Glasgow