Hate crimes committed against trans people in Scotland are rising faster than any other type of hate crime, according to new government statistics published earlier this week.
Last Tuesday, the seat of the Scottish government, Holyrood, revealed that the number of hate crimes reported against trans people increased by 68 percent from 2020–2021 to 2021–2022. This latest data fits into a larger trend that shows that transphobic hate crimes have increased more than threefold over the last seven years. Reported hate crimes against minority sexual orientations have also increased during the same period, from 1,110 in 2014–2015 to 1,855 in 2021–2022. In both cases, the likely number of actual hate crimes is much higher, as the data does not account for hate crimes that were not reported to the authorities.
According to the data, 27 percent of transphobic hate crimes were committed online, 28 percent were carried out in public and 23 percent happened on private property. In 89 percent of transphobic hate crimes, the perpetrator was shown to have “prejudice toward those from the transgender community,” as demonstrated by “words used, actions taken or perceptions of the victim.”
“We should all be angry about the appalling increase in transphobic incidents in Scotland,” Green Party equalities spokesperson Maggie Chapman told Herald Scotland. “This awful rise must also not be viewed out of context. It has been fuelled by a cynical campaign of vicious lies and smears spread about our trans siblings. Much of it has been whipped up and encouraged by powerful voices, such as those with significant public platforms and those in the U.K. government who want to distract from their own failings.”
Chapman is referring to British prime minister Rishi Sunak’s recent decision to block legislation passed in Scotland that would introduce a self-identification system for Scots who wish to change their gender on legal documents. Scottish secretary of state Alister Jack announced on Jan. 17 that he would use section 35 of the Scotland Act 1998 for the first time to halt the gender recognition bill out of concern it “would have an adverse impact on the operation of Great Britain-wide equalities legislation.”
First tabled in 2016 by the Scottish National Party (SNP), the Gender Recognition Reform bill was passed in Holyrood at the end of last December with backing from all parties except the Conservatives.
Under the new legislation, trans people no longer need to pass a psychological examination and diagnosis for gender dysphoria before obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC) to have their gender legally recognized. For the first time, 16- and 17-year-olds who wish to undergo the process would also be eligible. The new system would also reduce the time a person must be living according to their gender identity before they can apply for the GRC from two years to three months (six months for 16- and 17-year-olds)—with a three-month reflection period during which they can change their minds.
In the U.K., GRC is used to legally change a person’s sex on their birth certificate to reflect their true gender identity. It can be used to reflect their true gender identity on legal documents such as those related to marriage, taxes, pensions and death.
In an interview with the Herald Scotland, Scottish Conservatives equalities spokesperson Rachael Hamilton dismissed Chapman’s claims about the connection between the rise in transphobic hate crimes and the block of the Gender Recognition Reform bill. “No one should ever be targeted or attacked for their gender identity, and this rise in hate crimes against transgender people is appalling,” said Hamilton. “However the idea that this has been ‘whipped up’ by the U.K. government is malicious, unfounded and untrue. While the debate about the SNP’s gender recognition reforms has evoked strong feelings on both sides, the U.K. government and the Scottish Conservatives have used sensitive and respectful language throughout.”
Chapman believes that some of the groups opposing reform “have focused on painting trans people as dangerous,” an attitude that is reminiscent of “the scare-mongering in previous decades about how gay and lesbian people were a threat to children and society.”
Colin Macfarlane, director of Stonewall Scotland, told the Herald that while there have been no negative impacts” and “no diminution of rights for women and girls” in other regions of the world with gender recognition, he believe the current discourse has “unfortunately, been a whipping up of moral panic, and othering of trans people in the public discourse.” His points are supported by the Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC), which has concluded that gender recognition proposals will not impact women’s rights.
Overall, the number of transphobic hate crimes in Scotland has doubled between 2014 and 2020. Social Justice cabinet secretary Shona Robison has also provided data that show the increased violence in recent years of LGBTQ+ hate crimes.
“We hope that politicians, journalists and social media users who have spent the last several years stoking fear of trans people and the rest of the LGBTQ+ community reflect on the real-world casualties of their culture war,” said Out for Independence, the official LGBTQ+ wing of the SNP in a Twitter statement.