Patrick Harvie: Homophobic abuse signals how low Scotland has sunk

Shouldn’t they bow? Didn’t they want that? Wasn’t that the inevitable consequence?

You may not have heard of the incident. Ironically, to say it’s underreported would be an understatement. You don’t have to be a statistician to know that there is an avalanche of reports in the media of attacks against trans people, who make up 0.5% of the population, and are being disseminated by politicians and prominent public figures. Politicians – particularly in Scotland – have relentlessly fomented fear, hatred and division.

Harvie is closely associated with the campaign to expand transgender equality. However, there is an almost deafening silence from the usual suspects when it comes to the abuse he has endured.

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There was rightful outrage when a BBC reporter was publicly abused by nationalists; There was justifiable outrage when SNP politicians appeared at a rally carrying a sign that read ‘Behead Terfs’. [trans exclusionary radical feminists] was displayed.

Where’s the outrage at Harvie?

Words like “groomer” — a direct import from America’s culture wars — are used casually today. It’s a word Graham Linehan used. When actor David Tennant wore a T-shirt that read, “Leave trans kids alone you absolute freaks,” Linehan called him an “abusive groomer.” Linehan has said, “Almost every central transgender figure is a nonce.” He claims the transgender flag contains “pedophile colors.”

There have been comments in the media relating to ‘grooming’ by the Scottish Government in relation to sex education in schools.

SNP MP Kate Forbes recently said Linehan had a “difficult time” at the Edinburgh Festival. Harvie responded that Forbes should “reconsider” her comments.

As we know, the SNP is divided on the issue of trans rights. His feud has only fueled the nefarious culture war over transgender people. The SNP’s John Nicolson recently described the party group in Westminster as “very LGBT”, but added a reference to nationalist MP Joanna Cherry, or “in Joanna’s case, LGB without the T”.

Politicians and the media have a duty to discuss human rights – whether transgender, migrant or anyone – with intelligence and dignity. Politicians often just stoke things up. Most likely for fear of irrelevance. In the media, it seems to be the cynical clicks that really matter.

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Yes, journalism requires public figures to report their comments. But when journalists don’t consider the context—when reporters don’t explain the legislation and the political debate—the media simply pours gasoline on the fire they started.

We have walked a sad path. After Harvie was abused, he spoke of “toxic forces” that fueled “homophobia and transphobia,” adding, “Hatred against LGBTQ+ people has increased.” Today, it’s been verbal abuse while others have suffered physical violence. Those in politics and the media who orchestrated a toxic ‘culture war’ bear responsibility for the consequences of their actions.”

Earlier this month, two men were stabbed to death in a homophobic attack outside a London nightclub. One of the club’s drag performers, Mary Mac, said: “It’s shocking and disgusting that in 2023 this is happening with an alarming frequency.”

Home Office figures for the year ending March 2022 show that hate crimes linked to sexual orientation have increased by 41% in England and Wales. Hate crimes against transgender people increased by 56%.

A report by the Crown Office showed that hate crimes against transgender people in Scotland increased by 87% in 2021-22. Hate crime aggravated by sexual orientation increased by 10%.

LGBT people are clearly afraid. That’s no exaggeration. The BBC reporter who interviewed Harvie when he was abused said online it was an “uncomfortable situation that is being handled with dignity”. Green Glasgow Councilor Blair Anderson replied: “Hatred has unfortunately become an integral part of being out-queer in public life. I expect to be called a pedophile every time I tweet. I don’t leave the house without my panic alarm. Abuse is not about “if” but about “when”. Transphobic politicians have put the lives of all LGBTQ+ people at risk.”

Is this the society we want? If there is to be a debate about the rights of a tiny fraction of the population, can’t we have it with some dignity and some decency? A human is a human. Do we need to be reminded of this in the 21st century?

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Maybe we will. Maybe Britain – with Scotland at the helm – is headed for the kind of culture wars we’re seeing now in America: where hate has gone offline and is now living on the streets. Questions of identity have been so exploited by the Republican Party since Donald Trump came to power that his supporters – quite literally – say “kill them all” on television when asked about their political opponents, or speak openly of a civil war.

words matter. Once something is said, it cannot remain unsaid. people listen. Some turn away in disgust. Others suck it up. Some even act on the words they hear from politicians. Obviously, the fanatic who abused Harvie on the street doesn’t exist in a political or social vacuum.

We are now slowly approaching the UK and then the Scottish electoral cycle. Conservatives have made it clear that they will fight for the sake of the Kulturkampf – by putting immigrants and transgender people in the firing line of the electorate. There is no question that some Scottish politicians – particularly in the nationalist camp and also in the trade union ranks – will follow the same pattern.

If anyone imagines that politics and discourse will improve, think again. This is the battlefield created by a cheap political system and media. One in which hate is nothing more than a vehicle for power, money and attention.

The bitter irony is that this is not what people want. Voters want some leadership and decency. But as the public strives for betterment, the media and politicians are falling deeper into the gutter.

Grace Reader

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