Careless talk costs lives

The increasingly hateful rhetoric around trans people is going to get more people hurt, or worse.

In Georgia, USA, a school district had to temporarily suspend its trans-inclusive toilet policy “as students and employees are facing extreme hate and death threats.”

Of course, it couldn’t happen here, could it?

It already does. The teacher at the centre of the anti-education protests in England has received death threats; threats of violence are common against LGBT+ people and their supporters online. I posted the latest England and Wales hate crime figures a few days ago; in the days following, my news feed has been full of local press stories detailing even higher increases in specific parts of the country. For example, the 25% national increase in hate crimes against LGBT+ people was bad enough, but in North East England the figure is up by nearly 60%.

One of the reasons for the increasingly hateful climate is that people are now being told that LGBT+ rights, and trans rights specifically, are part of a war. That means it’s okay to make death threats to children: they’re enemy combatants.

As ever, this framing began as Christian Right messaging and it’s since been adopted by anti-trans activists and bigoted trolls. The long-standing Twitter hashtag #waronwomen, used to tag issues such as right-wingers trying to remove women’s rights, has been hijacked by right-wingers trying to roll back LGBT+ rights – rights that of course include rights for cisgender women as well as trans women.

Framing a minority as the enemy in a war is deliberate and dangerous. In a war, there are no shades of grey. The enemy must be destroyed. No quarter shall be given.

This kind of language has been poisoning social media for some time now. For example, yesterday the SNP’s new women’s convener, Rhiannon Spear, was warned by multiple social media posters that she was now “the enemy” in the so-called war on women.

Poster 1: You are the enemy now of the very people you dare to claim to protect. The enemy. And should be treated as such.

Poster 2: I agree entirely. Rhiannon Spear is an enemy to women.

Poster 3: #handmaidrhiannon #enemyofwomen #waronwomen

Spear, a young pregnant woman, has been on the receiving end of this stuff for months now.

There’s lots of this online, and of course it never gets reported because it doesn’t fit the narrative of sinister trans people silencing debate.

Any woman who dares to say she isn’t against basic dignity for trans people is hounded and often abused by people using increasingly violent rhetoric. And the social networks, our press and even some senior politicians are turning a blind eye to it.