In the 2014 referendum campaign for Scottish independence, I was a proud Yes supporter. I wore the badge with pride, attended rallies, and felt part of something important: we had the opportunity to make a better, more tolerant, more inclusive country.
In 2019 I wouldn’t attend an independence rally because I’d be scared for my safety.
In recent years trans people have become the bogeymen among significant parts of the independence movement, especially online; this week’s news that a member of the SNP complaints committee has resigned over antisemitism has been blamed on a trans conspiracy, even though vocal and vicious transphobia has thus far resulted in zero consequences for any of the people engaging in it. Outright transphobia has become mainstream, with even senior politicians embracing and signal boosting antisemitic trolls simply because they really, really hate trans women.
The New Statesman, hardly the most pro-trans publication, has noticed too.
In a turbulent social media microclimate that includes prominent MPs, MSPs and activists from across Scotland’s political parties, allegations and instances of transphobia and homophobia are being met by those of misogyny and abuse. Offline, the controversy has focused on provocative public meetings to discuss “concerns” about the reforms, opposed by demonstrations from LGBTQ+ activists. The issue has provoked conflict within the SNP that has spilled out into the wider nationalist movement, and also taps into socially conservative elements of wider Scottish society. The dispute has been enough to prompt a modest climbdown by the SNP leadership, which has delayed the proposed changes.
…The various elements of Scottish nationalism that the SNP has tried to push to the fringes – such as socialists and a populist hostility to “minority” issues like trans rights – are coalescing around a new style of nationalist activism that feels, from the demonstrations I’ve attended, more like a kind of ecumenical religious revivalism than serious movement politics.
I’m saddened by this, and scared.
Update: 24 hours later, here’s the editor of the Scottish edition of The Times with an exclusive. According to the so-called paper of record:
LGBT activists in the SNP are allegedly digging up dirt on members who oppose self-identification for trans people in a campaign to “purge” them from the party.
Allegedly, of course, means that the claim can’t be substantiated. But facts don’t matter. The Times gets another bullet to fire in its war on trans people.
This, incidentally, demonstrates the problem with press regulation in the UK. You can’t complain about any of this because the regulatory code only covers claims made about named individuals. Provided the Murdoch press doesn’t lie about specific people, it can print complete fabrications about – and incite hatred of – entire groups of people with impunity. And it does, every week.