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JK Rowling could be probed by police for misgendering trans people, minister says



JK Rowling could be investigated by police for misgendering trans people under Scotland’s new hate crime law, an SNP minister has said.

The party’s community safety minister, Siobhian Brown, had previously claimed that misgendering – for example, using the pronoun “he” when talking about a trans woman – would not count as a hate crime, but she has now said it would be a police decision.

Speaking as the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into force on Monday 1 April, Ms Brown told Radio 4’s Today programme: “It could be reported and it could be investigated. Whether or not the police would think it was criminal is up to Police Scotland for that.”

The legislation was passed in 2021, while Humza Yousaf was serving as justice secretary in Nicola Sturgeon’s government. It is only now being implemented after Police Scotland spent time training its officers.

The new law covers hatred on the basis of age, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

Women were not listed as a protected group in the legislation, in a move that has been described as “astonishing” by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

On this point, Ms Brown admitted that “more work needs to be done” and said a misogyny bill would be introduced.

But the legislation has raised concerns that the definition of a hate crime is too ambiguous, and could threaten free speech, with prominent critics including Rowling, podcaster Joe Rogan and Elon Musk, the owner of X.

JK Rowling has been criticised for misgendering transgender people (AFP via Getty)

Harry Potter author Rowling has frequently argued online that trans women are not women and last week vowed to continue “calling a man a man” despite what she called the “ludicrous law”. She said she would not delete social media posts that could breach hate crime laws.

In response to the new law coming into force on Monday, Rowling posted a series of tweets about trans women who are convicted paedophiles and rapists, writing: “The new legislation is wide open to abuse by activists who wish to silence those of us speaking out about the dangers of eliminating women’s and girls’ single-sex spaces, the nonsense made of crime data if violent and sexual assaults committed by men are recorded as female crimes, the grotesque unfairness of allowing males to compete in female sports, the injustice of women’s jobs, honours and opportunities being taken by trans-identified men, and the reality and immutability of biological sex…

“The re-definition of ‘woman’ to include every man who declares himself one has already had serious consequences for women’s and girls’ rights and safety in Scotland, with the strongest impact felt, as ever, by the most vulnerable, including female prisoners and rape survivors.”

The writer, who lives in Edinburgh, added: “I’m currently out of the country, but if what I’ve written here qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment… #ArrestMe.”

Rowling has long been a fierce critic of the Scottish Government’s gender reform plans, arguing the proposals infringe on women’s safety.

She has previously stated that she would rather go to jail than refer to a trans person by their preferred pronouns.

Her latest public row was with trans activist India Willoughby, whom she deliberately misgendered.

“India didn’t become a woman,” she wrote on X. “India is cosplaying a misogynistic male fantasy of what a woman is.”

Willoughby responded to Rowling’s comments, writing: “Genuinely disgusted by this. Grotesque transphobia, which is upsetting. I am every bit as much a woman as JK Rowling. Recognised in law, and by everyone I interact with every day. The debate about whether JK Rowling is a transphobe is over.”

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