Difficult issues: “special treatment” over trans hate crime

I know this is going to be controversial.

Its going to be controversial because some folk don’t much distinguish between writing ABOUT something and taking a stance on the issue. And OK: i guess i do have views on some of the issues i am planning to raise.

But equally, the point of these posts is not so much to argue one or other side as to highlight the fact that an issue exists and to look for ways of tapping a political consensus around it.

Because (whisper it low) i’m a practical sort of girl: and i am as much – more – interested in making a series of incremental gains as holding out for utopia.

The trans issue

There is a quote – i’m sure i’ve got this not quite right – allegedly attributed to Gandhi, which goes roughly like this: “First they ignore: then they mock; then they attack; and finally, we win”.

(Winning, in that sense, is more than just “getting one’s way”: it is really about reaching that point where some spin, some questions are beyond respectable expression…like slavery, or the idea that women belong in the home).

Give or take a few stages, that feels not bad as analysis of how change comes about.

For a long time, trans hovered between the first two of those categories: either studiously ignored, or simply the butt of lewd and crude humour.

Over the last decade, that’s changed. We’re in the news Far more than ever before. There’s a fair bit of crudity still around. But equally there is the beginning of realisation, in some quarters, that that humour is no longer acceptable.

So a moment of choice has been reached: and some papers are now beginning to exhibit a grudging respect – while others are taking refuge in an ever more strident trans hatefest. Oh: never explicit: but spinning, questioning, positioning so that trans folk look to be receiving special treatment.

What do we do when the haters have a point?

A major problem in this respect turns up when there is a genuine question to be asked about some claim or gain. Not every challenge to a presumed legal or political advance is motivated by outright bigotry. Indeed, where this finds an echo in the general public, it is essential that minority groups engage with the debate – and not simply dismiss it as enmity.

For that reason (and i do this with some trepidation) i want to enumerate some of the difficult issues: not to resolve them; but to spark debate within the trans community and to get some sense of whether it is possible to find common ground with critics.

Extra sentences for trans crime?

For openers, i’ll toss in the recent announcement of additional sentencing for trans hate crime.

From the local playground, where i chat often to mums and therefore get to take the temperature of one segment of society on topical issues, i can report that this does not, immediately, do the trans community much good.

There is a definite sense of special treatment and, while most mums buy into the idea that trans folk suffer appalling abuse and violence, they still don’t see why there should be different treatment in law.

The press release that sets this trail in motion states explicitly that there should be no tolerance for hate crime: and then, by implication, allows different tariffs for different sorts of hate crimes.

I have argued elsewhere that anti-discrimination laws based on specific protected characteristics are a bad idea: divisive and discriminatory, as opposed to hepful.

In this instance, there is a danger that the approach could create he very antagonism it seeks to end. Is there an alternative?

In the scheme of things, how inmportant is different sentencing for perpetrators of trans hate crimes.

Over to you.



20 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Amy said,

    My understanding of the new tougher sentances is that they are only bringing serious transphobic crimes into line with other hate crimes.

    If anything the trans community were receiving less equal treatment when it came to sentancing as just about every other group were already covered from, ethnic, religion, sexual orientation, etc but not transphobia.

    If theres a debate needed its how to tackle the increasing amounts of trans-hatred in certain elements of the media.


    • 2

      janefae said,

      Hmm. Fair enough: but sort of misses the point.

      First, i am looking at those places where we are likely to face uphill struggles or to be possibly pushing an agenda that is unpopular. Picking up on trans hatred in the news is in many ways an open goal and we will win it because it is indefensible. Special treatment, if presented as such, is harder.

      A first response to this on Facebook was Julie Bindel pointing out that she receives no special protection despite getting some quite hairy threats (which i quite believe she does). I’ll probe that, but, when i talk of wide-ranging protection in respect of hate crime, i mean ALL crime that is motivated by some perceived (group)characteristic.

      Which could include disability or ginger hair.

      I hadn’t noticed legislation on that recently: yet where such cases arise, i am sure they cause grief.


      • 3

        Amy said,

        I understand what you’re staying Jane and can also see the view point of Julie and would be very concerned if the police didn’t take a crime against any women of threatening nature seriously.

        Maybe what we really need to be asking is why were hate crime laws originally introduced in the first place. Are they achieving what they set out to do and rather than single out any particular group why doesn’t it cover all hate regardless of who it is?

        Quite honestly I wonder how many of these laws were introduced as a kick up the arse to get the police to take crimes of this nature seriously.


      • 4

        janefae said,

        yep…that’s more or less where i am going. Its not beyond the wit of parliament to simply pass a law that makes any assault or murder that is motivated in part or whole by the specific characteristics of a group (any group) a “hate crime”.

        You’d then mostly get hate crimes turning up in proportion to the way in which minorities get attacked: an occasional prosecution where a group takes it into their head to kick shit of some guy because he has ginger hair. But otherwise, still, the majority of hate crimes being clocked against the usual suspects (ethnic minorities, lgbt, etc.).

        Its sort of a reverse of what they have done in employment law, where they have allowed ANY belief protection providing it meets certain clearly defined criteria.


  2. 5

    sophia said,

    Julie Bindel gets no special protection ? Because anyone attacking her will do so because they hate women ?
    Surely she’s far more at risk for being a lesbian – where she does have protected status .
    This kind of law only works, and is only perceived as needed, when a significant number of people are attacked principally on the basis of their group membership obviously differing from the norm. Women, disabled and many other groups may be more at risk than the usual cis male white straight one, but not necessarily because their group membership attracts violence. Hate crimes relate to..er…hate.
    On the other hand, maybe bigots should be a protected group, since they are widely hated. That’s a somewhat more rational issue for dear Julie to take up, and one which certainly is in her own best interest.

    • 6

      eclectic chicken said,

      surely chances are if someone attacks Julie Bindel it’ll be becuase she’s Julie Bindel rather than a lesbian or a woman 🙂

    • 7

      Big Kate said,

      a key issue here is how do people know you are lesbian? Even though Julie is explicitly out about being a lesbian on the street unless she is explicitly recognised and then people go “oh that’s the local lesbian lets get her” she looks like any other woman.

      For a lesbian to be attacked on the street or in her home she has to be explicitly lesbian in front of others for example kissing her girlfriend on the lips in a public place where she is recognised and remembered. Just holding hands is not enough for most people.

      However if a women “looks lesbian” i.e. is butch or masculine in her appearance i.e. she is trans, then that specifically marks her out as other, and that will mean she is targeted and attacked.

      Most lesbian, gay and bisexual people are targeted because they look trans, not because of how they behave on the street. being loud/open leads to being targeted just as MBE people who cannot pass for white gets them targeted. Hence the whole MBE pride issue in those communities, do you attempt to pass as white or are you proud of what you look like!

      I am proud of being a dyke and a tranny, that I’m queer! But I am aware that many people are ashamed of who they are, what they look like, what groups they may actually belong to, and avoid words like queer, tranny and dyke because those words are used to attack us. I’m just as proud of being a tranny and a dyke as I am of being a raspberry/crip (disabled) and a yid (albeit historically not religiously). Personally I can pass as not a crip which can sometimes be useful and other times leads to discrimination.

  3. 8

    The trans bit is getting the headlines, but according to the guardian: The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, said the “starting point” for judges sentencing in disability and transgender murder cases was to double from 15 to 30 years.


    So yeah, disabled people also get ‘extra’ ‘not getting the s*** kicked out of you’ privileges. Which is a good thing; but yeah, the ‘where will it all end’ brigade can be out in force on this one – there’s also the case for ‘sophie’s law’ http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/4348041.Sophie_Lancaster_s_mum_set_to_win_tougher_sentences_for_hate_crimes/?action=complain&cid=7691901 where its proposed that ‘hate crimes’ be extended to include crimes based on the way people dress etc. Which again is a good thing… But i have to say other than some online nerkwits who hate what trans people represent rather than me personally, i’ve had minimal abuse for being trans, and been assaulted twice, any amount of shouted abuse and even deliberately hit with a car, just for being a cyclist…!

    I don’t know the answer… But i am reminded of gene hunt’s comment: ‘what, as opposed to those ‘i really like you’ crimes?’ Maybe hatred should be looked at as a possible motive in all criminal cases, and sentences adjusted accordingly if proven.

    Maybe we should all just learn to get along… Hmm… 😀

  4. 9

    Actually, the trouble is that people generally don’t understand either the legal basis for hate crime tariffs, or even the way the system is supposed to work… add into that the fact that people feel that tariffs are not high enough generally and it’s a recipe for disaster… but there’s nothing wrong with the concept of hate crime tariffs in itself, and it’s actually quite reasonable in its logic.

  5. 10

    Big Kate said,

    if this means CPS will actually prosecute people that would be a start. I have been beaten, sexually assaulted, abused, had stones and bricks lobbed through the window of my home and every single time despite massive evidence of whose doing what CPS has point blank refused to prosecute. I have know area commanders who have begged the CPS to prosecute only for it to to be dropped like a red hot potato. I have have so many crime ref numbers that I was eventually given one of my own. I was told by the police to stop ringing 999 because they simply couldn’t deal with number of attacks I was receiving, I was screwing up their clear up rate. I was advised repeatedly by the police to move out of the area because they could do nothing to stop the beatings I received. And all the time the CPS refused to prosecute due to lack of evidence, despite police giving them full descriptions, names, place of address, line up confirmations.

    I had people who stayed with me beaten up and the CPS refused to prosecute. It was only when a police officer was nearly hit by a brick whilst sitting in my front room protecting my house from being vandalised (after my friend had been taken to hospital after confronting some youths outside my house after they had tried to break in and had lob bricks through my window), and the police officer caught the person red handed did they dean to prosecute (the guilty party got three months)

    The local homophobia liaison team (HALT) refuse to have anything to do with me due to the depth of their transphobia. The local council has repeatedly refuse to help. I live in a deliberately boarded up house to protect my windows from being smashed. And i am relatively lucky I have a friend who very nearly prosecuted by the police for assault for the crime of apparently jumping three mean armed with weapons and beating them up by being repeatedly hit with said weapons.

    Just to say btw I am loud and proud about being trans and yes i am an advert for why so many transexuals choose to go stealth and hide who they are. I have known many transexuals who are happy to be out about being dykes or bi but are closeted about being trans for fear of the retribution they will receive from the straight and gay community.

    So do I welcome this change, YES! Because it might finally get the CPS to prosecute!

    Oh Jane are you loud about being trans to the mothers you talk to, or are you stealth/subtle(woodworking) to them like so many of our community. (By trans I mean as a short form for transgender so crossdressing/tv/drag/transexual/butch women/femme men/androgyne/genderqueer etc)

    • 11

      janefae said,

      OK. To begin, i am very sympathetic to your plight (what part of the country are you in?).

      But i think you answer your own question: if this would make the CPS more likely to prosecute, you’d welcome it. But whether the CPS take a case forward or not is supposedly irrespective of the outcome and, in pratice, there is some evidence that the stiffer the potential sentence, the more reluctant they are to prosecute (because juries can go all wobbly on them).

      As for how out i am…is that relevant? The point i am making is that some issues have the mums four-square behind the trans community, some don’t. This is one that definitely doesn’t.


      • 12

        Big Kate said,

        sorry, the logic here is that:
        the CPS wont prosecute crimes because trans people DON’T count as victims of hate crime, (basically because the CPS seem to think jurys/judges wont convict people who were asking to be attacked because of who they are)
        and then when trans people are explicitly recognised as victims of hate crime then:
        the CPS wont prosecute crimes because trans people are recognised as victims of hate crimes, (basically because the CPS seem to think jurys/judges wont convict victims of hate crime due to the higher tariff on hate crime)

        So either way round the CPS are justified in not prosecuting attacks on people who are victims of crime because people don’t like trans people

        meantime any trans person who commits crime is automatically charged with the highest tariff available, and is assumed to be guilty

        Swap trans with race and that’s exactly what lead the justice system to be described as institutionally racist, which would suggest that the justice system is institutionally

        Oh and you can find out about HALT here http://www.oxhalt.co.uk/

      • 13

        janefae said,

        this is pure rhetoric and i’d be interested to see if you have any direct evidence for your first assertion that the CPS “think jurys/judges wont convict people who were asking to be attacked because of who they are”.

        I’ll re-iterate my earlier question: where do you live? If there really is a specific local prob, then talking to the CPS might help: i know, because i’ve managed to get the CPS to overturn a decision not to prosecute on quite a serious (non-trans) crime in the last 12 months.


      • 14

        Big Kate said,

        OK the CPS hasn’t refused to prosecute recently because I have given up reporting stuff to the police. I given up reporting to the police because it was like being attacked all over again. I have to spend hours and days waiting for the police to turn up to a 999 call, then I have to spend hours relating the incident, all to get a pink sheet and a CRN and then nothing to happen. No support, no feedback, nothing.

        At the height of the abuse i was told to stop ringing 999 unless i was actually being beaten up or attacked at that moment!

        Btw I love victim support, a couple of times I have non-trans related abuse happening and every time victim support contacted me asking of they could help. Somebody stole an ebook reader from in the post and i got phone calls and letters from victim support asking if they could help me with what was a deeply troubling emotional experience (i paraphrase) I been beaten, sexually assaulted, repeatedly abused in the street, verbal harassment, had stuff painted about me on the road wear I live (which the council some weeks later removed) etc. Result? Silence! Apparently none of those things are in any way emotionally troubling.

      • 15

        Big Kate said,

        I would leave a reply in line but wordpress doesn’t seem to let me

        is it that your words are pure rhetoric or that my words are pure rhetoric? Not clear on if your talking about yourself or attempting to devalue and ignore what I say.

        Can I give you a written statement from the CPS that states what they said said – funnily enough no – because if they did I could prosecute them.

        What I relate is the impressions and explanations given to me as to why no prosecution was made, on various occasions by police officers over an extended period of time. All that happens is the is the CPS refuse to prosecute, their is no rhyme or reason ever given other than on the balance of probabilities a conviction would not be obtained.

        And after numerous cases involving me, that the police have prepared and then the CPS drop the case, the Police stop bothering as well, as there is no point – since the CPS will automatically drop the case, so why bother trying to prepare a case in the first place. And has any police said that to me? No! But I watch their actions in relation to cases: involving trans related crime and me, and non-trans related crime and me. Trans related crime is logged (no matter what the incident/crime) and nothing happens. Non-trans related crime is followed up and I get post incident reports etc.

      • 16

        janefae said,

        Well, if u are prepared to talk off board, drop me an e-mail. I’d like to follow up.

        Jane xx

      • 17

        Big Kate said,

        the reason I ask how loud you are about being trans is:
        Are the mums you speak to aware that they are talking to someone who is a potential victim of such crimes?
        Or are they talking about people who are nameless others?

        People react differently to someone they know potentially being the victim of attack and people who are some other group who nobody knows. So a mother locally who appears to have been beaten is treated very differently than a mother who has been beaten in an attack in Syria.

        People especially react differently when they become potential victims of attack themselves, especially when they have the option of standing outside the targeted group.

      • 18

        janefae said,

        I still don’t see this as entirely relevant or helpful. I am citing the playground experience not as touchstone of right/wrong, but more as barometer of contentiousness.

        I think specifically targeted hate crime is contentious, and that is the case whether people know you may be a victim or not. If anything, where they see you as potential victim, chances are you may be less likely to get an honest view from them.

        As for the point about having an option to stand otuside a group: don’t see that either. The question being asked here is twofold: is targeted hate crime useful to the trans community (in the sense that it gives us more benefit than backlash) and if it is, how do we manage some quite hostile public perceptions towards it.

        I don’t think every trans person who has ever been victimised would buy into the “we’re in favour of targeted hate crime laws”: and if you’re implying (not sure if you are) that not supporting that position is because someone is privileged…well, that is pure derailment.


  6. 19

    Sarah Lake said,

    In The Better Angels of Our Nature, which I’m currently listening to on audio book, Stephen Pinker says research shows that emphasising special protections for vulnerable groups from the 1990s onwards has had an effect of making our Western societies safer for everyone. This is just part of a civilising effect which has made our current society the safest to live in at any time in history. Intuition might suggest this would breed resentment at the establishment of a new inequality which favours minorities. The facts however suggest absolutely otherwise.

    Can’t give you andy citations at the mo … that’s a problem with audio books … but he says he’ll be dealing with this in the next chapter. I’ll post more when I get there.

    I’ve often found myself at odds with Pinker previously but this book contains some astonishing revelation by any standards, backed up by irrefutable statistics on murder rates, prison populations, death in wars etc…

  7. 20

    Liz Church said,

    Sorry, I’ve not had time to read through all the replies. My take on this is that someone has decided to up the tariff in order to discourage a few would-be murderers. If so, it’s a blunt instrument and I’m not surprised that it’s been misinterpreted as a privilege granted.

    That I can despatch two cistards for the same stretch as one of them can do me is no privilege in my mind. Perhaps they ought to reduce the tariff for murder committed *by* trans to three months. Now, that would be a privilege for certain and difficult to resist to boot 🙂

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