Pronouns and Police: A new hate speech age

Many readers will not be familiar with the name Caroline Farrow, Catholic columnist. Today, her name became popular within certain Twitter circles after she ran off a tweet thread about an unpleasant surprise that has come to her.

Back in September, Ms. Farrow appeared on Good Morning Britain with Susie Green, a transgender advocate who is chair of Mermaids, a charity devoted to children and teenagers going through gender assignment. After this interview, on Twitter, Farrow accidentally misgendered Susie Green’s child, a son transitioning into a daughter. Six months down the line and it has transpired that Green has reported Farrow to the police for this. Farrow had been contacted by the police for a voluntary interview, though she said that she was threatened with arrest if she did not partake. She has not been charged with any crimes, but the point of the investigation is to see if she broke any laws, most likely hate crime laws.

This was six months ago, Farrow states that she had no intention of misgendering and also cannot remember the tweets in question, claiming she accidentally called the daughter ‘he’ or ‘son.’ She further states that she tries to use pronouns correctly, even if she does not believe that it is possible for one to change sex. Farrow states that her Catholic beliefs make her think that it is not possible to be transgender and that she will go to prison for those beliefs.

At best, Ms. Green should have been only slightly inconvenienced by Farrow’s accidental misgendering- it is understandable that she (Farrow) may have simply not thought about it, considering the daughter has been a son for most of her life. Filing a police report is more than an over exaggeration- in no way did Farrow commit a crime; she had nothing to apologise for and it also wasting police time. The news covers tragic stabbings every day, especially in London, as well as a myriad of crimes that have received no true investigation. Crimes happen all the time where police see it as an open and shut case, especially burglaries. The time spent on investigating Farrow could be spent chasing down a rapist or ensnaring a paedophile- someone who is more dangerous to Green’s daughter than Farrow.

People have talked about the effect of police cuts - even a true blue Tory can’t wiggle around questions about them seeing less Bobbies on the beat. It may not be as bad as people say, but it’s still an understandable concern for the average citizen. If the police are squeezed, then their focus should be on the black teenagers murdered for being in the wrong post code or the citizens having their bags taken by moped riding thieves. If the police are thriving on funding and numbers, then their focus should still be on those black teenagers and mugged citizens.

This is not just the view of most level headed citizens. Two of the most senior police officers in the country- former National Police Chief’s Council head Sara Thornton and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick- have said that there should be a priority of policing knife crimes over hate crimes.

Real hate crimes occur when a synagogue has a swastika painted on it or a young Muslim woman is attacked for being clearly a follower of Islam. At its worst, hate crimes can kill 50 innocent worshippers in a New Zealand mosque.

We support our police and we want them to investigate when a real crime happens. We want rapists caught; murderers apprehended and assault victims given justice. What we do not want is for people like Susie Green wasting police time by filing a report against a Twitter user who accidentally tweeted the wrong pronoun.

If this is what hate crime is classed as in 2019 Britain, then we need to be looking at freedom of speech - or a lack thereof.

by Sarah Stook

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