Joan McAlpine receives online abuse for remarks on sex and gender

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A leading SNP politician has received online abuse and been threatened with deselection for her public remarks on why sex should not be replaced with gender in the new Census Bill.

Joan McAlpine, who chairs the Holyrood committee which is scrutinising the Census Bill for the 2021 census, has been called a “transphobe”, “trash” and told to “f*** off” for raising concerns around the deficiencies in the way the consultation was carried out around planned changes to the sex question, which was being conflated with gender identity.

Joan McAlpine MSP.

Joan McAlpine MSP.

The Census Bill proposes that new questions on sexual orientation and transgender identity should be voluntary. In its guidance for the bill, National Records of Scotland also proposed that the mandatory sex question should include a non-binary response option as well as male and female.

But MSPs found the lack of consultation with a range of organisations including a broad range of women’s groups to be a serious deficiency in the process when considering issues of sex and transgender status. They recommended by a majority that the next census should continue to offer a binary male or female question in order to maximise response rates and maintain consistency with previous censuses.

They also agreed that a voluntary approach to new questions on sexual orientation and gender identity or trans-status was appropriate. However, since Ms McAlpine explained the committee’s thinking on Twitter she has been subjected to online abuse – called “trash” on a number of occasions by transwomen and this weekend an anonymous male SNP member saying he would do “all in his power” to deselect her, as well as telling her to “f*** off”.

In her response, she said: “I respect everyone’s rights, including trans people. Challenging online aggression towards women is not transphobic and the supportive responses show most reasonable people agree. You direct obscenities and threats towards women – your contempt for us is clear.”

Ms McAlpine is the latest politicians to be at the centre of a social media hate row. Muslim MSP Anas Sarwar has been the victim of racism and islamophobia and been sent threatening far-right group videos while both Annie Wells and Alex Cole-Hamilton MSPs have spoken of needing extra police protection because of social media threats.

Mr Sarwar yesterday invited Facebook and Twitter representatives to a Scottish summit at Holyrood to discuss how to tackle online abuse and hatred.

Commenting on the abuse Ms McAlpine has received, an SNP spokesperson said: “Abuse is never acceptable. Online debates should be conducted in a respectful manner.”