IN Scotland, to identify as non-binary requires a measure of acceptance that some people will consider you mentally ill, politically captured, or merely confused.

Indeed, Tory MSP Murdo Fraser’s political stooshie surrounding the Hate Crime Act centres on his opinion of non-binary identity, which he claimed was as valid as “identifying as a cat”.

It’s worth noting that the trope of alleged feline identification has its roots in the anti-trans hysteria of the United States.

In response to some schools in the country rolling out LGBT+ inclusive policies, rumour spread on social media that children were identifying as cats and requesting litter boxes.

Despite being debunked the schools themselves, it’s a story which has spread globally – with allegations of children identifying as cats even cropping up in two Scottish secondary schools.

READ MORE: Eurovision: Olly Alexander responds to calls for boycott

Police Scotland said Fraser’s comments did not constitute a hate crime.

However, they recorded the tweet as a “non-crime hate incident” as suggested by the hate crime national guidance – an act Fraser claimed breached his rights on free speech and data protection.

“It’s right that it wasn’t considered a hate crime,” said Alex, a non-binary person living in Glasgow.

“But I think it’s important it was recorded as a non-crime incident because it has to be seen within the broader context.

“This is somebody with a prominent political profile and a large social media following whose words evidently carry weight among their supporters.

The National: Tory MSP Murdo Fraser claimed identifying as non-binary was as valid as identifying as a catTory MSP Murdo Fraser claimed identifying as non-binary was as valid as identifying as a cat (Image: PA)

“This isn’t just some random person. With hate crimes against LGBT+ people increasing in Scotland, it seems sensible to record what could be inciting such an increase”.

Alex is cognisant that not everybody is going to understand or accept their non-binary identity.

It isn’t yet recognised in law, although people were permitted to identify as non-binary in Scotland’s latest census, with official numbers on how many non-binary people there are in Scotland expected later this year.

According to a global survey of more than 22,000 people undertaken by Ipsos last year, around 1% described themselves as non-binary, gender non-conforming or gender fluid.

“The way I explain it to people is that I don’t identify as either male or female,” said Alex.

“Obviously, there are people who don’t understand that and all I ask of them is that they try to respect it.

READ MORE: Does Scotland's new Hate Crime Bill ‘target’ artists?

“Because, for me, coming out as non-binary enabled me to be the happiest I’ve ever been.

“I also truly believe that as a form of challenging of gender norms it can help everyone.

“We’re so constrained by gender, which makes it seem as if men shouldn’t cry or all women should be naturally gifted carers.

“If my identity helps open up conversations about gender, about how so many of us feel constrained by the societal expectations associated with it, I think that can only be a good thing”.

Between 2014 and 2022 reports of trans-related hate crimes in Scotland rose from 53 to 185, an increase of 250%.

It was a statistic condemned across the political spectrum, with Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton describing the rise as “appalling”.

The National: A sign for a unisex non-binary gender neutral toilet (PA)

However, she rejected assertions that the increase was “whipped up” by prominent figures during debates about gender recognition reform, including some within the UK Government.

“The UK Government and the Scottish Conservatives have used sensitive and respectful language throughout,” she said.

But, as non-binary writer Eris Young told The Sunday National, it’s hard to see how comparing non-binary people to cats qualifies as respectful.

“The rhetoric Fraser used in his tweet is the same as that levelled against binary trans people - rhetoric that claims you cannot be anything other than the gender you were assigned at birth.

“Regardless of the legal minutiae of who the UK government says is deserving of protection under the Equality Act, hate speech is hate speech, because of its effect on the victim-- that is the whole point of the hate crime national guidance.

“If Fraser is dismayed to find his own cavalier and disrespectful actions have consequences, that's his problem, not Police Scotland's and certainly not the nonbinary community's.”

READ MORE: Keir Starmer challenged to give more powers to Scotland

The reality of Scotland’s debate surrounding gender identity is that many people who don’t outwardly present as either male or female fear for their safety in public.

“I think about it as I walk down the street,” said Alex.

“I wonder which streets are safe or if there’s a chance I could be harassed.

“But it also results in me making a choice to limit my expression, to present in a way that makes my life easier rather than how I genuinely want to look”.

There is undoubtedly more debate to come over gender identity and the policing of hate crime in Scotland.

The plea from non-binary people is that it shouldn’t come at their expense – and shouldn’t be fuelled by pithy tweets from politicians.