The Guardian’s Trans Hate Week

I’m fuck­ing angry. And if you were in my posi­tion, you would be too.

If you’ve been liv­ing under a rock for the past week, it’s been filled with an onslaught of arti­cles from the nom­i­nally lib­eral paper The Guardian against the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity. And finally, thank god, it looks like it’s reached a point where cis peo­ple are say­ing it’s gone too far.

It started with an arti­cle writ­ten by the newspaper’s health edi­tor David Batty, about the GMC inves­ti­ga­tion into Dr Richard Cur­tis for alleged mal­prac­tice in his pri­vate trans health­care prac­tice. While not get­ting into talk­ing about the com­plainant in the case, it was pretty clear to the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity that Batty was part of a witch­hunt against Cur­tis by sev­eral doc­tors at Char­ing Cross Hos­pi­tal to con­sol­i­date power there. After all, that was what hap­pened sev­eral years ago with Cur­tis’ pre­de­ces­sor Rus­sell Reid.

Let’s face it, trans health­care is shit. I myself have blogged about it (twice) in my back yard, and the atti­tudes of GICs towards patients was exposed by Sarah Brown, Zoe O’Connell, and Emma Brown­bill last March. The entire sys­tem is full of abuses and gate­keep­ing to with­hold care, and Cur­tis offered a safety valve against those abuses.

We need a hash tag for crap trans med­ical treat­ment. How about #Trans­Doc­Fail?

Which led Sarah Brown to cre­ate the #Trans­Doc­Fail tag on Tues­day, which by the evening had amassed over a thou­sand responses expos­ing abuses, includ­ing arbi­trary stan­dards, objec­ti­fi­ca­tion, unnec­es­sary exam­i­na­tions (thank­fully averted in my case), and in some cases, sex­ual assault. The Guardian buried cov­er­age in their Com­ment is Free sec­tion, and Pink News didn’t cover it until Sarah’s com­ment piece on Fri­day.

By which time the trans com­mu­nity had big­ger prob­lems to deal with. Last Tues­day, Suzanne Moore wrote an admit­tedly decent piece called See­ing Red: The Power of Female Anger. With the unfor­tu­nate throw­away line:

We are angry with our­selves for not being hap­pier, not being loved prop­erly and not hav­ing the ideal body shape – that of a Brazil­ian transsexual.

It’s a bad line. For one, it’s incred­i­bly objec­ti­fy­ing. When we hear “Brazil­ian trans­sex­ual”, our thoughts invari­ably go to the idea of “she­male porn”, which is quite frankly one of the worst cat­e­gories of main­stream pornog­ra­phy out there. But, sec­ondly, and more depress­ingly, for trans peo­ple it brings up the depress­ing fact that the worst place in the world to be a trans woman is Brazil. Of 265 ver­i­fied trans hate mur­ders in 2012, 126 were in Brazil. That’s 48% in just one coun­try. It’s a prob­lem endemic to Latin Amer­ica (which account for 80% in total), but nowhere more than in Brazil.

Which exactly is why Jo, a mas­sive and clue­ful trans ally, brought her up on it:

I loved your piece on anger — except for the shock trans­pho­bia (“a Brazil­ian trans­sex­ual”) — why on earth did you include it? Call­ing some­one “a trans­sex­ual” is like call­ing some­one “a gay” — really creepy. “Trans woman” would’ve been bet­ter but why include it at all? It’s v weird & leaves a v nasty taste. Trans women deserve sol­i­dar­ity, not implicit shaming.

Now, all it could’ve taken on Moore’s part was to say “sorry, I fucked up, won’t do that again”. Vic­to­ria Coren was able to do that, so why not Moore?

But sadly, she didn’t. Both Savan­nah and Zoe Stavri col­lated Moore’s now infa­mous tweets in which she rejected “inter­sec­tion­al­ity” (a really impor­tant con­cept!), “trans­pho­bia”, and “islama­pho­bia” as words used to shut down debate, and then said that “peo­ple can go cut their dicks off and be more fem­i­nist than me”. And instantly ran to Com­ment is Free to com­plain about the mean twit­ter bul­lies silenc­ing her. The sheer hilar­ity and prob­lem with this state­ment is as clear as the Taxpayer’s Alliance com­plain­ing about “left-wing bias on the BBC” while con­stantly appear­ing on it.

But wait, there’s more! Julie Burchill, per­haps most famous for writ­ing the teenage les­bian fan­tasy that is Sugar Rush, took to Com­ment is Free to “defend her friend” and ended up mak­ing trans­pho­bic slurs that would make Richard Lit­tle­john blush.

Fuck that shit.

You lose your right to com­plain about the mean tran­nies when you’re using your posi­tion as a free­lance jour­nal­ist to, and I quote, call trans peo­ple “bed-wetters in bad wigs”, or to down­play the real­ity of trans­pho­bic oppres­sion. I can’t read the arti­cle with­out mak­ing myself sick, it’s that bad. And really, that first para­graph talk­ing about tak­ing Moore out for lob­ster and Bollinger? For some­one so sup­pos­edly work­ing class, you wouldn’t even catch George Osborne say­ing that.

Then again, it’s what you’d expect from some­one who sup­ported the Iraq War, the Occu­pa­tion of Pales­tine, Hosni Mubarak, and Mar­garet Thatcher.

From some­one who said that “when the sex war is won, pros­ti­tutes should be shot as col­lab­o­ra­tors for their ter­ri­ble betrayal of all women.”

From some­one who said, nearly exactly 12 years ago, in the same paper, that “male to female trans­sex­u­als are Michael Jack­son to the transvestite’s Ali G”.

But what hap­pened as a result of that is mar­velous. The entirety of Twit­ter said “no more”. The Guardian com­men­ta­tors said “no more”. 90% of Inde­pen­dent read­ers said “no more”. For the first time since Boys Don’t Cry, the real­ity of trans­pho­bia was brought to the eyes of every­one. Lynne Feath­er­stone, the strongest trans ally ever to be a min­is­ter, called for the sack­ing of her and the edi­tor of the Observer for pub­lish­ing it. Instead of want­ing to cry, I was uplifted by the amount of sup­port we got for once.

To be hon­est, though, I don’t think it should’ve been taken down, as the Observer edi­tor did. It feeds into Burchill et al’s vic­tim com­plex, as if they’re the truly oppressed peo­ple, when her views were printed in not one, but two news­pa­pers. It allowed the trans­pho­bes on the right to attack the “polit­i­cally cor­rect brigade”, to pro­tect “free­dom of speech”. It changed the debate, and now we feel lost again.

Because it seems to be a naked ploy, a “I’m sorry I got caught” mes­sage, from the Guardian, who are prob­a­bly the worst news­pa­per for trans­pho­bia. It’s expected from the right. It hurts when it’s from the left. To see Ger­maine Greer and Julie Bindel push their “fem­i­nist” trans­pho­bia, over years and years.

If any­one wanted proof that the promise by news­pa­pers to play nice after the Leve­son Report was pub­lished was a steam­ing pile of bull­shit, look at this quote from page 668 (F.6.8.32):

On the basis of the evi­dence seen by the Inquiry, it is clear that there is a marked ten­dency in a sec­tion of the press to fail to treat mem­bers of the trans­gen­der and inter­sex com­mu­ni­ties with suf­fi­cient dig­nity and respect.

It’s been observed that trans­pho­bia in the press increased since Trans Media Watch sub­mit­ted evi­dence to Leve­son, in a retal­ia­tory man­ner. And since its pub­lish­ing trans­pho­bia has come from Have I Got News to You to the Daily Mail. And every time, it hurts.

And it hurts to see us be the por­trayed as the evil ones, the ones who want to cen­sor free speech, because peo­ple, cis and trans, got so out­raged that the story was pulled. Because the story wasn’t just harm­ful, it threat­ened us. Implic­itly and explic­itly. Don’t try to make it about free speech. You have the right to say it on the street – and not run risk of com­mit­ting a Pub­lic Order offence. I have the right to tell you to fuck off. You do not have the right to abuse your plat­form as a beloved jour­nal­ist to abuse an already wounded minor­ity nationwide.

Espe­cially when we do not have the right to be angry. Not just from “com­mu­nity pol­icy”, but from the sheer knowl­edge that if we responded with just one tenth of the vit­riol you showed us, it would val­i­date every neg­a­tive stereo­type of trans women and then some.

We are find­ing our voice, and you are try­ing to silence us. It’s really not the other way around. To quote Burchill’s arti­cle: trust us, you ain’t seen noth­ing yet. You really won’t like us when we’re angry.

To quote Sarah, what the hell is wrong with you peo­ple? When you see trans peo­ple being abused by those with a duty to care for them, why the fuck would you jump in, and start kick­ing us while we’re down? It’s a dere­lic­tion of not just duty, but of decency, of human­ity. You should be ashamed. Give us time to shout, to cry, to heal. And if you have one iota of remorse, help us fight back. It’s the least you can do to help heal the dam­age you helped cause.

3 comments

  1. karaconnor says:

    The tal­ent­less hack, Richard Lit­tle­john, also man­aged to inject some gratu­ti­tous trans hatred into his attempt to be amus­ing about the tax hot­line this week, at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2271580/RICHARD-LITTLEJOHN-This-HMRC-hotline-need-Samaritans-press-3.html

  2. […] of trans* peo­ple, as well as her com­men­taries on car­toon cen­sor­ship, athe­ist infight­ing and the Suzanne Moore/Julie Burchill trans­pho­bia deba­cle ear­lier this year. [Tweet […]

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