Feminism Internet Politics Trans

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.

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