There has been a lot of debate these last 24 hours about the aims of the Vigil against Transphobia on Thursday. First off, it’s a vigil, not a braying mob demanding unachievable things.
I want a palpable change in the way trans people are represented in the press and media. I want an actual commitment from leading members of the media agreeing that they will never again publish transphobic views. I want the media to stop devaluing and undermining trans people. I want them to recognise that publishing negative and transphobic articles translates into how we are treated by members of the public and sometimes this leads to physical violence against people who do not fit within the gender binary. Things have to change and they have to change sooner rather than later.
I am tired. Tired of over and over again reading about a trans person being dragged through the national press, just because they face no other choice than to transition and try and live their life as best they can. Someone transitioning is not news, no matter what their job or role in life is, thousands of people do it and I just don’t see why the press sees fit to spread mis-information about them. They publish ‘before and after’ photos, birth names, imply that their chosen gender is not ‘true’. They complain about the cost to the taxpayer when the reality is that a lifetime of denying ones own identity and all the emotional and physical strain that comes with it is an even bigger cost to mental health services and society as a whole. The media ignores the discriminatory way the medical profession often treats trans folk, ask yourself why there has been no coverage of the #TransDocFail debate? Because the press couldn’t care less about trans people unless they can use us as a ‘look at this weirdo’ type story. I want the press to take us seriously.
20 years ago gay peoples identities were undermined by the press, their orientation was said to be a choice rather than just who they are, in almost the exact same way the media is treating trans folk today. Gay people fought for acceptance and better representation, these days exposés ‘outing’ a gay person is a thing of the past, you would never read an article in the mainstream press implying that a gay person is a pervert, a deviant or flat out denying their existence, and precisely this is what I want for trans people.
It’s not like I’m asking for much is it?
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The reason I have had enough is not all to do with that horrible piece written by Julie Birchill, it’s the idea that the media seems to have, that trans people are there to be derided and ridiculed. You can’t publish an article about gay people and call them “faggots”. You can’t publish an article about black people and call them “niggers”. But apparently it’s ok to publish an article about trans people and call them “shemales” and “shims”. Apparently it’s ok to try and subvert a trans persons identity by referring to them with the wrong pronoun, use their birth name instead of the one written on their Deed Poll.
This has to stop. Now. As I was reading *that* article I remember thinking to myself in absolute shock at how the hell an editor could have ever allowed this to go onto his website. It should never have even happened.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Guardian Media Group has published a transphobic article, and on each occasion the issue has been addressed with a rebuttal from a trans commentator, and then swiftly brushed beneath the carpet. What we are seeking to achieve in protesting outside their offices is to ensure that the editors take the issue of transphobia as seriously as they would any other form of prejudice, and to make a proper commitment to keeping transphobic articles out of their publications for good. An unreserved apology is the absolute minimum that we deserve.
I will be attending a protest on Thursday 17th January at the Guardians offices, Kings Place, 90 York Way, London, N1 9GU at 4:30PM. I want to peacefully and calmly make my voice heard and then go home and hope that I have helped to make a positive difference to the way trans people are represented in the media, and if you feel the same and want to help, please come along and show your support.
I have just read this statement from John Mulholland, editor of The Observer:
“We have decided to withdraw from publication the Julie Burchill comment piece ‘Transsexuals should cut it out’. The piece was an attempt to explore contentious issues within what had become a highly-charged debate. The Observer is a paper which prides itself on ventilating difficult debates and airing challenging views. On this occasion we got it wrong and in light of the hurt and offence caused I apologise and have made the decision to withdraw the piece. The Observer Readers’ Editor will report on these issues at greater length.”
My immediate reaction to this is that it still falls short. If the article was about black people, gay people or disabled people she would have been arrested. How could they ever imagine that writing such awful words was “exploring contentious issues”? This was a deliberate attack on a minority.
EDIT 21:45: I’m hurt by the article and as much as I want to pack a punch as it were, I think the respectful and dignified course of action would be by holding a vigil-type protest and read the list of names of trans people who have been murdered around the world from Transgender Day of Remembrance. We want to bring attention to how transphobic words in the press translate to transphobic abuse from society, aimed at people who just want to live their lives without discrimination.
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“White lies are minor lies which could be considered to be harmless, or even beneficial, in the long term. White lies are also considered to be used for greater good. A common version of a white lie is to tell only part of the truth, therefore not be suspected of lying, yet also conceal something else, to avoid awkward questions.” (Wikipedia)
A heavily pregnant lady stumbles in to an Accident and Emergency department one rainy evening. She is obviously in pain, bent over with her face contorted she shouts for help, falling to her knees. Two doctors run over to her and help her onto a wheel chair and hurriedly push her through the door towards the treatment rooms, they ask her name and date of birth and she starts to feel like things will be OK. The next few questions make her feel uneasy though.
“Have you seen a psychiatrist about being pregnant? Have they certified you mentally able to give birth? Have you managed to keep a job to prove that you can function in society as a mother? You do know that pregnant people should act in a certain manner, and for you to act any other way will result in your treatment being withdrawn? Oh, and we can’t give you any help for a few months because our workload is so high, and even then there is a high chance your appointment will be cancelled at short notice.”
Doesn’t sound right does it? Yet this is how many trans people are treated today.
The recent hashtag, #TransDocFail on Twitter started out as a way of pointing out how the recent media coverage of Dr. Richard Curtis is so warped. The media couldn’t care less about the hundreds of stories from trans people being mistreated, degraded and humiliated by members of the medical profession, but as soon as a doctor who has helped thousands of transsexuals appears to be in trouble before the GMC, all over the newspapers and internet transphobic journalists jump on the story.
One of the things #TransDocFail eventually succeeded in doing though, is showing how trans folk are scared of their doctors. Scared that if they tell the doctors certain things their treatment will be withheld, scared that if they present as anything other than a non-binary male or female the ‘experts’ will judge them and hold up the process of getting hormones or surgery. Scared of having to out themselves in any medical situation and having the ‘professionals’ mistreat or even refuse to treat them.
I lied to the specialist at the Gender Identity Clinic. It was only a white lie though and it wasn’t anything major, does that make it OK? I had spent 18 months living as female, on the waiting list for a first appointment for a large amount of that time, my life felt like it was in limbo, waiting for a doctor to tell me what I already knew, waiting for for the Gatekeepers of the Hormones to catch up with me. I wasn’t going to make the process any more complicated than it needed to be. I’d heard firsthand the stories about trans people being refused treatment because they hadn’t jumped through the hoops required. I wasn’t going to risk that.
Bottom line is, I didn’t trust my doctor to help me unless I mislead him.
It goes deeper than Gender Specialists though, reading through the #TransDocFail conversation shows that GP’s, A+E doctors and virtually every other member of the medical community are just as likely to discriminate against trans folk.
So come on then, journalists and members of the media, I challenge you to publish a story about how a trans person has been badly treated by a doctor, I want to open up my favourite news site and read about a trans someone fighting for the treatment they need, I want you to expose how a person who happens to be transsexual is being mistreated by the medical community. If you see fit to pillory a doctor for failing to live up to standards, why not pick one who hasn’t been an asset to our community?
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