It’s no secret that the media hates transgendered people but can’t get enough of talking about us (usually inaccurately, and almost always in the most dehumanising manner possible). This week has been particularly bad for trans people in the media.
Tuesday brought us commentary on YouTube borne out of a lack of education; which I suppose would have been excusable from most people on YouTube but in this case was particularly galling. Philip DeFranco engaged in a six minute diatribe against a trans woman who competed in the Ultimate Fighting Championship against other women.
He used terms such as “giant man fists” and “large jaws”, as if all trans women look like the (incredibly inaccurate) stereotype, and played on these inaccuracies (as well as others) as excuses for barring trans women from competing in sporting events against other women. It should be noted that blocks such as these have been lifted in most sports for transpeople who have undergone surgery, because all of the reasons given for barring trans competitors are nonexistant post-surgery after a short time period.
Why is this galling for Philip DeFranco to say them but not for others? Because he was a pre-med student before dropping out of college to take on his YouTube business full-time. If anyone on YouTube should have known something about how the human body works, it’s him.
Oh, and to put the icing on the cake, he asked for comments on whether transpeople should be “allowed” to fight in the UFC like anyone else. When I commented via Twitter, informing him of the inaccuracies of his statements and asking him to apologise for the damage he’d caused to equality (he’s watched by hundreds of thousands of people so my comment there isn’t blowing his effect out of proportion), he blocked me. The next day, he ran a series of comments on his next video that backed up his own views.
Philip is an example of what I call a Bad Ally. Bad Allies are the people who tell you they are allies; who tell you they are on your side; but who do more harm than good. They are the ones who normally side with you and fight for equality side by side with the people who need it. Then, one day, they go and kick down the foundations they helped you build, and they get really upset when you ask them what the hell they think they’re doing.
They’re the ones who say “I like trans people but…” and follow it up with something that shows their Ally label doesn’t go all the way to the core. They’re with you as long as it suits their purpose. They’re with you as long as you know your place, and no further. Cross the line and you’ll see they use their Ally label as a shield against you while they defend their transphobic actions.
Still, as I said on Twitter, at least he didn’t go and release a music video glorifying Trans Panic. Transphobic Techno, anyone?
Yesterday brought us some more bad news, before really piling it on. The Press Complaints Commission decided not to do anything about Julie Burchill whatsoever. Aside from deciding that harassment can’t come from a single article (despite the Protection From Harassment Act 1996 saying the exact opposite) and agreeing that although Burchill made some outright false claims in her article, they ruled that nothing could be done about her on this occasion. Why? Because she didn’t single out a specific person to be attacked, she went after every trans person all at once.
So, according to the Press Complaints Commission, it’s perfectly fine to attack minorities and do enormous amounts of damage to entire communities, as long as you don’t pick on specific people while you do it. It’s open season on trans people!
And it didn’t take long for the press to collect their first victim, either.
By now anyone who knows any trans people in the UK (or uses any news source except the BBC, who are being strangely silent) will have heard of Lucy Meadows. In December, a vile hate campaign began against Lucy because she had the audacity to be a trans women who is also a primary school teacher. The Sun and The Daily Mail both ran transphobic articles about Lucy (who by all accounts was a wonderful teacher and had done nothing wrong) simply because she decided to transition while still working at the school that had been employing her.
In effect, these two newspapers ran articles that attacked her because she did something she is perfectly entitled to under UK law. Oh, the shame!
Richard Littlejohn penned the more monstrous of the two articles. He began by trying to set himself up as a trans Ally, and thus began the process of revealing himself to be either a Bad Ally or a Complete Fucking Liar (I’ll let you decide which), before going on to misgender Lucy all through the article, refer to her by her former name as often as possible, print a load of “before transition” photos, and then suggest Lucy was “selfish” and “wrong” to stay in her current job rather than give up her entire life and move somewhere else so she could transition somewhere where nobody would see her. What a lovely man Littlejohn is! What an Ally!
But the press didn’t stop there. They kept on hounding Lucy, whom I’ll remind you had done nothing wrong. The press camped out outside her house, and outside the school where she worked. Parents whose children went to the school were offered money for photographs of Lucy. Any parent who had a good word to say about Lucy was silenced or ignored because their views didn’t fit with what the papers wanted to print.
Lucy complained to the Press Complaints Commission (who won’t do anything unless someone is personally involved in a story, so up to this point, the PCC had stood on the sidelines). The PCC wrote to the editors of every newspaper, asking them to reign in their baying mob.
The press ignored the PCC. The harassment continued.
In the end, Lucy killed herself. The Daily Mail pulled the online copy of Littlejohn’s vicious attack on her (but the Internet remembers what was said) but did not apologise for the harm it had done. Instead, it began whining about an “orchestrated Twitter campaign” against it. Apparently former Labour politicians are behind a campaign to destroy the Mail, or something. I have to admit I didn’t listen to what they were screeching about, because it was more of the usual “how dare you suggest we be held accountable for our actions?!!” vitriol we hear whenever someone in the wrong tries to shift the blame onto the victim.
Death hasn’t stopped the media’s onslaught. Today we have been yet more transphobia in the national press. This time it’s the other favourite of wildly inflating the cost of gender reassignment surgery in the hope that transpeople can be portrayed as leeches on the NHS budget. Apparently a couple of people in prison want to change gender, so now the press are hounding them. The Daily Mail got in there early, as did The Sun. It’s time to go ’round the same old ride again.
This has to stop. The press is never going to let up on its vendetta against transsexual people unless we make it. It’s time to write to your MP, write to your local council, write to your local paper. Confront those who continue to wage war on transsexual people simply for existing. Tell them all that this has to stop, and that trans people need protection in law to make sure we get to go through transition in peace.
Transition is the most traumatic event a vulnerable person can go through. It is a complete upheaval of a person’s life, and not all of us make it through alive. Making the media stop its constant attacks on us will help reduce the number of deaths in the trans community every year. Surely that’s worth a few minutes of your time writing a letter?