The Burchill controversy – a mixed blessing for the trans community

From The Liberal Democratic Voice UK:  http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-55-32652.html

Opinion
By
Tue 15th January 2013

I have followed recent mainstream media events unfolding around the transgender community with a mixture of excitement, anxiety and sadness.

Excitement, because it is rare that trans issues get coverage that isn’t designed to portray us as perpetrators of some hideous evil. Even though the stories started with biased coverage in the Guardian about a doctor under investigation by the General Medical Council, it turned into something more positive when the #TransDocFail hashtag lead to LibDem Councillor Sarah Brown discussing the issue on BBC Radio. Even the continuation of bad reporting had a silver lining, when Julie Burchill’s transphobic screed in The Observer lead to widespread condemnation from the internet at large and calls for her to be sacked.

Trans people have put up with biased reporting and name-calling for years, even suffering from the ignominy of having transphobic writers nominated for awards by LGB campaigning groups. The difference here is that, oblivious to the turning of the tide when it comes to hate speech, Julie Burchill and the editors of The Observer finally crossed a line that mainstream opinion could not ignore.

Anxiety, because I worry what will happen to stories like this when the mainstream press gets hold of them. Besides the usual errors, such as erasure of trans men and use of “transsexuals” as a noun rather than an adjective, coverage has been on the whole pretty positive. Except for one point: The anti-trans lobby has been allowed to rewrite history in portraying a “baying mob” that hounded Suzanne Moore off Twitter, which was the catalyst for Julie Burchill’s piece. In reality, although someone picked her up for her “Brazilian transsexuals” comment online, that sort of behaviour is so common that, against the background of lady-boy jokes on BBC TV, that it would not even warrant a footnote in the annals of trans history. It was her subsequent abusive response to polite criticism from non-trans people on Twitter including the phrase “lopping bits off your body” that angered people.

If there was a mob on Twitter, then the leader was Suzanne Moore who reacted to valid criticism with abuse before flouncing off the site for a couple of days. But despite some disgusting language from Julie Burchill, her version of the “facts” has been accepted almost unquestioningly by many, because it appeared in a national newspaper.

Continue reading at:  http://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-55-32652.html

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