Transphobia in the Guardian

The Guardian publishes articles by trans people and trans allies, and its news coverage still includes unchallenged transphobia. Some comment articles are repellently transphobic.

On news articles, transphobic falsehoods are reported without challenge, though they are clearly untrue. Consider this transphobic headline:

Echoes of 1970 as row breaks out at celebration of feminist conference.
Anger as Oxford historian Selina Todd is forced to pull out of speaking at Ruskin anniversary conference.

The headline makes transphobe Todd’s expulsion the main issue. She is “forced to pull out”, and this provokes “anger”, presumably of transphobes and their dupes. The first eight paragraphs are about this “row” rather than any other issue, though Samira Ahmed’s equal pay claim is mentioned later.

This paragraph puts forward transphobic falsehoods: Woman’s Place UK is pushing for government ministers to consult more widely about changes to the Gender Recognition Act, which would allow people to legally self-identify as a man or a woman without medical approval. It rejects accusations that it is transphobic and trans-exclusionist. Its founders say it aims to “ensure that women’s voices are heard and our sex-based rights upheld”. However, critics say it is trying to limit the rights of trans people. “Would allow”- the WPUK false position is stated as fact, but the refutation, that WPUK limits our rights, is presented as opinion. Trans women self-declare now, and the Equality Act allows us in women’s spaces.

Todd’s false statement is quoted without qualification: Selina Todd supports the right of women and girls to same-sex spaces (such as refuges). This is enshrined in law. Her opponents believe the law should be changed. They aren’t willing to engage in respectful debate with those who disagree, preferring to silence feminists. This continues the self-deluding myth that the transphobes are martyrs.

Suzanne Moore’s comment article on 2 March repeated so many transphobic myths I cannot be bothered wading through them all. They include the idea that trans men do not use men’s spaces, trans children may revert and regret and be infertile, and “You either protect women’s rights as sex-based or you don’t protect them at all”- the idea that trans rights make feminism impossible. She says she has had death threats and rape threats, and been told to “Die in a ditch, terf”. I believe her. If you are tempted to abuse anti-trans campaigners in this way, don’t. You only make them more incorrigible. Trans women exist. We always have done. Meeting our needs does not harm other women. Moore’s article starts with a picture of a demonstration about Roman Polanski, a man who had sex with a thirteen year old, as if that was comparable to trans people.

Moore wrote again on 10 March. Not all of it was objectionable. But she ends, “Don’t tell me that my story and the stories of other women don’t matter”. Much of the article is about reproductive matters. No-one is saying reproduction does not matter. The question is, should trans women be kicked out of women’s spaces? Those arguing we should monster us, saying we are dangerous, saying women should be frightened of us. Moore quotes Judith Butler: Gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself. Absolutely. But given that humans are trapped by gender, one way of escaping the trap is transition. More of Suzanne Moore’s transphobia.

It’s hard to complain against The Guardian, though not as hard as other papers. The Guardian reported scaremongering about the NHS child gender identity clinic.  Nick Connolly’s complaint was refused, as the article in question included a bland statement from the Gender Identity Development service at the end, saying they have done nothing wrong. But the headline- Politicised trans groups put children at risk, says expert– spreads fear of the mythical monster, the Trans Rights Activist, now threatening children. Consider the language: “experts were living in fear”, “trans political agenda”, “pressure… from highly politicised pro-trans groups”, “inability to stand up to pressure from trans lobbies”, “inadequate assessments”, “the mind that is free to think or ask difficult questions is treated as a real threat”, “fear of being accused of being bigoted and transphobic”, “parents all expressed alarm”, “fast-tracking children on to hormone blockers”. It foments fear against trans people and our medical treatment, portrayed at putting children at risk.

The Guardian printed the most transphobic article I have seen outside hard-right hate screeds. After a self-proclaimed incel murdered people in Toronto, Catharine Bennett wrote an article linking those murders, another spree killer with a “manifesto”, and the slogan “Die cis scum”. “Die cis scum” is meant to be shocking to cis people, but no-one wants to put it into practice and no-one has. She nevertheless liberally quoted threatening misogynist messages such as [select text to view] “you deserve to be raped”, “I want to murder a femoid” then claims trans people are threatening women. Bennett wrote last month saying WPUK are merely meeting to “share concerns”, but the trans rights pledge asking for Labour Party rules to be enforced is “disturbingly undemocratic”.

Here is the Guardian’s “transgender” page. Much of the news is about the threat of trans. Families divided as Tavistock court review goes ahead: though the article is mostly quotes from GIDS professionals, who say children are made aware of consequences, the first sentence nevertheless makes us think of a threat: “Puberty blockers carry risks and their long term effects are unknown”.

This is a letter which should not have been published, feeding transphobes’ sense of martyrdom and making unsubstantiated claims. The heading is “WPUK is not a ‘trans exclusionist hate group'”. So a blatant falsehood appears as a headline.

The Guardian prints brave trans allies, such as Owen Jones, who refers to the threats to trans rights often. For example, “Anti-trans zealots, history will judge you.” He argues anti-trans campaigners echo anti-gay campaigners. Zoe Williams has an excellent article- feminism should be on the side of compassion, and sideline those who can’t get beyond toilets. Feminism has far more important battles to fight.

The Guardian should stop printing articles quoting as if true transphobic claims, and articles suggesting trans people and transition are dangerous. It foments fear against us.

25 April: Nick Cohen had a bitter tirade about free speech and prejudice, picking on some idiot who is antisemitic. Like him, I loathe antisemitism: “The far left and alt-right cannot put forward a conspiracy theory without hitting on Jews,” he writes. But, being the victim of prejudice, he should see it. I can’t think of a subject more saturated with dishonesty than freedom of speech… if a feminist academic is deemed transphobic and cannot talk in universities, there are precious few other venues open to her. “Deemed transphobic,” as if prejudice against Jews is everywhere, but against trans people nowhere. She can go to The Times, The Spectator, The Economist or The Guardian, which will give her a platform to shout hate as loud as she likes.

2 thoughts on “Transphobia in the Guardian

    • Quaker anti-trans campaigners identify as Leftist. The money has come from the hard right, but many of the campaigners and speakers are otherwise Leftist. They claim transition is conservative, though the conservatives disagree.

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