The following release was circulated on behalf of Protest Transphobia, who are today demonstrating outside the offices of the Telegraph newspaper, to protest that paper’s decision to republish an article by Julie Burchill, originally published in the Observer, and later withdrawn in response to widespread concerns that the language used was abusive towards the transgender community and possibly even amounted to “hate speech”.
For further information,please contact the organisers of the demo – Protest Transphobia – directly via email@example.com
A pdf version is also available here.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Protest against media attacks on the UK’s trans community moves to the Telegraph: demonstration scheduled for 26 January
Following a successful demonstration outside the offices of the Guardian newspaper on 17 January, Protest Transphobia will be holding a rally outside the offices of the Telegraph newspaper between 13.00 and 15.00 on Saturday 26 January.
Their protest marks outrage at the Telegraph’s decision to republish an article by Julie Burchill, previously withdrawn by the Observer, that attacked the transgender community in language widely regarded as abusive.
Representatives from the group will be seeking to meet with senior members of the Telegraph’s editorial staff to hand over an open letter detailing the hurt felt by the UK’s transgender community at the Telegraph’s action and to discuss the contents of that letter with them.
Accusing the Telegraph of skewing the way in which this debate has been positioned, they write:
“By framing this debate in terms of free speech and the right to offend, we believe that the Telegraph has glossed over the reasons for the anger felt towards Julie Burchill’s article and has been complicit in attempts to erase public understanding of the real life impact of transphobia upon trans people living in our society.
“If your interest is in free speech we would ask why you have not commissioned a piece from a trans commentator for your publication.”
The letter includes suggestions for ways in which the Telegraph can go some way to undoing the harm done, including a meet with representatives of the trans community to discuss the issues raised and the commission a piece from a trans journalist to balance Ms Burchill’s piece.
Trans activist, Kai Weston added: “A poll in the Independent showed 90% of respondents felt the Burchill piece went too far.
“A recent study found that trans people’s mental health appears to be significantly worsened by the transphobia they encounter, with 84% having considered suicide.
“Despite this, while defending its republication of the Burchill piece in terms of “free speech”, the Telegraph has completely failed to balance the debate with any trans voices: the Telegraph is, in fact, no different to the tabloid press in its determination to erase real trans people and their experiences from any objective reporting in the UK.”
In a previous demonstration organised by Protest Transphobia at the offices of Guardian Media Group an open letter with 290 signatures was accepted by members of that paper’s senior editorial team.
Since the demonstration, The Observer has published a full apology for publishing the Julie Burchill’s article.
Her piece is also being looked at by the Press Complaints Commission, which has taken the unusual step of investigating whether the language used by its author was discriminatory or whether it constituted “hate speech”, even though it was not directed at any specific individual, as would normally be required before an investigation could take place.
In a statement issued on 22 January, the National Union of Journalists Equality Council further condemned this piece for containing “unnecessarily provocative, gratuitously offensive and bigoted material”.
For further information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
1. The demonstration is planned to take place at the offices of the Telegraph Media Group at 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0DT between 13.00 and 15.00 on Saturday 26 January, 2013.
2. The main website for the Protest Transphobia campaign can be found at http://www.protest-transphobia.org/
3. The NUJ statement on this event can be found at http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj.html?docid=2774
4. Information on abuse suffered and harm to trans people can be found at:
Appendix I: text of letter to be handed to Telegraph editors
To the editor:
We are writing in support of Protest Transphobia’s demonstration being held outside The Telegraph’s offices in London on 26/01/2013.
As allies and members of the trans community, we believe that the decision to republish the article “Transsexuals need to cut it out” by Julie Burchill was unfortunate and misguided. In particular the way the debate has been framed is unhelpful.
By framing this debate in terms of free speech and the right to offend, we believe that the Telegraph has glossed over the reasons for the anger felt towards Julie Burchill’s article and has been complicit in attempts to erase public understanding of the real life impact of transphobia upon trans people living in our society.
If your interest is in free speech we would ask why you have not commissioned a piece from a trans commentator for your publication.
In deciding what is, and is not newsworthy the press acts as a gatekeeper of public debate. As such it has a responsibility to ensure that all sides are heard, not just those it agrees with. It also has a responsibility to ensure public safety.
We believe that all trans people, as part of the public, should be able to live without fear of violence, harassment, or unequal treatment on the basis of their trans status, and that Julie Burchill’s article could be seen as an incitement of hatred against trans people, and in particular, towards trans women.
A study by Trans Media Watch entitled “How Transgender People Experience the Media” in 2010 looked at these issues and two things stand out:
- In total, 21.5% of respondents had experienced verbal abuse that they believed was associated
with representations of transgender people in the media on at least one occasion.
- 8% reported that they had received physical abuse that they believed was connected to an item or items in the media.
We would therefore ask that you:
- Meet with representatives of our community to discuss these issues.
- Commission a piece from a trans journalist to balance Ms Burchill’s piece.
- Review Julie Burchill’s article in the light of the editor’s code and publish the results of that review.