Trans women patronised by the Beeb? Surely not!

I guess i shouldn’t be shocked. After all, the Beeb only claims to be the world’s foremost retailer of independent and factual news coverage. So if they can’t spot a trans woman when she identifies herself as one – what hope for the rest of us poor plebs.

Tonight, though, hearing Channel 4 come out with the tired line that what is going on in Malawi is “anti-gay”, i thought: to hell with it. Someone needs to say it.

Beeb. Channel 4. If you can’t cover sexual issues with a little more intelligence, just f**k off out of it and leave it to people who can.

The story so far? Well, Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, have just been sentenced to fourteen years’ hard labour under Malawi’s anti-gay laws. We know this because the Beeb tell us so.

Malawi gay couple sentenced to 14 years in jail” is just one of the heart-rending stories the Beeb have retailed over the last few days. Except…

Except maybe that isn’t quite how the couple themselves see it. A piece kicking off this whole saga in the New York Times earlier this year starts: “Tiwonge Chimbalanga looked like a man but said he was a woman”. Later on it quotes Tiwonge herself as saying: “I have male genitals, but inside I am a complete woman”.

Gay? A man and a woman having a relationship? Surely not? And how come the Malawian authorities get to describe such a relationship as characterised by unnatural acts and gross indecency?

Simple, really – and it is far too easy to blame those pesky (primitive) Africans: for the blame for a lot of this lies with us all too superior white westerners.

First off is the NYT piece. Despite Tiwonge identifying as female, the article goes on to refer to her as a man – and to use male pronouns – pretty much throughout.

That goes with the territory. The yanks are far more uptight about transgender issues than most Europeans, far readier to condemn, far readier to endorse transphobic violence. So here’s a story of nasty third world prejudice and bigotry – but it features a scary transsexual!

How better to draw the sting than to reposition the whole sorry mess as being anti-gay?

OK. So we expect this of the americans and american media? But why on earth have the British media followed suit? That’s harder to tell.

One part of the problem may be that the charlatan pseudo-science of psychiatry continues to spew out unproven and unproveable bilge to the effect that transgender is at some remove nothing more than severely repressed homosexuality. There is not one iota of proof for this bizarre claim – but allow grey men in pinstripe suits to repeat it often enough and it begins to take on the status of gospel truth.

And so the Beeb and Channel 4 follow the suits.

Tiwonge and Steven are gay. Which means we can all condemn the Malawian authorities without a second thought for our precious gender identities.

Does this really matter? I think it does. Because what we should really be saying is that these two people, these individuals, are consenting adults who have made choices about how to live their lives. They are harming no-one else. It therefore is no business of ours how they choose to arrange their genital affairs.

But by buying into the view that one sort of prejudice is wronger than another we actually become part of the problem – however much we think we are part of the solution.

This is in no way to downplay the appalling toll taken by anti-gay prejudice across the world – and particularly in Africa at this time. But so long as we persist in filing the appalling behaviour of others – and other governments – according to category of victim, then true liberation is going to be a long uphill struggle.


About janefae

On my way from here to there
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2 Responses to Trans women patronised by the Beeb? Surely not!

  1. Clarissa says:

    Really interesting post, Jane, highlighting the ways in which the supposedly ‘positive’ take in a news story can efface other issues.

  2. earwicga says:

    It’s not positive Clarissa – at best it is lazy and more honestly it is utterly transphobic.

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