I know this is not going to win friends in some quarters. On the other hand, some things do need saying.
I am in the business of change. More precisely, campaigning to bring about real lasting change across a number of issues. That means a lot of things, with different tactics applied to different situations. Sometimes direct action. Sometimes using the courts. Sometimes lobbying politicians.
Crucially, it means two other things: having a clear understanding of what the issue is that I am taking exception to…and having a clear idea of what I’d like to see happen instead.
Evidence is key. Not knee-jerk reaction.
So I am not terribly happy to read the froth following on from last week’s sad incident involving the trans individual – David Burgess, aka Sonia – meeting their death under the wheels of a tube train.
To read some commenters, one would almost imagine that the press staged the whole episode for the purposes of having a pop at transgender. Huh?
Everything the press has done has been “wrong”. Its also, according to some, deliberate falsehood. Huh? Really?
Let’s pass on the fact that there isn’t much point to making up facts in this case, given the wealth of stuff already out about it. Let’s pass on wondering why editors and journalists would risk destroying their careers to make up stuff that is nasty about us poor down-trodden trans men and women.
Nothing works. From the earliest reports that a “man in a dress” had been pushed under the wheels of a train, to the more recent outing of same as someone who advertised sexual services for money.
Which leaves me wondering what people would have liked instead. No publicity at all? Ah, but then the press would be colluding in the murder of a trans woman by refusing to publicise the case.
And “man in a dress”? Yes? My partner asked me if I’d be upset if the press wrote about me in such terms. Darn right I would be. I’d be on the line instantly to the paper concerned or, if it was my obituary, I’d hope that relatives would be doing the same.
But if I’d just been subject to what might have been a violent attack by a transphobic individual and the safety of other trans women depended on information getting out quickly, I think I could live with that.
So say what you see. That particular report came directly from police statements, in turn circulated to drum up info. Often, the real issue with what gets reported starts well before journalists get involved – with police statements that are themselves confused, transphobic even.
What were the police meant to do? Say nothing? No way. As a community we’d have howled in rage if they’d done that. Report the death of “a man”? Of “a woman”? And again risk failing to elicit interest amongst those most likely to be directly affected by this incident.
Then there’s the subsequent gendering. Personally, I am still not clear what the victim would have chosen, if asked. They weren’t, as far as can be told, transitioning fully. They lived a double life, with many of their closest colleagues not having an idea about their gender identity. They achieved significant things in the legal field as “David”: so should we discount that? Should we assume that they did identify as female unless we KNOW?
One poster suggested that journalists should have done their own digging…not relying on the police. Really? Apasrt from the fact that such digging might turn up unsavoury stuff (as below), is that honestly what we want? On a major news story, 40 or 50 journalists all hammering round to the front door of bereaved relatives, shouting questions, phoning up, taking pics…grabbing pics of the deceased from wherever they can get them?
Or would it be better if the media respected the grief, took a prepared statement, and reported that – rather like the way they do now?
And what about the escort angle? Sadly – and I think I have more than a little right to have a go at this, given that I have been lobbying on these issues for years – this IS a story. It shouldn’t be. Its prurient. Sniggering. Irrelevant. But it IS a story. Would be whether the individual was straight or gay, male or female, trans or cis.
If its untrue, then papers publishing it deserve to be exposed. But why would it be? I write about sex and sexuality. I have spoken to many, many individuals in similar situations: people who indulge in various activities in their spare time – including taking money that they don’t need for services (because that payment aspect fuels a particular fantasy) – and who would lose pretty much everything, including their job, if exposed.
This case highlights the failure of the recent ruling in respect of Max Mosley, in which a judge slammed the News of the World for an exposé that lacked any public interest merit. I said at the time that ruling was only slightly helpful to those with “interesting” private lives…since it left wide open the possibility of stories exposing people with public roles.
Here we have a top lawyer, whose work has been influential in changing the law in some key areas, discovered to have been doing something that was possibly unlawful, almost certainly considered improper according to the standards of the legal profession. And its titillating.
Are we saying that the law, as it stands, regards that as a private matter? Of no public interest? Bollocks!
I repeat, I absolutely think it should be off limits. But to claim – to pretend – that printing such a story is primarily motivated by transphobia is stretching the bounds of credulity.
No. The press is far from brilliant when it comes to covering trans issues. But the criticism I am hearing in this case seems to go far deeper: to be almost as absolute as implying that if the press write about transgender at all, it is to be condemned.
That, I would suggest, is just plain bonkers – and likely to rebound big time.
Meanwhile, there are things in the coverage of the present case I’d like not to see. But so far, I haven’t seen much that is much worse than the general run of the mill issues – certainly no conspiracy
We shall see. This case has some way to run. It may yet transpire that someone somewhere has fibbed, in which case they should be hung, drawn and quartered for it.
But leaping up and down, calling names, and having not the faintest what we’d like to see instead is the fast track to sounding like cranks and not being listened to at all.