What’s “right”? What’s “wrong”? Oh: its hard enough for someone as morally relative as myself to answer that in respect of big questions like war and peace.
So how on earth can I respond to a detail question like “was it right to include a piece by Charles Kane on Channel 4’s 4Thought week on transgender issues”. Duh!
It all depends…as it usually does. Although this time round, I’ll do away with any possible scope for tension and deliver my verdict up front. Yes: it was wrong. And for very good reason.
When people ask me questions in a professional capacity – is this copy “good”? is this story “exciting”? – I usually reply by asking them to decide what the purpose of the copy, story, etc. is. Nine times out of ten, once they’ve worked out the reason why they’re doing something, the answer is pretty easy.
Was this copy “good”? Er, yes – if it was aimed at Cosmo…but as a serious submission to the Royal College of Surgeons, it just doesn’t cut the mustard.
So with C4. Should Charles Kane get air time? Yep. There will always be occasions when someone of his ilk merits it. But as what? Or in answer to what question?
So lets be pedantic about the C4 week. Their producers asked a valid question: is it “wrong” to change gender? I’d say that there are quite a few cases where it was clearly right for an individual, and C4 put up some of those. I’d also say – unpalatable as it may sound to the trans community – that there are arguments on the other side.
Julie Bindel makes a case (flawed, but a case nonetheless) for why transition is wrong in principle. I’m pretty sure I could lay my hands on more than a few theologians who would put the religious case against. But Mr Kane?
His argument really is not about whether transitioning is wrong in principle. As I attempted to post on the C4 site, he is a deeply selfish individual, who managed to screw up his own life by virtue of using large amounts of personal wealth to blast through what was accepted practice a decade or so back.
Its an argument about process – not principle. It proves nothing…beyond being a slot where someone who made a mistake owns up to making a mistake. And it might have been interesting if he’d explained why he’d made a mistake.
Actually – listen carefully – he contributes little to the argument.
As for who C4 could have included if they’d wanted to put an anti on the roster.. there’s another question entirely. The choice should not have been subject to an explicit veto by the trans community. But equally, they need to choose with care.
Take theologians: I have spoken with UK theologians who have genuine moral and ethical reservations about transition. They could probably put those forward without being wholly offensive, explain their position, help people think. And there are others who are little more than covert transphobes, using the same arguments, but doing so because they are expedient.
So back to C4. If you wanted someone to argue the anti case, there were plenty far better qualified. If you picked Ms Bindel, you would have done so knowing she would be pretty much red rag to one side – and not especially insightful either.
Turn the question around: what objective were you trying to meet? If you intended to illuminate the arguments against, you failed. If you wanted to grab headlines, then you succeeded.
The real question that is worth tossing back at C4 is: was your choice of Mr Kane accident, because you don’t really understand the field (and grabbed the nearest headline-grabber you could lay your hands on) or was it deliberate (let’s go for controversy and to hell with sensibilities).
An honest answer to that question from C4 might just be a tad more useful than further agonising over whether Kane represents any set of ideas beyond his own.