Thought i’d drop you a line because i felt slightly bad about coming down so hard on you in respect of your piece, yesterday, on the Moore-Burchill saga. I know i used the h-word, and that is probably unfair. Though i do think this entire debate is uncovering a very large hypocrisy at the centre of press thinking and if you’d like to understand better how this issue relates directly to Leveson, please read: https://sexualitymatters.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/the-hypocrisy-that-pervades-press-freedom/
Otherwise, let me take a moment to explain a little. Christine Burns (MBE) put it very well in a blog she wrote last week, urging people to cool it with Suzanne Moore. In addition to trying to soothe tensions she wrote that what many in the press seem never to ask is: why all this anger? If a bunch of people are very angry about something, is it just because they are bonkers, or is there a reason somewhere?
I’m a journalist. I occasionally get threats – mostly not ones i take seriously. I am also a woman of trans history. Pretty ordinary in my daily life. Middle-aged…not terribly pretty…not given to wearing short skirts or anything else that will draw attention. But still identifiable as trans.
Out with a friend a week or two back, in a Tesco car park, a driver i had never met in my life before tried to run me down. Slow speed. They’d “only” have bruised me if they’d hit. But still…unnerving. My friend was shocked. Shocked to see it happen. Shocked, too, that i should be so calm about it. Oh, i said: i guess i’m used to it. Not every day. Not every week. But since transitioning, my life has become infinitely more exciting…at least, if you consider random threats of assault when simply walking down the street to be “exciting”. After nearly 30 adult years of never needing to call on the police once (apart from a burglary back in 1993), i soon became bestest friends with my local constabulary.
My phone number and address are on a police watch list. If i call in with an emergency, they’ll send a car straightaway. In the last two years, the police have arrested/cautioned two individuals for threats made against me. Did i insult them? No. Did i do anything other than be me? Nope. You get used to it.
Last year i wrote the story of a Russian asylum seeker who eventually went into hiding rather than return to Russia. She was living in virtual house arrest, afraid to go on the street. Last time she ventured out, she was assaulted, stripped and pissed on before being left unconscious in a back alleyway. Report it to the police? Don’t be silly: it was the police did that to her!
Do you know about this stuff? Did you know that last year over 100 Brazilian transsexuals were murdered for being trans? Or that even in the UK, being trans singles you out as statistically more likely to be attacked on the street than almost any other status?
Maybe you did. Maybe you didn’t. The reason for the anger, though, that is not organised…is, rather, just emerging organically from the trans community… is the press. You’ll happily write a number of tropes about trans folk: about regret, about us getting handouts or – horrors! – getting surgery paid for by the state. But somehow you miss that level of violence and discrimination and abuse that goes on each day, every day.
And when it comes to columnists? Oh. Its fine for them to use language that in any other context would be near as damnit unprintable…but its OK about the trans community. And then, for all the bleating about freedom of speech, extracts from that column, which the Observer, the Indie, the Telegraph considers fit to print are moderated off the comments at the end of articles on the subject.
Double standard, huh?
So, sure: i was a tad angry and i wrote in a way i don’t feel particularly proud of. But unless and until the press actually come outside and start to understand WHY that anger is there, these confrontations will just continue to happen. Sadly.
P.S. I might just put this up on one of my blogs…though – cross my heart and hope to die! – will absolutely NOT publish any reply you make unless you say its fine to do so
eek! edited to add that Christine is an MBE and not OBE. Don’t ask me: i have no idea which is which!