Imagine I started a petition claiming that the government was going to ban bees and demanding that it didn’t.
“We’re not going to ban bees,” the government would respond. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
How would you report that? Would you:
(a) Conclude that ‘arseholes create petition about imaginary problem’ wasn’t newsworthy in the first place?
(b) Write a brief story noting that some arseholes created a petition and that the government told them to get stuffed?
Or (c) Run the story with the headline “Bee friends force government into humiliating climbdown”?
If you chose (c), you’re probably writing about trans issues for national newspapers.
(I have a more mature version of this going live on Metro today, where I’m not allowed to call people “arseholes” or say “fuck”).
Over the weekend, multiple newspapers ran a story that the government said trans people can be banned from toilets, changing rooms and other single-sex spaces.
That isn’t true. Doing so is illegal.
Here’s what actually happened.
- Anti-trans activists created a petition demanding the government consults them before changing existing equality legislation;
- The government politely told them to fuck off on the grounds that they aren’t considering changing existing equality legislation.
To see that presented as a victory for anti-trans campaigners is quite something.
Here’s how the law works. Under the Equality Act, which has been in force for eight years now, you cannot discriminate against trans people. In very specific circumstances, such as women’s refuges, you can exclude trans people provided that doing so is legitimate and proportionate.
Over to you, Stonewall:
The exemptions in the law (which the Government referred to) only apply where services can demonstrate that excluding a trans person is absolutely necessary, for example, if inclusion would put that trans person at risk. However, these exemptions are rarely used and in almost all situations trans people are treated equally as is required by our equality laws.
…This kind of reporting also doesnâ€™t reflect reality; trans people can and have been using toilets that match their gender for years without issue. This is another media-generated â€˜debateâ€™, and itâ€™s actually having a negative effect on many people who arenâ€™t trans too; people whose appearance doesnâ€™t fit the stereotypes of male or female are increasingly being challenged for simply going into a public loo.
This lazy and/or wilful misreporting is dangerous. It completely misrepresents the law, and it’s contributing to a culture that’s already seen cisgender (ie, not trans) women chased out of bathrooms for not looking feminine enough. Trans people are victims, and newspapers repeatedly take the side of the bullies.
If you’re regurgitating press releases from pressure groups and failing to check even the simplest facts, you shouldn’t be in journalism.