A distraction

An interesting poll in PinkNews: despite more than two years of relentless and increasingly vicious scaremongering in pretty much the entire national media and online, most UK women are still in favour of self-ID for trans people: 57%, compared to 21% against.

It’s welcome, of course, and it echoes many other polls (and trans people’s experiences) that show most women don’t believe the lurid claims of the pressure groups that pretend to speak for them, but at the same time it’s frustrating to see reporting and polling about trans “issues” that focus on the things bigots want to talk about, not the things that are important.

Self-ID is a minor administrative thing that not only isn’t relevant to cisgender people, but that isn’t particularly important to trans people either. Sure, we’d like the process of legal gender recognition to be less humiliating and expensive and for it to be inclusive of non-binary people. And yes, gender recognition certificates can help protect us against some forms of discrimination.

But on the list of things trans people want to focus on, to address, to talk about, the gender recognition process is near the bottom of the list.

We’re only talking about it because other people won’t stop shouting about it.

There is only so much oxygen in media, and they’re using it all up.

My news app brings me stories about trans issues. For several weeks now, the trans-related coverage has been overwhelmed by a single celebrity whose views on trans people are no different from and no more insightful than any run-of-the-mill transphobe on Twitter. But of course, she’s famous.

It’s Caitlyn Jenner all over again. A few years ago it seemed like the only articles anybody was allowed to write about trans people were either based on some awful thing Caitlyn Jenner said or some awful thing someone else said about Caitlyn Jenner. Meanwhile the important stuff didn’t make the papers at all. Why would it? A celebrity has an opinion!

It’s not just the coverage. It’s that it sets the agenda for other media: the celebrity’s opinion is either the hook, or the only thing the presenter wants to talk about and will let the guest talk about.

It often feels very much like this:

Expert: Well, John, the big concern is that a woman who needs hormone treatment can go to her GP and get a prescription that day – unless she’s trans, in which case it can take three or even four years to get the same medication. And that’s dangerous because –”

Presenter: “But this celebrity, who’s really just an ordinary concerned parent, says trans people drink the blood of freshly slaughtered children. How much children’s blood do they drink?”

Expert: “What? That’s ridiculous. Of course they don’t drink the –”

Presenter: “When did they stop drinking the blood of freshly slaughtered children?”

This isn’t helping anybody, and it certainly isn’t educating and informing. It’s a distraction.

As Toni Morrison famously said about racism:

“The function, the very serious function of racism, is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and so you spend 20 years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says that you have no art so you dredge that up. Somebody says that you have no kingdoms and so you dredge that up. None of that is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”