When even The Guardian sees the bigotry

It’s very hard to see any light at the end of the anti-trans tunnel; just yesterday, it emerged that a teenager has been charged for the attempted murder of a trans teen in North London. The 18-year-old trans girl was stabbed 14 times in a confrontation that began with strangers shouting transphobic slurs at her; thankfully she survived. But to add insult to injury, the Evening Standard report spent the bulk of its column inches telling us how sad her (alleged) attempted murderer was.

As an example of how the UK press treats hate crimes against trans people, that’s not unusual: in recent days we’ve also had reports that one of the murderers of trans teen Brianna Ghey has been boasting in prison about how famous the newspapers, which used glamour shots rather than mugshots of her on their front pages, have made her.

I’ve written before that I really thought the murder of Brianna would finally bring some sanity to the anti-trans moral panic, but it didn’t – although Rishi Sunak may have helped with his attempt to score political points by mocking trans people while Brianna’s mum was in attendance, a move that had even some of the bigot brigade appalled. But maybe we’re finally coming to the end of this vicious panic. Because even The Guardian is now running several pieces highlighting the cruelty and the bigotry of the anti-trans movement.

The UK edition of The Guardian has arguably done more to legitimise anti-trans pressure groups and narratives than the right-wing press, and some of its key writers have set up their own “gender critical” group to push anti-trans content in the pages of The Guardian and sister paper The Observer. But in the last few days it’s printed several articles critical of anti-trans culture warriors. That’s significant because these are in the UK edition: for some time now there’s been a marked difference in editorial policy between the US edition (pro-LGBTQ+) and the UK one (obsessively anti-trans).

Today’s piece is about the manufactured controversy over Parkrun fun runs, which began on Mumsnet before jumping to the Daily Mail and being amplified by the right-wing pressure group Policy Exchange.

so once you erase trans women from physical sport, you move to sports such as chess and darts. From there it’s a short leap to scoffing at people’s pronouns, talking about “men in dresses”, perhaps even a cheap gag during prime minister’s questions while the parents of a murdered trans teenager are watching from the public gallery. Next you start denying the concept of gender fluidity entirely. You demonise the trans woman as a potential abuser or rapist. You describe transition surgery as “mutilation” or “child abuse”. All in the service of pushing the window, inching towards some sunlit horizon in which – as is already beginning to occur in parts of the US – trans people can be legislated out of existence entirely.

And really the telling part of the parkrun row is the way the anti-trans movement in sport has begun to broaden its focus beyond the Olympic 800m, or national swimming trials, or suppressed testosterone levels, into areas of identity and belonging. The proposed parkrun ban is – short of genital inspectors in the token queues – basically unenforceable. The cruelty is the point here: the desire to forcibly out trans women, even when it might threaten their safety. The message to trans women, trans men – or even anyone who looks like they might be trans – that this is not your space, and you will identify not according to your values but to ours.

If the bigots have become so bad that even The Guardian is admitting it, maybe sanity will finally prevail after all.