Political differences

Petra De Sutter

The photo above is of Petra De Sutter, the newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium. She’s also Minister for Public Enterprises. Oh, and she’s transgender.

As the Brussels Time notes, that bit “went almost unremarked upon by Belgian media… [other than] when remarking on the diverse make up of the new government – which consists of 50% women, includes several ministers with a migration background, and is relatively young.”

Meanwhile in Scotland:

The First Minister stepped in to defend one Holyrood hopeful – Rhiannon Spear – after she was targeted with horrified misogynistic abuse from trolls having previously defended transgender rights.

I’ve written about Spear before; she’s a dedicated and impressive young politician who’s been the subject of an ongoing hate campaign simply because she believes in human rights for trans people. And she is not alone. In the UK, women who defend trans rights are subjected to sustained, vicious, misogynistic abuse that’s much more serious than a celebrity being called a bigot on Twitter; any trans person considering political office will receive even worse. So it’s hardly surprising that while Belgium has a trans Deputy Prime Minister, the UK has no openly trans MPs, MSPs or MEPs at all.

De Sutter:

LGBTQ+ Media

Nine questions you might have about trans stuff

Katelyn Burns has written an excellent piece for Vox: 9 questions about trans issues you were too embarrassed to ask.

The questions are:

  1. What does it mean to be trans?
  2. Why should I care about trans issues?
  3. What about the pronouns thing?
  4. What issues are trans people fighting for?
  5. Why are we always talking about trans issues?
  6. What’s the deal with bathrooms?
  7. What’s with the panic over trans women with penises and trans men who menstruate?
  8. What about trans women playing women’s sports?
  9. What about trans kids?

I think the question “why are we always talking about trans issues” is particularly apt today because it’s Sunday, when the right-wing press likes to run its anti-trans hit pieces and scaremonger about trans kids, trans women and trans athletes.

“The right has worked to make it an electoral issue…  We see this across the board — they try to posture trans rights as extreme and a danger particularly to children,” Brennan Suen, LGBTQ program director at Media Matters, told Vox. This is why, he said, conservatives have focused so much on legislation regarding transition care for trans minors, bathrooms, and trans athletes in sports. “They are able to reach those voters who might not know a trans person and give them misinformation and bigoted information that honestly scares them.”

…as trans people have really been more visible in the media … we’ve seen the right really ramp up their attacks.”


Most people are good people

This, from Gogglebox, is lovely: it’s people watching an episode of First Dates featuring a trans man.


The bookshops battling bigotry

There’s a good piece in Bookriot by Alice Nuttall about the bigoted bullshit many independent bookshops experience; it’s usually because they’re supportive of LGBT+ rights and trans people specifically.

Despite the fact that the shop promotes women’s writing and has made huge strides in ensuring that little-read women authors are given the prominence and acclaim that they deserve, The Second Shelf was deemed anti-feminist for its decision to include all women, rather than solely cis women, on its shelves. The abuse faced by The Second Shelf mostly took place online, with transphobes writing negative reviews despite having never visited the store, or bombarding the shop’s Twitter account with hundreds of hateful messages.

As ever, the people doing it are usually supporters of, and often tacitly supported by, supposed champions of free speech and critics of “cancel culture”.

LGBTQ+ Media

“The world is better for having you in it”

Over 200 1,512 writers and publishing professionals have written an open letter in support of trans and non-binary people.

This is a message of love and solidarity for the trans and non-binary community. Culture is, and should always be, at the forefront of societal change, and as writers, editors, agents, journalists, and publishing professionals, we recognise the vital role our industry has in advancing and supporting the wellbeing and rights of trans and non-binary people. We stand with you, we hear you, we see you, we accept you, we love you. The world is better for having you in it.

Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Hating for ratings

How’s this for a TV show? We get a racist – a proper racist, ideally a knuckle-dragger from a really racist organisation such as the EDL or Britain First, someone who’s really loudly and proudly racist and spends loads of time being really racist to people on Twitter – and we pair him up with a nice middle-class Black woman. Then we get the two of them to sit down for a nice dinner and a chat and we film the whole thing.

Good, right? It’s a social experiment!

I haven’t even got to the best bit yet. It’s not just a chat. We give the racist guy a script of really racist things to say to the Black woman over dinner and we film her response. Maybe she’ll cry!  Maybe she’ll walk out! Maybe it’ll go viral!

No? How about we pair a neo-nazi with a nice Jewish lady?

Of course not. Trying to get a fight for ratings is disgusting, as we saw with the Jerry Springer and Jeremy Kyle shows. But that doesn’t mean TV production companies don’t keep trying to bring back the formula, which is essentially hating for ratings. For example, an Irish TV company is currently sending this to various trans women (and to other marginalised groups, such as members of the travelling community).

As one commenter on Twitter translated: “We’re making a show where we have members of marginalised groups sit down with people who think they shouldn’t exist, for entertainment purposes. Also we’re suggesting that marginalised people are the enemy, in the title.”

Earlier this year Evgeny Shtorn wrote about the importance of storytelling in regards to minority and marginalised people.

Considering how powerful storytelling is, we cannot pretend that the infrastructure built around it by media and researchers is always ethical and respectful towards those who constitute those stories… journalists were rude to me, disrespectful and abusive. Using my words or ideas without quotes, giving erroneous interpretations and false promises. Trans and non-binary people, homeless people, other migrants, people of colour, people with disabilities and a lot of others who I shared my concerns with, told me that they often experienced similar treatment from journalists, but also from artists, researchers and other ‘supporters’. It is called ‘cognitive exploitation’, and this is exactly the opposite to the idea of the empowerment of the community through storytelling.

…The problem is that after such an interaction most people retreat into their closet and don’t want to tell their stories anymore, despite those stories being so important to tell.

There was an example of this in England the other day: trans person and poet Jay Hulme was invited on BBC TV to discuss the government’s response to GRA reform.

I was going to be on the BBC today having a chat about the GRA – but I pulled out yesterday, having been informed that it’s BBC policy to have a cis woman invited to speak on any segment about trans ppl – I’m not going on TV to be yelled at by a transphobe from the Daily Mail.

By “cis woman” the policy doesn’t mean a cisgender woman who’s supportive of trans people, even though such women are the majority (and were the majority in the GRA reform consultation too). It means the kind of woman trans commentator Shon Faye was expected to go on air with this week. Faye was one of several trans people invited on BBC Woman’s Hour to discuss gender recognition. At the last minute, the panel was expanded to include an anti-trans activist who has taken great delight in publicly misgendering her and who Faye says even shared a now-deleted defamatory petition implying she groomed children. Faye declined the invitation.

I have some experience of this. I’ve refused to go on multiple programmes because the approach was clearly going to be gladiatorial, not editorial; other contributors were not people with concerns about specific bits of legalese but members of groups who peddle hatred on social media. Taking part is therefore a trap for marginalised people: if you don’t robustly challenge the other contributors they get to lie, lie and lie some more; if you do, and worse still if you also dare correct the presenter, you’re dismissed as unreasonable and aggressive. And even the most innocuous appearance will have bigots descending on your social media.

It’s clear that the people commissioning and structuring these programmes are thinking about ratings, not the damage these narratives can do to marginalised groups. And they are doing damage. By presenting extreme views as mainstream, such as perpetuating the myth that the two sides of the trans debate are “trans activists vs feminists” rather than “most of the country vs a few well-connected bigots”, they’re fanning the flames of intolerance and positioning extreme views as if they’re mainstream. We’ve seen this before with the platforming of far-right views, of anti-vaxxers and of climate change denial.

The problem yet again is that the people making these programmes have no skin in the game. Their human rights are not under attack. Their safety is not threatened by the rise in hate crimes. Their ability to participate in society is not something producers think should be up for debate. To them, it’s just another item. To marginalised and demonised minorities, it’s our lives.

Bullshit LGBTQ+

Celebs speak out

Minor celebrities: We must write an open letter to protest against online abuse of women!

LGBT+ folks: Like the vicious abuse some of your co-signatories and many supporters of your multi-millionaire pal have spent years dishing out to trans women, to the mothers of trans children, to cisgender women who say they support trans rights and to cisgender women who work in rape crisis centres and other trans-inclusive organisations?

Minor celebs: Not like that!


More than 50 public figures and anti-trans campaigners signed the letter published in The Sunday Times, which condemns the “insidious, authoritarian and misogynistic” opposition to Rowling on social media.

…the letter claims that Rowling “has consistently shown herself to be an honourable and compassionate person” – just days after the Harry Potter author promoted a website selling “f**k your pronouns” and “sorry about your d**k bro” badges mocking the trans community.

One of the signatories has been banned from social media for a years-long campaign of hate speech against trans women and any cisgender women who dared disagree with him, a campaign that cost him his career and his marriage; others have been criticised for making transphobic statements that were at best tone-deaf and at worst actively malicious. One of the signatories previously accused a gay journalist who supports trans people of being a “sucker of Satan’s cock”.

As Judith Butler said in her New Statesman interview the other day:

if we are going to object to harassment and threats, as we surely should, we should also make sure we have a large picture of where that is happening, who is most profoundly affected, and whether it is tolerated by those who should be opposing it. It won’t do to say that threats against some people are tolerable but against others are intolerable.

LGBTQ+ Media

Trans freedom fighters: a series

The US edition of The Guardian continues to show how pathetic the UK edition’s coverage of trans people and trans-related issues has become. While the UK edition is still unsure about whether we actually deserve human rights, the US edition is running series telling stories like this one: ‘Our love is radical’: why trans activists lead the way in protest movements.

Though their legacies have often been overlooked, trans Americans have been central to the country’s battles for justice, from racial equality to anti-fascism.

Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

History reheated

The Sun, 1984. Three decades later and it’s still singing the same song.


Right body, wrong configuration

How often have you heard the phrase “born in the wrong body” about trans people? And how many times have you heard it said by trans people?

Chances are the first number is much, much higher than the second. That’s because the BITWB trope is primarily used by cisgender people who are writing or talking about transgender people; the few trans people who do use it are typically people who have just come out, have just started making sense of things and are trying to explain something very big and complicated in as simple a way as possible.

Mallory Moore has put together a good overview of this. As Moore points out, the vast majority of “trans people think you can be born in the wrong body” stuff online is written by anti-trans activists. Whenever I’ve seen it discussed by trans people, it’s to criticise the trope, not to perpetuate it. I don’t think I’ve encountered a single instance of the BITWB trope being used by anybody who’s come out as trans and begun any kind of transition.

Moore quotes a poem by Elena Rose from 2007:

I am not a woman trapped in a man’s body. This body is no man’s; it is mine, it is me, and there is no man in that equation. And I am not trapped in it. There are a million and one ways out of this body, and I have clung to it, tooth and claw, despite an endless line of people and institutions who would rather I vacate the premises, and have sometimes been willing to make me bleed to convince me they’re right.

The trope does have a history, though. When trans healthcare suffered from even more gatekeeping than it does now, trans people knew exactly what was expected from them if they wanted access to any form of transition: if they didn’t turn up looking stereotypically feminine and telling the doc they were trapped in the wrong body, they wouldn’t get any treatment.

It’s a story we were told to tell gatekeepers in order to qualify for essential treatment and a story early transitioners told the papers, setting a framework that journalists still use today.

As Janet Mock put it:

Trapped in the wrong body” is a convenient, lazy explanation but it fails to describe #trans people & our bodies every time… it makes our lives and struggles more palatable to the cis masses, but it is lazy media ‘reporting’.

Update: The Mermaids charity has posted a blog asking trans and non-binary people whether they use the phrase; some used to and feel it isn’t right; others are perfectly fine with it. It’s an interesting piece.