LGBTQ+ Media

Why British media is so transphobic

This, by VS Wells, is very good.

A culmination of factors appear at play. Some point to the antiquated ideologies of a generation of journalists and publishers who have dominated the mainstream media. Others say it’s intrinsically linked to political leaders who have failed to denounce hate. No matter its origins, this rampant transphobia has become a nation’s accepted bigotry.

The article rightly points out that the disproportionate influence wielded by a few well-connected people has been a significant factor.

Media in the U.K. has long been white, wealthy and interconnected, and it’s within these circles especially that transphobia has “become very fashionable,” Jane Fae says. The chair of Trans Media Watch, a charity that advocates for better press coverage, Fae points to Ian Katz as an example: During his stints at the Guardian newspaper, BBC and Channel 4, each publication saw a rise in transphobic coverage. Katz is married to Justine Roberts, founder and CEO of Mumsnet, a website that’s become a hotbed of British TERFs. As writer Laurie Penny explains, “The ecosystem of liberal media and left-wing activism is smaller and more quarrelsome in Britain than it is in America, and a lot of people know each other, and a lot of [transphobia in media] comes down to in-group loyalty and personal drama.”


Whine producers

My friend Ellie just coined a phrase I really love: whine producers. Think Toby Young, Allison Pearson and all the other people who have bad opinions for money, and who churn out those opinions on an industrial scale.

LGBTQ+ Media

The paper of a broken record

Jeffrey Ingold, Stonewall’s head of media:

In 2020, The Times (incl. the Sunday Times) wrote 324 articles about trans people & ‘trans issues’. Zero of which were written by trans people themselves.

For comparison, in 2019, The Times wrote 321 articles about trans people & ‘trans issues’. 3 were written by trans people.

LGBTQ+ Media

“Extremely inappropriate”

According to Dame Melanie Dawes, the head of Ofcom, it is “extremely inappropriate” for the BBC to platform organisations such as the LGB Alliance to “balance” stories about trans people, trans healthcare or trans people’s human rights.

The video’s here. It’s in response to a question by MP John Nicolson, a gay man who’s been subject to vicious homophobic abuse from LGB Alliance supporters.

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

Being chased by bears

If you’re trans and talk about it online, people will imply – or sometimes state baldly – that you do it too much or too often. But like many trans people I don’t feel I have a choice: if we don’t speak, nobody is speaking for us.

CaseyExplosion on Twitter:

I so very deeply wish I didn’t have to talk about trans issues, and that there was informed media, policy makers, healthcare professionals, and advocates speaking out instead. Trans people aren’t speaking out because it’s some sort of vocation, we’re speaking out in desperation!

Scattermoon, also on Twitter:

Got told the other day “you really like to talk about trans stuff on Twitter don’t you” and honestly no, I like to talk about my cat or transport infrastructure or puns on Twitter. I talk about trans stuff because I feel I have to because of how bad things are and how few know.

Trans voices are so marginalised in official media, it feels like a constant Sisyphean battle against misinformation. It’s left on us to sound to alarm, to say what is happening, to tell our stories, because the newspapers would rather you never hear from any of us ever again.

So we speak about this stuff out of desperation, pleading, doing our best to try and counter the harmful narrative that is so prominent in this country.

To put it another way, everyone becomes an expert in animal behaviour when they’re being chased by bears.

We’re trapped inside a burning building and we’re trying to sound the alarm.

Media Technology

Adam Banks RIP

Sad news today: Adam Banks has died. Adam was the guiding light of MacUser magazine, one of the UK’s very best magazines, and while I never worked for him I was a great admirer not just of his magazine but of the love his contributors clearly had for him. He and I were friends on social media where I often shared his incisive and insightful takes on technology, on publishing and on trying to be a good human. He was one of the good guys and he’ll be missed.

My friend, former MacUser contributor Craig Grannell, has written more about Adam here.

LGBTQ+ Media

Loud silence

Former Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore is doing the “I’ve been silenced!” thing on the front pages of right-wing newspapers after rage-quitting The Guardian. A key reason for her departure, it seems, was a letter from staff to management expressing concerns about the (UK) Guardian’s relentless platforming of anti-trans views, something that has been criticised by its US operation too.

Here’s the letter.

As employees across the Guardian, we are deeply distressed by the resignation of another trans colleague in the UK, the third in less than a year.

We feel it is critical that the Guardian do more to become a safe and welcoming workplace for trans and non-binary people.

We are also disappointed in the Guardian’s repeated decision to publish anti-trans views. We are proud to work at a newspaper which supports human rights and gives voice to people underrepresented in the media.

But the pattern of publishing transphobic content has interfered with our work and cemented our reputation as a publication hostile to trans rights and trans employees.

We strongly support trans equality and want to see the Guardian live up to its values and do the same.

We look forward to working with Guardian leadership to address these pressing concerns, and request a response by 11 March.

Below is a list of 338 of Guardian employees globally who signed this letter at the time of writing.

This “please stop hurting us” letter by people who don’t have a column to express their views has been characterised as a vicious personal attack, which seems something of a stretch.

Meanwhile, a number of prominent women including many current Guardian contributors have written an open letter denouncing “violent hostility” against trans women. The Guardian has yet to mention it.

Bullshit LGBTQ+ Media

Awareness of hypocrisy

It’s trans awareness week, and that means we get to see more pridewashing: as with other awareness weeks it’s an opportunity for corporations that don’t give a shit about group X to pretend they give a shit about group X.

Here’s Twitter.







That the responses to this tweet included very many transphobic ones illustrates the point: this is a network that doesn’t do anything about protracted and/or co-ordinated abuse of trans people and accounts set up specifically to attack trans women but which immediately bans trans people who tell their tormenters to fuck off; a network that often takes years to act against repeated violations of its anti-abuse policy by accounts with large audiences; a network that for many trans people is unusable without blocking hundreds or even thousands of accounts; a network where reporting even the most blatant examples of hate speech is largely pointless.

You can’t wrap yourself in the trans pride flag when you have policies to protect minority and marginalised groups that you simply don’t enforce.

As one person pointed out in the comments to Twitter’s post:

You’re not even taking action against the transphobes in the replies here.

Hell in a handcart Media

Sainsbury’s heats up lots of gammon for Christmas

It’s hard not to despair sometimes.

One of Sainsbury’s many Christmas adverts features a Black family; when the supermarket’s social media team posted the video to Twitter, it was immediately besieged by racists. As this is social media it’s unclear whether the racists were proper English racists or Russian bots and trolls. But the language used – banging on about Black Lives Matter, “wokeness”, “virtue signalling” and other right-wing tropes – wouldn’t be out of place in a Daily Mail or Spectator column.

The only good thing to come of this is that the racists are vowing (again) to boycott Sainsbury’s, which happens to be where I shop; ironically enough I’m planning to go there to get some gammon later on. But while the obvious jokes may be obvious, what’s also obvious is that far too many bigots are no longer ashamed of being bigoted. We’re moving backwards and too much of the press is pushing us in that direction.

Hell in a handcart LGBTQ+ Media

A slackening grip on reality

There’s an interesting and disturbing long read by Alex Hern in The Guardian: The story of Facebook, QAnon and the world’s slackening grip on reality. It talks about how Facebook in particular encourages conspiracy theories.

The social network has always prided itself on connecting people, and when the ability to socialise in person, or even leave the house, was curtailed, Facebook was there to pick up the slack.

But those same services have also enabled the creation of what one professional factchecker calls a “perfect storm for misinformation”. And with real-life interaction suppressed to counter the spread of the virus, it’s easier than ever for people to fall deep down a rabbit hole of deception, where the endpoint may not simply be a decline in vaccination rates or the election of an unpleasant president, but the end of consensus reality as we know it. What happens when your basic understanding of the world is no longer the same as your neighbour’s?

The focus on this piece is QAnon, but there are strong parallels with another largely social media-driven movement, anti-trans activism – so much so that I’ve seen a number of people describe such obsessive activism as “QAnon for middle-class women”. Like QAnon its adherents claims there is a sinister conspiracy to target children; like QAnon they are often anti-semitic, alleging that the sinister conspiracy is funded by Jewish people generally and George Soros specifically; like QAnon they believe that there is a secret cabal of people who control the media and politics; like QAnon they include celebrities talking shit to large audiences.

“The industries that many celebrities work in – film, music, sport – were among the hardest hit by shutdowns. So even more than most of us, they suddenly found themselves with nothing to do but sit on Twitter,” Phillips says. “Not all of them did a Taylor Swift, spending the time recording an album. Some of them started sharing wild rumours to millions of followers instead.” This, then, is how we end up with Ian Brown, the former frontman of the Stone Roses, declaring that conspiracy theorist is “a term invented by the lame stream media to discredit those who can smell and see through the government/media lies and propaganda”.

And like QAnon, it’s bullshit that can only be perpetuated by denying reality and surrounding yourself with fellow conspiracists.

It’s not easy to overturn someone’s sense of reality, but even harder to restore it once it has been lost.

What frightens me most about this – and there are lots of things that frighten me about it – is that we know these conspiracies lead to real-world acts.