Trigger warning for transphobia.
By Kate Harris
On Thursday 17th January I went to the ‘Protest Transphobia at the Guardian’ protest.
The protest was called because of a hateful transphobic rant published in the Observer, written by Julie Burchill, which has since been removed. Burchill’s piece aimed todefend her friend Suzanne Moore, who used what she thought was a throwaway phrase in an article, saying the body type women are expected to have was that of ‘a Brazilian transsexual’.
Burchill’s piece called trans people critical of Moore ‘a bunch of dicks in chick’s clothing’, ‘trannies’ and ‘a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.’ She also made jokes about ‘having one’s nuts taken off’ and, in relation to trans women, ‘lovely big swinging PhDs’.
This was nothing more than vile hate speech, setting out to provoke and saying absolutely nothing other than being insulting towards the mean ‘trannies’ and telling us how much she likes Suzanne Moore.
About 150 of us braved the freezing cold outside the Guardian and Observer offices. A mixture of students, people from the trans community and leftwing feminists were there. Interestingly, one of the chants was, ‘That’s not what feminism looks like / This is what feminism looks like’.
Near the start of the protest, one of the Observer’s senior editors came to tell us that the piece was wrong, hence being removed from the website and an apology being written. He also told us that there would be a full statement from the Readers’ Editor of the Observer.
Despite saying he would receive a letter from us but wasn’t interested in opening a full dialogue in the street, we asked him lots of grilling questions anyway, many of which were not met with a satisfactory answer. For example, how could the editors not see that this was inflammatory hate speech?
As one protester said, ‘we’d expect this kind of thing in the Daily Mail, but the Observer is meant to be a liberal or left-leaning publication’. Trans people are consistently marginalised, discriminated against, bullied and often abused for being trans. Trans people are occasionally even murdered – including a Brazilian transgender woman who was shot dead just days after Moore’s less-than-smart quip.
Trans people are dehumanised in society to the extent that they are ignored, made fun of in mass media and individual trans people even called ‘it’ (instead of he, she or they) on a pretty common basis. The appalling Burchill article is still on the Telegraph website, being republished by Toby Young.
As a queer woman, a socialist and a feminist, I stand in solidarity with the trans community. This is not an issue of free speech but an issue of hateful bile and media editors making decisions about the politics of their newspapers and programmes and the content they choose to publish. I hope that we sent the clear message that we will not stand for this any longer.