If like me you read on-line editions of newspapers and have a passing interest in the media and how it works, you cannot have failed to see the furore over the last couple of days of the Suzanne Moore & Julie Burchill “transphobia” debacle (which is still garnering lots of digital columns in the broadsheets). In a nutshell Suzanne made a negative comment towards trans people in an article on feminism for the Statesman.
[Women] are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.
This, from a country that has rampant transphobia and has reported 256 transsexuals being murdered in the past year (dated from Nov 2011). Sadly the latest one being only yesterday.
This kicked off a battle royal on twitter against Suzanne. In support of Suzanne, Julie wrote a piece for the Observer which has subsequently been withdrawn in which she used a phase amongst others describing trans people as
a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs
Now, Julie is no stranger to controversy and has made a career out of being forthright, outspoken and vitriolic on a large range of topics. This in itself is a good thing as she often challenges norms and the under classes. But where do you draw the line between comment and abuse. Many people not in the trans community who have followed this story may be seeing this as very much a storm in an A cup. However for many it is seen as the last straw in what has been seen as a campaign of transphobia in the press which stretches back many years and often from the same columnists who seem to have some personal axe to grind. A quick search on the web will find many articles from Julie using insensitive and offensive language that is inappropriate and often inaccurate See this quote from an article she wrote in January 2001 for the Guardian
Transsexualism is, basically, just another, more drastic twist on the male menopause, which in turn is just another excuse for men to do as they please.
The problem that we as a community (trans) face is that people often take their social cues from the media on how to behave towards a societal minority they have no experience of. I witnessed this only last night in a piece supporting Julie Burchill using the word transphobia in quotes. Immediately there was a whole discussion on the article declaring that this was a made up word. Well, one only has to pop it into google to find enough material on the use and meaning of the word to fill a hard drive so clearly a case of opinion driving perceptions.
With all this in mind it truly highlights the need to change peoples perceptions and to break down the barriers of fear and assumption. That is why the Trans Comedy Award was created. It is a great initiative, because it recognises that to change opinion we have to work together.
The BBC tells great stories and has a proud history of developing great comedy scripts through its Writers Room. The trans community live the trans experience first hand, day to day and are the best and only source if you want to find out what offends them and what makes them tick. So by joining forces with the trans community who are driving this project and the BBC who are supporting it through the award money and expertise we can encourage trans themed comedy scripts that are funny, positive and that cut through all the negative, inaccurate deadwood that have muddied the waters over the years, blocking out what truly lies beneath.
Already we have had some great questions in from scriptwriters wanting to know more about the trans experience. To check these out, just click the links to be taken to the article.
- What types of hormones do transsexuals take and where do they get them?
- How does a trans person go about choosing a new name?
- Where can I find out how long a pre-op has to live as a man or woman?
So here’s a thought. Why don’t we all put down our mud. Draw a line under it all and invite each other to the party. Naive, crass, clichéd, or wishful thinking? Whatever! Here’s our contribution, where’s yours?