Burchill's attack follows the same pattern - trans stories are only of interest if we star as villains

If we want acceptance, we must sit on the sidelines and cheer for the "real women's issues".  Except we do that already

Share
Related Topics

Now I've seen it all. Julie Burchill in today's Observer pens an attack of such viciousness, such venom on the trans community that even their own readers editor steps in to admit an investigation may be called for.

Meanwhile, a poll on Independent Voices, finds some 90 per cent of readers reckon that Ms B went too far in her "defence of Suzanne Moore", who herself seems to have been so impressed that her picture, which adorned early versions of the piece, later vanished. There's positive here, if only in the fact that the vast majority of people do not buy Burchill's lazy transphobia.

Still, my own first reaction, as someone with friends, support network, inner strength, was to cry: my second to worry about those others, trans women (because for all the focus on "t'tranz" its really trans women who are targets of the spite here) who lack those advantages. Those for whom tears may be followed by a plunge into depression and then - who knows?

This though, is likely just the beginning. Because while 2013 started with the same old same old litany of vindictiveness from all the usual suspects - mostly journos who "don't have an issue with it" and "some of whose best friends are trans" - it is starting to look as though the follow-on will be very different indeed.

The trans community, which was a major, if under-reported, voice before Leveson, is now a stand-in for various minorities, including travellers, and a useful whipping girl ( (c) Julia Serrano) for the national press. In part that's about focus on negatives and the fact that the majority of stories carry that obsession of the non-trans world - supposed "regret" - or trans folk supposedly gaining unfair advantage courtesy of political correctness gone mad.

Strangely absent from that narrative is the street violence and medical abuse that trans individuals experience as routine, not to mention a daily diet of discrimination in jobs and housing.

The touchpaper was lit last week as David Batty, one-time medical correspondent with the Guardian, reported allegations of malpractice by one of the few medics trusted by the trans community. The explosion that followed was beyond all expectation, as individual after individual joined the #TransDocFail topic on twitter to post stories of medical abuse ranging from casual and humiliating to actually life-threatening. 

Don't get me wrong; journalists should not ignore complaints. The point missed is that we are talking here of a community whose universally appalling experience of many services - including the medical ones - appears to be ignored wholesale. Trans stories are only of interest when trans folk star as villains.

Onward to Ms Burchill. The community was already in a fractious mood when Suzanne Moore posted a good piece on the power of women's anger which unfortunately also contained a throwaway reference to Brazilian transsexuals - a group who really do get oppression, lived as one of the highest rates of trans murder in the world.

I wasn't offended, but matters spiralled. The Twitter warriors went for the jugular. Ms Moore screamed foul (and bullying). She followed with a far sharper series of anti-trans tweets. The twittersphere went wilder. And today, Julie Burchill enters the fray with a piece that plumbs the depths in two respects.  For its argument - which feels as though the last thirty years never happened: and for the vileness of language used, which seems to go out of its way to use words in ways calculated to insult and hurt.

Her plaint, like Moore's: that they are being bullied by some sort of trans cabal. Then there's the utter lie: the suggestion that trans women look out for their own, never join with non-trans women in supporting women's rights.  Oh, come on! Has she never heard of intersectionality? I am privileged: a woman of trans history who is in many ways better off than other trans women.  More privileged than some: less privileged than others. Including, I would respectfully suggest, those with the reputation and column placing power of a Burchill or Moore.

No. What we are seeing here is a form of victim-blaming. The press likes victims who conform: white middle-class and pretty female victims go down rather well. Black ones, disabled ones, trans ones: we-ell, its partly OUR fault anyway.  And if we should DARE to have the temerity to point out that sometimes, we too can be victims, that is bullying on our part. Our real job, if we want acceptance, is to sit on the sidelines and cheer for the real women arguing for "real women's issues".  Except we do that already.

The bottom line?  Expect more of this in 2013.  The trans community has grown up: it is no longer prepared to take this sort of abuse from icons of a bygone champagne feminism.  There is anger abroad.  A new unity, too.

Expect to hear a lot more about the abuse of trans folks in 2013. Expect, too, to see some very well-placed journalists squawking back in outrage.

Meanwhile, let's leave the last word to Deborah Orr, a writer who maybe HAS got it, who tweeted today: "No matter what troubles I face in future, I'm going to tell myself: "This could be worse. Julie Burchill could be leaping to your defence.""

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nicola Sturgeon could have considerable influence over David Cameron in a hung parliament  

General Election 2015: What if Cameron were to end up in hock to the SNP?

Steve Richards
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before