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

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

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

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent