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

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The economy expanded by 0.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2014  

Government hails latest GDP figures, but there is still room for scepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little