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

Jane Fae
Sunday 13 January 2013 20:28 GMT
The placard reads 'I am the one who decide how I dress and not your standards'. Photo taken at the 16th Existrans, a parade to fight for the rights of transsexual and transgender people on October 20, 2012 in Paris.
The placard reads 'I am the one who decide how I dress and not your standards'. Photo taken at the 16th Existrans, a parade to fight for the rights of transsexual and transgender people on October 20, 2012 in Paris.

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.""

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