Sunday, 26 February 2012

the times are a-changing




What would Sunday morning be like without a thumb through the saucy stuff in the Sunday papers? And what better than to gawp and guffaw at the tranny, looking all ill-at-ease in the grainy photograph taken outside a law court, under the headline "No nobby bobby keeps jobby", or "Sex swap ferry flirt rattles men in engine room". What larks! Thank goodness we're normal. We'd give 'em what-for if they tried that sort of thing round here.

And so it's off to the pub while the wife makes dinner, and somewhere out in make-believe land there's another ruined life that the papers intruded into, exploited, and went on their way.

Funny things have been going on lately, though. The characters in the Standard Tranny Narrative have been talking back to the newspaper writers (we can hardly call them journalists) whose exclusive domain it has formerly been. Goodness, they have even started writing their own scripts.

Helen Belcher recently  presented the Trans Media Watch submission to the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics. She detailed the sort of media coverage that trans people routinely experience; intrusiveness, inappropriate language, 'othering', inaccuracy, bias.... my own experience was included in the evidence. There have been worse things done by the press, but there; it is an ill-favoured thing, and mine own.

To hear Dominic Mohan, editor of the Sun, at the Leveson Inquiry, you might think the bad times were behind us. He accepted that the Sun's coverage of trans stories had at times 'crossed the line'. but reckoned that things had changed; "We've raised our game in terms of transgender reporting", he said.

To prove this, a week later, the Sun initiated a witch-hunt for a 'pregnant man', with a hotline for its readers to call if they knew of his whereabouts. This, at the same time as the same Sun complained, with a complete lack of any apparent sense of irony, that it was itself being subjected to a witch-hunt.

As you might expect, the Daily Mail was only too happy to goad itself into a frenzy of inconsequence over the same story. Perhaps my favourite coverage was by Bel Mooney, whose liberal credentials extend, I understand, to liking William Morris wallpaper and wearing Laura Ashley while sitting on Solsbury Hill. "I'm a liberal", she said - "but a man giving birth is freakish  and beyond the pale." No, Bel; a self-identified liberal policing other people's bodies is what is beyond the pale. Sorry if it's confusing.


The week got even more interesting when Paddy Power, an Irish betting shop outfit, produced an ad intended for TV, in which Cheltenham racegoers are invited to play hunt-the-transgender-woman, or 'tell the stallions from the mares' as they described it. What fun, as any trans person who has ever been shouted at in the streets would agree. Though this ad managed to be offensive to all women, surely.


After a storm of objections and complaints to the ASA, the ad was deemed unfit for broadcast after all. Paddy Power were ungracious about this change of mind, pointing out that the ad had been discussed with a 'leading transgender group'. This group turned out to be the Beaumont Society, one of whose members had, the week before, confirmed to the Sun the existence of the 'pregnant man', thus sparking their witch-hunt. The Beaumont Society caters chiefly to transvestites, and seems a bit out of its depth when it comes to recent media coverage. Presumably they were surprised by the storm of opprobrium that broke over them in consequence of what might kindly be decribed as naive and ill-advised responses on their part to approaches from organisations that were only too happy to exploit them. I understand that they, and the other parties involved, have now got the message that BS are emphatically not the 'go-to' organisation when it come to trans issues in the media.


Because times are a-changing. Social media have proved a terrifically good way of creating ad hoc groupings to respond to problems. Back in 2009, an ITV 'comedy' programme, Moving Wallpaper, proved the starting point for the group of individuals that coalesced into Trans Media Watch. And, in the nature of social media, anyone can have input. It's very much a case of being able to start your own revolution and cut out the middle man. 

And there are more and more articulate voices joining in. Because, while it would be nice to put all trans stuff behind us and just get on with living, it seems that there are always people determined to interfere with our lives. Which can be rather annoying, when that determination is based on nothing more than the desire to 'other' us. A desire that can unite the looser cannons of radical feminism with the self-appointed defenders of family values. Thus the Daily Mail's manufactured outrage over Zach Avery, the child who recently decided to live as a girl, and is in consequence described as a 'victim of the politically correct gender identity industry'. The same industrial process that exists in Julie Bindel's mind, too, if not in real life. 


Certainly, there's a lot of trans stuff in the papers at the mo. Especially in the Daily Mail. Maybe Daul Dacre is annoyed that the TMW submission was critical of his paper, even if the PCC, which he chairs, has exonerated it. (Historically, by the way, the Mail covers far more trans stories than any other paper.)


But more trans people are coming out into the open too. Maybe the message is getting across, that you can be trans and happy and successful and fulfilled. More so than if you suppressed it, even. It would be nice if the papers which so much want to be arbiters of their readers' thoughts, could rejoice in parents who are happy to allow their children to explore their own identities, rather than police their gender. Happy children, or messed up children? Your choice.