Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Just who is being silenced...?

I have written a lot about the Germaine Greer transpbobia issue recently, this is for a reason. There have been few trans people allowed to write about it in mainstream media. With the exception of a piece in one of the Huffington Post blogs and two articles by trans people who are against no-platforming her, I have seen no trans people talking about this issue in mainstream media, blogs abound but when it comes to the mainstream media platforms trans people who support no-platforming have quite literally been “no-platformed”. Except of course we haven’t, we have been censored, silenced, excluded. Bottom-up, grassroots no-platforming by a students union is not the same as the top-down censorship meted out to trans people on this issue when it comes to very much larger platforms. Greer has been no-platformed and will not be heard by a few hundred people. The lack of trans representation in mainstream media has silenced our voices to millions.

As Sara Ahmed argued, this is the manifestation of power. This is cisgender people’s power being exercised over trans people, cis people silence trans people who object and select only the views of those who agree . Maybe we have become too widely accepted, maybe too many ordinary young people have started to support us, maybe this scares some people…? Maybe the only acceptable trans people are the ones who know their place?

The lack of trans voices on an issue that clearly affects trans people is quite astounding given the huge number of cis people taking the opportunity to speak their minds on this issue. Even the Guardian, a paper which distinguishes itself by normally including more trans voices has not consulted them on this issue. Again and again and again and again cis people voice their opinions about the Greer issue. Where are the trans voices in this? Where are dissenting voices arguing against this media consensus? Media consensuses are bad at the best of times, but when the issue is “free speech”, and the advocates of Greer being allowed to spout transphobia, tell us that trans people should engage in a dialogue on these issues; it becomes oppressive, hypocritical and ultimately undermines their own arguments.

The worst of these so far has been Helen Lewis’s editorial in the New Transphobe, er…sorry, I mean, New Statesman. She tells us she thinks trans women are women, which is good, because if she hadn’t, I would have have assumed otherwise from reading the article.

The way she presented the issues was pretty much from the TERF manual, their issues, from rape crisis centres to trans women in sport, they were presented from the TERF perspective. This is not to mean (disclaimer) that I consider her a TERF but, as a trans woman who has close friends who have been denied help by rape crisis centres, it is clear who she has been primarily influenced by.  Her dismissal of solidarity action by young feminists was verging on the paternalistic and read very much like the TERF arguments that trans people are just a “trend”. A litany of kettle logic arguments from the editor of a media platform that has so alienated trans people that most those trans people who have written for it now regret doing so.

The lack of a trans perspective on an issue that is primarily about trans people’s rights is scary, it exposes a lack of willingness to engage on this issue and badly undermines their claims that the best course of action for trans people would be to engage with and expose Greer’s transphobia. If the way mainstream media has engaged with trans people on this issue is anything to go by this is unlikely to happen. 

Yet it seems now that those who have advocated the “free speech” approach have really made fools of themselves.  Cardiff University has rebooked the event, adding insult to injury, scheduling it just two days before Transgender Day of Remembrance, it is, apparently already “fully booked” so if you are trans and want to challenge Greer on her bigotry, as the “free speech” advocates advise. Tough.

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