Thursday, 9 February 2017

Media transphobia: Harm and shouting 'fire!' in a crowded theatre.

This post represents my opinion of Bindel, J Conroy, Katz, the Mail and the BBC: 

How many lives is one story worth?

The news that a young trans girl in a school in Manchester has been shot by a transphobe following months of bullying that was not addressed by her school may come as a shock to some but certainly does not come as a shock to many trans people. I know, personally, there is worse transphobia going on in other schools as we speak, but I am not at liberty to speak about it.

The Daily Mail and the BBC have attacked trans children and this is the end result; schools not taking transphobia seriously and pupils (and doubtless their parents) unquestioningly believing what they see on TV and in the papers. The recent BBC ‘documentary’, “Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?” about trans children, was so badly biased and unbalanced and contained so many obvious misconceptions that one can hardly be surprised that this poor girl has come close to serious injury as a result of violent transphobia. I am sure her psychological injuries will be much worse. This is obviously considered by some of those working in the media to be a price worth paying for a 'good story'. The Daily Mail’s persistent campaign against trans children is likewise culpable, as, in my opinion, is its sell-out, unradical, unfeminist contributor Julie Bindel. In my opinion she has 'blood on her hands', as does the BBC’s producer John Conroy, Newsnight editor Ian Katz and the Mail editor Paul Dacre.

One interesting point to note here; the outstanding, carefully researched and constructed complaint put together by Trans Media Watch, against the BBC’s appalling documentary also refers to Newsnight and Ian Katz’s use of Wikipedia to source information for his programme. Wikipedia also mentions that Ian Katz is married to the CEO of Mumsnet. Last year Mumsnet were threatened with legal action by trans children’s charity Mermaids after they refused to take down a post regarded as defamatory. 

What is even more interesting is how Katz, on the childishly simplistic “trans people are against free-speech bandwagon” (take-down of it here) complained that trans people are “too quick to shout down voices [we] don't like”. It would appear that Katz has blocked at least one person who tried to debate with him about this on Twitter. I guess no-platforming is only bad when trans people do it...

Shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre.

Everyone acknowledges that freedom of speech does not extend to shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre. The problem is that, in my opinion, the actions of the BBC and the Daily Mail amount to the same thing. But while the result of the shout in the theatre can be directly and immediately linked to the outcome; spectators trampled to death, in the case of bullied trans children the link is there but far less immediate or visible. Children like the poor victim of this bullying and this shooting are under attack because the media has constructed an unfounded narrative that trans children are not “genuine” and are being “coerced” into being trans by zealous adults. This is the shout in the theatre but the trampling of the lives and prospects of trans children goes unseen by Paul Dacre, Julie Bindel, John Conroy, Ian Katz and others; they can simply hit “block” on their Twitter feed. Blocking on Twitter doesn’t mean it goes away, it just means you don’t want to know about it. That does not mean it is not happening or that it is not connected to any of their actions, it just means they can pretend it is nothing to do with them. These people should read some of Hannah Arendt, in my opinion their actions represent the Banality of Evil, in action, in the UK, today.

Child abuse by proxy

In their apparent campaign against trans kids, both Conroy’s “documentary” and Bindel’s rants in the Mail, the impression is created that trans kids are given “fistfuls of drugs and hormones”. In fact the only thing all trans kids are prescribed to treat their gender dysphoria is affirmation, affirmation that they are the genders they say they are. Just like the affirmation cis kids get in their genders.

Cisgender children have their genders affirmed all day, every day from day one. All that trans kids want is the same thing. This is not a big ask, it is merely basic equity, justice, humanity (yes trans kids are human!).  In my opinion the media campaign against this effectively represents child abuse by proxy, it is saying to those who have a need to hate and bully, “Here’s your next target.” Anti-Trans Fanatics (often known as TERFs) have long employed violence by proxy as a tactic against trans people. Schools and equality campaigners have made it increasingly unacceptable for children to bully children for other reasons, so ATFs/TERFs and the media have taken it upon themselves to legitimize the bullying of a new group, in this instance trans children. Let’s be clear, this is the actual outcome of their actions and is not an outcome that anyone can, in any way, claim is unforeseen. It is merely that some wish it to be unseen.

Actual Harm not “Offence”.

Since the hypocritical “free speech” campaign by Bea Campbell to  allow transphobes to speak in universities, trans people have consistently argued that this hate-speech will cause harm to trans people. These people, from Peter Tatchell to Breitbart, have long misrepresented the reasons that trans people have opposed this kind of hate-speech. They have dishonestly said we should not be so sensitive and worry about "offence". This is a deliberate misrepresentation; our opposition to this hate-speech is because it causes harm not 'offence'. In the case of the harm to the girl in Manchester, the harm was physical and there are plenty of other cases of physical harm this hate-speech has caused to trans children. More common is the psychological harm caused to trans children by the atmosphere of hate put about by the media, as well as the loss of access to educational opportunities, something vividly narrated by Nicole Maines in her brave and wonderful TED talk about the harm caused to her in school.

But let us be crystal clear about this; transphobic hate-speech about trans kids in the media has a cost, and that cost is harm. Some may decide that this is a price worth paying for their salary cheques at the end of the month, some may choose to ignore it and pretend the consequences are not there, some will hope it continues, and goes on to harm more trans children. But let us just not pretend that this is any different from shouting fire in a crowded theatre.