Monday, 19 March 2018

Opinion: A transphobic issue, on many different levels

The ridiculous stunt carried out by two individuals who claimed to be men for a day in order to access a men-only swimming session has demonstrated again why we have a transphobia problem in the UK, on many levels.

Firstly the stunt was apparently designed to highlight the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act that will supposedly allow people to identify as one gender for one day and another gender the next day. The problem is that this is not what is being proposed in this reform. Indeed individuals will effectively need to declare that they intend to live in their identified genders permanently for the rest of their lives. This will be backed up by the threat of heavy fines and imprisonment. 

So on this point the stunt was transphobic; it sets up a state of affairs that is never going to happen, and it does so in order to employ fear as a weapon against trans people. From this perspective it is a clear example of what CN Lester identified in their book Trans Like Me as the Production of Ignorance.

Secondly the individuals undertaking this stunt apparently got changed in the men's changing room and were not assaulted in any way. This actually served to undermine their case for separate male-female changing-rooms. Somehow this fact was not reported in the Daily Mail's "news" report of the issue. 

This stunt was also transphobic because it appropriated, and made light of the experiences of trans men, especially pre-operative or non-operative trans men who want to go swimming.

Yet in none of the cases that this incident was reported was it reported as transphobia. It was reported as an example of anti-trans activists making a "point" in opposition to trans people's human rights. The fact that it was reported as such not only suggests that there is a substantial link, and increasingly disingenuous one at that, between the transphobes and the media it also reveals a wider cultural inability to see transphobia as transphobia, much less report it as such. 

The transphobia is thus multilevel and structural as well as constituting a personal act of anti-trans hate on the part of two anti-trans campaigners. As well as being calculatedly and deeply dishonest and this stunt can therefore be regarded as an illustration of the problem of transphobia in the UK at present. Transphobia that is present at different levels; in the media as well as in the small group of anti-trans fanatics. Both of these groups are allowed to work together (despite the latter claiming to be left-wing "feminists" and the former being ultra right-wing Tories) to spread fear and ignorance through deliberate disinformation.

We need to start making an issue of incidents like these, naming them as transphobia rather than as part of some "trans debate". Naming the problem is where it starts.

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