Jane Fae wrote a powerful post
today highlighting the connection between two important events this week for trans people in the media.
The first of these events is the launch of a petition that calls upon the press to stop using dehumanising and othering language to describe trans people. The petition was started by the family of Livvy, a 10-year-old girl who became one of the most recent examples of trans children hounded by the news media.
They argue that transphobic language can ultimately kill:
“People with gender identity issues are being murdered, beaten, threatened with their lives, bullied, teased, intimidated, disowned and are prone to suicide both attempted and successful and self harm. The Press being an extremely powerful medium has the responsibility to ensure they are not aiding peoples ignorance and hatred and increased lack of self esteem.“
Meanwhile, the Leveson Enquiry is due to receive evidence from Trans Media Watch this afternoon (a live video stream will be available here, as well as an archived video and transcript following the hearing). Josephine Shaw posted the following announcement on the group’s Facebook page:
“[…] Helen Belcher will be representing us at the Inquiry, next Wednesday – February 8th. She’ll be doing so following a detailed written submission made by TMW a few weeks ago, a public version of which is available via the downloads page of the TMW website.
There have been a very large number of written submissions to the Inquiry – only a small number have resulted in Lord Leveson calling witnesses in person. We’re absolutely delighted to be counted in that number […]
TMW’s aim next week is simple. To give voice to the pain and anger of all those trans and intersex people whose lives have been invaded, even ruined, without any cause or warning by the British press. Who deserved accuracy, dignity and respect. Or who simply deserved privacy. And to try and represent our community in calling for a profound change in the attitude of the press and an end to the incessant outrageous and unwarranted intrusion into the lives of innocent trans and intersex people.”
This week therefore sees two significant responses to the ongoing media assault upon trans lives. The two met this morning on the BBC’s Breakfast show, when Livvy and Trans Media Watch’s Paris Lees spoke about transphobia in the media.
It’s really heartening to see all of this happening. I agree with Jane that we have good reason to remain cynical, but equally we have plenty to celebrate at this juncture. For too long, journalists have been getting away with inflaming public opposition to trans liberation, and people in power are finally beginning to listen to our howls of outrage. This is an early step towards a more fair and friendly world, but an important one.
I was fortunate enough to meet Livvy a few months back and was inspired by the sheer determination of both her and her family; we have a lot to learn from them! I was also struck by my own surprise role in Livvy’s story via a sensationalist piece published by the Sun back in September:
“But yesterday a row broke out after a parent claimed that kids as young as EIGHT at Livvy’s school were shown a film about sex-change surgery.
In the footage, made for the NHS website, Ruth’s Story describes how she was born a boy — but knew from the age of 16 she wanted to be a woman.
One parent said: “We are not against the child. It’s that the children are being asked to treat her differently and watch a transgender video without parents knowing.“
The video in question was made for the NHS a few years back, and at the time I had no idea it could ever be shown to a primary school assembly! I would probably phrase a few things differently now but ultimately I’m still pleased with how it turned out. I became involved in the project by responding to an email from a mass trans mailing list: someone else could just have easily done it.
Ultimately I suppose my point is that every bit of effort counts. Every signature on Livvy’s petition, every angry letter to an editor, every trans awareness workshop and every intervention within public conversations. Let’s keep up the pressure, because it’s the only way we stand a chance of winning!
If you are interested in press freedom here is a great debate by Worldbytes, where volunteers consider the Counter Leveson Inquiry, a campaign launched by the online journal Spiked. Journalist Patrick Hayes challenges participants not to go along with the inquiry’s dangerous assumptions. He argues that free speech and a free press with no ‘buts’ are essential for democracy.