Saturday, 26 March 2011

Comic Relief: respected institution, now slightly tarnished

Dear Comic Relief team,
   I am writing to you to draw your attention to something which I
believe to be harming the reputation of Comic Relief.
   You will no doubt be familiar with the Peter Kay character
Geraldine McQueen, appearing alongside Susan Boyle in the current
Comic Relief single. What you may not realise about this character is
that she is highly offensive to the transgender and transsexual
communities as a crass and degrading stereotypical portrayal. Peter
Kay has not created a drag act portraying a natal female character,
such as Lilly Savage or Brenda and Audrey from the Bounty/Plenty
kitchen towel adverts, instead he is chasing a cheap laugh at the
expense of a vulnerable and marginalised group that does not need such
a negative mainstream portrayal of themselves forced on the public at
large. The unfortunate consequence of the Geraldine McQueen character
is likely to be that transgender and transsexual people will have to
endure a fresh catalogue of insults based on her catch phrases, and
unfortunately Comic Relief is helping achieve that.
   It might be tempting to believe that this is not something about
which you need to worry  because you see comparatively few visible
transgender or transsexual people on our streets. To that I'd respond
that the visible transgender people are only the tip of the iceberg.
If you were to look around the audience at the next Comic Relief gig
you might be surprised to find that as many as ten percent of them are
transgender even though they keep it hidden. If you passed me in the
street, for example, you wouldn't give me a second look as just
another bloke, yet I am transgender and have the medical diagnosis of
gender dysphoria to prove it. I am a member of a couple of
organisations for transgender people just within my particular segment
of the community who number their membership in the tens of thousands
including people like me plus transvestites, genderqueers and other
groups. I have even heard it said that we are more numerous than
people with red hair.  We number too many potential donors for a
charity to offend lightly.
   You have justifiably earned your position one of our most
respected charities through both the work that you sponsor and through
your founding principles such as that of the “golden pound”. You are
also inextricably linked through your founders with the alternative
comedy movement in the 1980s. It might seem a long time ago now, but I
remember alternative comedy as being characterised by not relying on
offensive stereotypes to derive its humour. I thus hope you'll
understand me when I say that to transgender people, a character like
Geraldine McQueen is about as offensive as perhaps a blackface parody
act might be to a non-white person.
   In conclusion, by allowing this character to feature so
prominently in your fundraising this year, Comic Relief have offended
a very large unseen potential donor community. It is obviously too
late to stop this association, however I would like to urge you to
avoid acts based on such offensive stereotypes in the future.
   If you would like to know more about the transgender community
then I would be happy to provide whatever information I can, or you
might find it informative to visit Trans Media Watch at
   Thank you for your time,

If you too feel that Comic Relief have used the rather crass Peter Kay character Geraldine McQueen in error, you can contact them using the details at this link.


  1. Very well said Jenny, I have written a letter of complaint via Email and sent it to the link you provided, that is the Comic Relief complaints department.

    Shirley Anne xxx

  2. Thank you for that! I hope we achieve some acknowledgement, at least.

  3. I guess it would be too much for me to expect that they might have replied today.