Sunday, 13 January 2013

Complaining to the PCC over Julie Burchill's Guardian piece

    Lovely day here in the UK. Bright, cold, sunny. Frost on the ground, ice on the puddles. And a deeply offensive piece concerning the UK transgender community on the Guardian website from the feminist writer Julie Burchill. I won't link to it here because I feel it doesn't need to generate any more advert income, but if you really want to read it then Google is probably your friend.
    In my mind, it crosses the line from journalism or comment into outright hate speech. And as such I feel it should not be allowed to stand.
    Fortunately there is somewhere I can complain, the Press Complaints Commission. it's something of a toothless tiger, but it's all we've got and if they receive a big pile of complaints about an article they have to take a look. I'd urge you all to consider complaining too if the Burchill piece has offended you.
    The text of my complaint is reproduced below:

The Guardian (web site)
"Transsexuals should cut it out"

Please explain how you believe the Code of Practice has been breached
I believe the Code of Practice has been breached because of the use of prejudicial and pejorative language with reference to the transgender community. As a gender dysphoria patient I feel that this article is likely to result in increased likelihood of my exposure to hate crimes as it perpetuates an environment in which such language is deemed acceptable and thus incites further attacks against people like me.

In particular the following language used in the article is problematic:
  1. "dicks in chicks' clothing", using offensive language to imply that transwomen are in fact men. This amounts to incitement to commit hate crimes, as transwomen are often attacked for using female spaces such as ladies lavatories.
  2. "women – real and imagined", yet again implying that transwomen are not real women.
  3. "having one's nuts taken off" and "To have your cock cut off". Repeating the damaging fallacy that the only concern of gender dysphoria patients it to have their genitals modified, something very far indeed from the medical truth. This causes great distress to those of us who are going through the medical process of gender dysphoria treatment.
  4. "trannies". As a language specialist by trade I have researched this word extensively. It is used in both offensive and non-offensive settings but this article is definitely trying to use it in a pejorative sense.
  5. "shemales" and "shims". These two words are unambiguously offensive when used in relation to the transgender community and this article repeats them in a manner that can only be seen as pejorative.
Please add the clause(s) you believe to have been breached
Section 12 (i) "The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability."


  1. Thanks for posting this, I have read it and really didn't know what to think.

    That is, I was offended but couldn't find the right words to express it. The PCC clause seems to articulate it very well.

  2. Blimey that is absolutely outrageous that she used that kind of language. Vile.

    (Yewtree on Blogger, @vogelbeere on Twitter)

  3. Herein lies the danger in the conflation of the distinct meaning of trans/trans-gender and trans-sexual, easily agreed upon as birds of entirely different feather.

    Whereas the trans community warmly includes and welcomes all manner of gender-diversity including heterosexual cross dressers, who are by definition MEN, and shemales/shims, IE: (again by definition), "chics with dicks", it should be apparent why women would object to the presence of these male bodied trans-people in those space provided exclusively for the privacy and safety of female bodied peeps.

    While it is understandable why some of these terms might be seen as pejorative by some in the trans community, would it no be reasonable to consider that not everyone can agree that evry bloc in an ill fitting frock and an ugly wig is entitled to unfettered access to female only spaces?

  4. Morning all, and thanks for your comments. Yes, the article beggars belief. It's done us a lot of good I think though, as many people read it and understood the hate we suffer as a community.

    @Innis, I am assuming that you do not hail from the knuckle-dragging end of the right-wing spectrum so I feel it is unfortunate that I have to remind you of a golden rule: describe minority groups as they wish to be described rather than using hate-words to describe them. I could list many good examples of groups you wouldn't use certain words for, so why do you feel it's perfectly OK to use hate language to describe the transgender community?
    Anyway, that aside, to your point. Yes, the transgender community is inclusive. FtM & MtF, TV, TS, and many more. This is because we recognise that many of us are on a path; today's TV is tomorrow's TS and outside a few specialist communities who I guarantee you won't see in public we aren't in it for sexual reasons. Mere possession of a penis does not confer a desire to keep it or indeed to use it. Yes, when we use a ladies loo we really do only want to pee, and we would be in serious danger were we to use the men's loo.
    I am concerned about your policing of gender based on appearance. Is it Ok by you if a transoman looks a bit natal, but not OK if she looks a little blokey and wears a wig? In that case I'll open a nightclub just for you, it'll only admit fit birds because the ugly ones can't be women. You really would be surprised, I could introduce you to fully male TVs who pass as pretty women and post-op TSs who can't help that they have a male build and wear a wig.
    I suggest to you what I suggest to all I encounter with your view, your attitude to the transgender community is based on ignorance not on fact. If you are able to take that on board, can I suggest you get to know some of us? You might be surprised by what you find.

  5. Perhaps I am missing something here. What has 'the knuckle-dragging end of the right-wing spectrum' to do with my objection to male bodied trans-people in those space provided exclusively for the privacy and safety of the female bodied? Just because some tiny percentage of your trans population seeks a surgical correction to their affliction does this mean that we must accept the other 99% as women?

    Personally I cannot, but I do not believe that to be the issue. What I see as not just hateful, but extremely frightening are the unwarranted attacks on Ms. Moore, and the truly vicious attacks on Ms. Burchill as exemplified by the trannie-left's call for censorship.

    Where are the calls for reason, compromise and dialogue, instead of such red herrings, (hate-language), and straw men, (appearance)?

    Perhaps I am being archaic but I do not see a Collen Francis parading her maleness in a women's sauna as a learning experience for my young daughters. For you to characterize my objection to this behavior as bigotry or hate speech is the height of misogyny.


  7. Now you're just trolling. Good night Anne.

  8. The Guardian, 7pm this evening:

    "The Observer withdraws Julie Burchill column as editor publishes apology
    John Mulholland admits newspaper 'got it wrong' by publishing piece attacking transgender people and removes online version."

  9. hi jenny,
    I just came across your blog and i like it a lot. I'm writing a play with a MtoF transgender character - i didn't plan it like that, it just happened - there she was. I am trying to understand how life may have been for her, and I wonder if you might be able to help me with this? I would respect your privacy... Or perhaps you could point me to someone/somewhere else? My character lives in ancient India, but I think a lot wouldn't be that different from today. xs

  10. Hi Shazea,
    I'm afraid I can't help you. I suggest you proceed with caution and read up very carefully on transgender culture on the Indian subcontinent. Try asking on one of the TG forums.

  11. Interesting, I had a comment in my mailbox for approval this morning asking where the complaints about dodgy Tweets from some members of the trans community were. I'm not publishing it because it contained a link to a hate site, it would be analagous to a PoC allowing a link to a white supremacist site. However its point is valid.

    In simple terms, there are no PCC complaints because the PCC's remit doesn't cover Tweets from individuals. But don't imagine that those people speak for all trans people any more than nutty radfems speak for all feminists. A cursory Twitter search will find plenty of trans opprobrium on the matter. Meanwhile everyone is free to complain, not just trans people. If a Tweet becomes hate speech then the police should be told.