Vicious transphobic crap

Write to the Press Complaints Commission to complain about this appalling garbage in the Observer. It has no place anywhere, but especially not in the supposed newspaper of the left. And especially not as a supposed representative of feminism.

The relevant code of practice clause is 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.

Many thanks to E and L.

Edited to reflect that the article is technically in the Observer, the Guardian’s sister paper on Saturdays, even though on Guardian’s website.

21 thoughts on “Vicious transphobic crap

  1. Holy shit. I couldn’t even finish reading it.

    Apparently, on twitter the Guardian editors are claiming it shouldn’t count as a “Guardian article” because it was printed in The Observer. Though they might’ve thought a bit harder about what counts as a “Guardian article” before they published vicious hate speech on their website, in their editorial section.

  2. (Though, to be fair, I have no idea whether the editors of The Guardian have control over what Observer content gets put on

  3. Of course, anyone who read JB’s piece and thinks it merits a complaint ought to complain – whether to the Observer, or the PCC, or both.

    But, but, but…

    Linking to things in order that people who might not otherwise have read it and been angered can get angered and be urged to complain as a result… hmmm. That’s a favourite trick of the Daily Mail, which frequently gets rounded on for manufacturing outrage – and rounded on quite rightly. Is there a danger that you’re doing the same? (I can’t see that manufactured outrage from the left is all that different from manufactured outrage from the right: same thing, different colour.)

    Or have I missed something?

  4. St E: I worried about that too. But it’s also wrong to stay silent. And I like to think that writing to Press Complaints Commission is a whole lot better than just making a negative comment on the article. Maybe I’m deluded though.

  5. Let’s not forget Birchill also made some pretty racist, sexist, classist and other generally bigoted and reprehensible remarks, both in combination with the single most vile piece of anti-trans hate speech I’ve read in years, and separately – covering all the bases, really.

    And @St E, have you missed something? Yeah, but I think you can work that out for yourself, no?

  6. It is tricky, for sure. Still, I wonder whether a fisking here might have been a better response. (Normal provisos apply in respect of having the time, and tolerating people like me telling you how to run your own blog…)

  7. I don’t think St E necessarily has missed something. They made a point about tactics. The worry is that complaining is what they want, and it will encourage them to publish more of this crap not less.

  8. And yes, I should have mentioned that the Guardian and Observer have a long history of publishing vile shit like this under the banner of feminism.

  9. And the article just gets worse and worse.
    I agree that linking to it is problematic, BUT if we don’t reveal the transphobia, people can easily think the society is tolerant of difference.

  10. The article does seem like vile shit, as someone says above.

    For those of us who don’t have time or energy to study the article point by point and then complain about it, why doesn’t someone write up a petition that we all can sign?

  11. @Jender – You make a very good point at comment #8: people reading the article via the link here may be angered by it – but they still represent hits on the page, which translates to advertising revenue. It pays media outlets to print things that’re likely to provoke for that reason – they might even go to the length of retaining professional trolls (or “prolls”, as they’re sometimes known), just to get a raise from [insert demographic group here].

    Again, the Mail has that refined to an art; there’d used to be a site called istyosty that hosted the contents of the Mail online edition, only without the advertising content, and without registering a hit on the paper’s own page. But it got taken down, on the basis of copyright law. Hey ho.

    @supernaut (comment #6): Do you mean missed something about the article? Well, I’m specifically not talking about that; rather, as Jender says, about how to respond to it.

  12. I should point out that it’s not just transphobia: it’s transmisogyny. This shit generally only gets directed at trans* women, and I think that feminists should know that many of their own are making these hateful comments. There’s a very long list of liberal, feminist, and liberal feminist people who’ve said such things as if it’s perfectly okay. And, of course, just look at the comments sections on any of those articles (such as the one in the OP).

    One of the best things feminists can do is add their voice — formally, if you can — to the chorus of objections. For example, one could write a letter/email to people like Suzanne Moore, Burchill, and Bindel, but also the editors, publishers, and employers of these people. It’s MORE than “just a few bad apples”: it’s a culture of hate of trans women. Unfortunately, most of the fighting is still being left up to trans women themselves, and people like Julie Bindel and Cathy Brennan use the angry responses as fuel for their own fire — as evidence that they’re right. Because, as the typical silencing tactic goes, people angrily responding to transphobic and transmisogynistic screeds is “male” behavior.

    E.g., Suzanne Moore’s final tweet: “People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them.”

  13. This may seem naive, but could someone explicitly articulate what was bad about Moore’s original comment (as opposed to some of her responses and Burchill’s, which I can see are reprehensible)? To be absolutely clear, I’m not saying her comment was acceptable. Rather, I’m fully aware that things which may not instantly strike me as discriminatory in fact are or that I can sometimes struggle to articulate what might underlie my unease. One reason this blog is is so great is precisely because it helps me spot these things where I might not have done so unassissted. And transgender/transsexual issues are ones I’m just not familiar with, so I’d be happy for help here. (I’m also happy to admit that my not being able to work it out myself is a failing on my part.)

  14. Here’s the original offensive comment:

    “[Women] are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.”

    1. Not all trans women look like Brazilian trans women.
    2. Not all Brazilian trans women look like “Brazilian trans women” (whatever the hell she actually meant by this.)
    3. Over 100 Brazilian trans women were murdered in the past year. Brazil has the highest number of trans women murders in the world each year. (
    4. Really? Trans women as the standard for femininity? Really??
    5. It implies that trans women aren’t “real” women.

    That’s a start, at least. All she had to do was correct that line, and everything would have been fine.

  15. What would you think if she had written:

    “[Women] are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a black women with large butts.”

    Racist, right?

  16. It grieves me to see this lockstep embracing of aggressive transactivism. The Observer article used pejorative language and should be condemned for that – but it is also true that feminists who are in any way critical of some tranactivists’ insistence that they are “biological” women, that reproductive rights issues should be minimized within feminism because they are irrelevant to them, that lesbians should ignore their sexual orientations and date pre-op trans people, and that pre-op transactivists may use private women’s spaces such as locker rooms used by young girls have been utterly silenced in the media by the trans lobby. The comments following the Observer article are being carefully censored so that nothing critical of the tranactivist position can be said. The fact is that the theme of the article – increasing threats of violence and complete silencing of any critique of the increasingly aggressive positions taken – is correct and traced on a number of websites. Please be thoughtful and open-minded here, and consider the possibility that there are some problems with this developing, and immature, movement.

  17. You’re kidding, right? “Trans lobby”? There’s no censorship happening at all. Bigots are free to say whatever they want, and reasonable people are allowed to disagree with trans* activists if they want to. But you’re flat-out wrong that people’s objections to trans women’s use of private spaces like bathrooms is being silenced.

    Fox (faux) news:

    Jezebel’s take:

    Come on, the objections are everywhere! The reasonable discussions are much fewer and farther between. And your insistence on the dichotomy of “pre-op” and “post-op” is already offensive: it presumes that genital status is what matters. News flash: it doesn’t. Moreover, it presupposes that most trans women want some form of genital surgery. Breaking news: only a tiny majority of trans women undergo any form of genital surgery. Stop focusing on genitals: why are you obsessed with genital status as even remotely relevant?

    Of course, I know: it’s because the predator trope: trans women transition in order to gain access to women’s spaces to rape and molest them, right? OK, show me a single case where this happened. What? You can’t? OK, I’ll show you tonnes where trans women are raped and molested, assaulted, and killed for just trying to go to the bathroom. Who’s the real victim here? Your loss of perceived safety, or trans women’s actual loss of safety?

    Also, VOCALLY DISAGREEING WITH YOU is not SILENCING you. There’s a big difference. Please learn the distinction.

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