Dear Messrs. Elliot & Pritchard,
Whilst the Guardian and Observer are editorially independent bodies, over the last seven days both publications have been running an extraordinary series of stories, online and in their print editions, attacking and denigrating transgendered and transsexual individuals. This started with the article published online on January 6th and in the print edition of the Guardian the next day, January 7th, by David Batty, entitled ‘Doctor under fire for alleged errors prescribing sex-change hormones’. The article was written by a reporter whose beat is described as “visual art, higher education, the Middle East and social affairs”, rather than either legal or medical matters, and who has a well-documented history at the Guardian of negative coverage of transgender issues; and its inaccuracies have been laid out at length by various interested parties (as, for instance, at).
Following this, the Guardian did publish an online comment piece by Jane Fae in response to the Twitter outcry under the hashtag #TransDocFail, but on the same day, the Guardian also chose to publish a piece by Suzanne Moore entitled ‘I don't care if you were born a woman or became one’, which came out in the print edition of the Guardian dated January 10th. Whilst the headline suggests an acceptance of transgender and transsexual individuals, the text of the article itself displayed antipathy and prejudice towards transgendered individuals that is unacceptable, for instance when Moore wrote:
Others I knew had sex changes. Or transitioning, as it is now called. Mostly this seemed to be an obsession with secondary sexual characteristics: peeing sitting down if they had been a man, wearing horrible lumberjack shirts and refusing to wash up if they had been a woman. The radical fluidity of gender vaporised. Some trans people appeared to reinforce every gender stereotype going.
So to be told that I hate transgender people feels a little ... irrelevant. Other people's genital arrangements are less interesting to me than the breakdown of the social contract.
It is worth noting that this was written in an article Moore published as a defence against transphobia on a platform given to her by the Guardian in the wake of an article including the line “not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual”. No transgender person was commissioned to write a response to Moore’s piece, or explain what the problem was with it, whilst Moore was allowed an unchallenged platform to put forth her offensive and harmful views, despite the Guardian Editorial Code’s section on Fairness.
nbsp; In yesterday’s Observer (January 13th), a piece by Julie Burchill was published in defence of Suzanne Moore, entitled ‘Transsexuals should cut it out’. Whilst intended, to be as charitable as possible to Burchill, it was perhaps intended satirically, but if so this was far from evident in a text that concluded
Shims, shemales, whatever you're calling yourselves these days – don't threaten or bully us lowly natural-born women, I warn you. We may not have as many lovely big swinging Phds as you, but we've experienced a lifetime of PMT and sexual harassment and many of us are now staring HRT and the menopause straight in the face – and still not flinching. Trust me, you ain't seen nothing yet. You really won't like us when we're angry.
and included a comparison between transgendered women and the Black and White Minstrel Show. Such language is representative of the piece, rather than being exceptional, and seeing this in the Observer, a respectable broadsheet, was deeply disturbing, since the piece deployed language inappropriate under any circumstances and more normally found amongst abusers of transgendered individuals than in a national newspaper. This is made more troubling by noting that the Guardian Editorial Code (which appears to also apply to the Observer) explicitly states that “we should not casually use words that are likely to offend”, and indeed that the PCC Code of Practice states that “[t]he 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”. Indeed, were a commenter to post something akin to Burchill’s article, they would be in serious breach of the Terms of Service of the Guardian website.
nbsp; As a long-time reader of both the Guardian and the Observer, I find it hard to express my shock at the publication of these pieces under any circumstances, and it seems many others agree, as the Independent is rapidly demonstrating. That the only response so far published by the Guardian and Observer has been published only online, and according to its article history will not be published in today’s Guardian (January 14th), nor are there any plans to place it in the Observer of January 20th; and that no public apology or statement about either Suzanne Moore’s or Julie Burchill’s articles has been forthcoming from the Guardian and Observer is deeply saddening, especially given the extremely offensive language of the latter piece.
nbsp; I hope that you will, together, discuss the editorial tone of the Guardian and Observer in their coverage of transgender issues, and alongside Alan Rusbridger and John Mulholland find a way forward in the coverage of transgender issues that honours C. P. Scott’s maxim that “[i]t is well to be frank; it is even better to be fair”, neither of which the Guardian and Observer have been in their coverage of transgender issues over the last seven days.
[Address and phone number redacted]
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