Bingo! Calling out transphobia in the UK media

A Baker’s Dozen of tropes, techniques and total tripe that the UK media reach for when trash-talking trans people

Image for post
Image for post
An allegory of Truth and Time by Annibale Carracci (1584): public domain in US and elsewhere

It begins with the lie direct: the statement, as fact, that a thing that is definitely untrue is true. There’s a lot of it about.

Yay! It’s Trans Awareness Week and for seven days, the UK Press will be reporting on trans people fully, fairly and without spin…

The lie direct

It begins with the lie direct: the statement, as fact, that a thing that is definitely untrue is true. There’s a lot of it about. Whether it is national papers claiming, falsely that a gender recognition certificate (grc) is necessary for trans women prisoners to move to the female estate: or contrariwise, that a grc means they MUST be moved.

Well, someone said it

Sometimes, though, they don’t actually need to lie outright. Because someone somewhere said it. So that makes it sorta true. Remember how Ian Huntley was planning to transition? Yeah: me, too. The entirety of that moral panic began with a two page piece in the Star. That, in turn, was based on a claim by “sources”. One single sentence quote.

It’s close enough

Even when someone didn’t say a thing, people complaining about inaccuracy have been rebuffed, recently, by multiple organisations on the grounds that they may not have said it, but… it’s near enough to the thing they would have said. Or it’s what the public already believe on a subject.

It’s only an opinion

Besides, a great deal of anti-trans content turns up regularly in opinion pieces. Question this and you will be told, over and over, that it is “just” an opinion and people are entitled to opinions.

There’s no such thing as “Transphobia”…

Have you noticed how often “transphobia” gets put into “scare quotes”. Now sometimes this is justified, because the assertion that a thing is transphobic is, at base, just that: an assertion. So strictly speaking, the quote marks are correct. But note what they do NOT quote mark.

Image for post
Image for post
Media Transphobia Bingo Card by Jane Fae (2020)

…Transgenderism, on the other hand

While transphobia is regularly quote marked, you may notice that phrases like “Trans Rights Activists” and “transgenderism” mostly aren’t. This is all part of a world view that claims trans people are pushing some sort of dread ideology on the everyone else (as opposed to just wanting decent treatment by society).

…perish the thought they might label anti-trans campaigners as ideologically motivated!

The Transgender Agenda

Closely related to the previous. This is the claim that any innovation around anything to do with gender is promoted by trans folk as opposed to just being, yanno, a natural progression promoted for reasons of gender equality or economics.

Balance

Because seeing two sides to everything is so moderate and so British. 99% of scientists say we are all going to burn in a climate change hell. But for balance, let’s pit Nobel Prize-winner Dame Geekgirl Jones against a wild-eyed fanatic from the flat earth society and, hey presto! Balance.

As climate change, so anything and everything trans. On the one hand, decades of medical consensus under-written by actual science. And in the very blue corner. A concerned and usually female sceptic, with a GCSE in Biology, dialling in from the 1950’s.

Debate

But there must be debate and…oh, the arrogance! Like: sticking any random member of the trans community on a TV platform where they get three soundbites to answer some profound existential question while being subjected to a barrage of stupidity masquerading as insight is in any sense a debate.

Silencing

Closely allied to balance, the mainstream media insist that any failure to go along with the media framework for debate is silencing. Because there are SO MANY news pieces, articles, commentaries — and not forgetting kitchen sinks — regularly out there from trans folk. And so few major newspapers promoting the anti-trans point of view.

Story selection

Of course, you don’t need to skew individual stories to unbalance the news. Just look at what stories get told about trans people — and which do not.

Story focus

Of course, the “concerns” of the anti-trans will always be news, while trans concerns get short shrift. All those stories of anti-trans campaigners who, it turns out, have committed criminal acts, sweetly offset by heart-tugging images of them with their cutest progeny.

…in one major newspaper, the ratio of pro to anti trans comment in anti-trans stories was 3 to 2. Poor but not dreadful. However, if you looked at the pro-trans points of view, only 5% came from actual trans people.

Excluded from our own narrative

Last but by no means least: research by Trans Media Watch in 2019 found that in one major newspaper, the ratio of pro to anti trans comment in anti-trans stories was 3 to 2. Poor but not dreadful.. However, if you looked at the pro-trans points of view, only 5% came from actual trans people.

Written by

Feminist, writer, campaigner on political and sexual liberty who also knows a bit about IT, the law and policing. Not entirely serious…

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store