Here is the bad news…
…if it’s Monday, it must be time for the cis to obsess over every aspect of trans lives. Again
In a week when trans folk reacted with concern at a trio of new news stories that hint at yet more controversy facing the UK community, we should console ourselves with the thought that it could have been worse. Much worse…
Whew! For once, the week in trans news has been good. Well, not bad. Or at least, less than dreadful.
I know. How can I possibly say that when every day brings new awfulness? Look on the bright side. J K Rowling has launched her cross-dressing book, hit her sales target, and suddenly her trans tweeting has dried up. Not that the two events are remotely related. Just, coincidental.
Liz Truss is once more engulfed in cheese. And fish. And trade deals.
And the gender ludicrous? As women in Poland have been taking to the streets to protest, quite literally, for their lives, the four horsewomen of the gender apocalypse have been complaining that Tampax talked about “people who bleed” and not “women”. Because, of course, basing your political ideology on a song, Only Women Bleed, by a guy with long flowing hair who just happens to be called Alice is so on message!
No. Life for trans folks in the UK has not got better. But it hasn’t got worse. It’s like: we’re trapped Indiana Jones-style in a dark space filled with spiders and scorpions and venomous snakes, and now it isn’t quite so awful to discover Michael Gove is trapped in here with us. Hell, if we’re lucky, one of the snakes might bite him.
And if the snake is lucky, it won’t die from the experience.
Still, this was the week when two apparently innocuous topics, Loos and Truss Roast and one ridiculous one, the BBC, set off fresh dismay within the trans community.
Government responds to looming toilet paper crisis
Let’s start with the sublime. Over the weekend, Housing Minister, Robert Jenrick announced a consultation on toilet provision. Some might consider this the ultimate irony, seeing as Jenrick’s career appears on a fast-track one-way journey down the u-bend., following allegations that he’d been siphoning off oodles of government funding in an effort to improve the lives of ordinary people. Not just any ordinary people. Oh, no. These were ordinary people living exclusively in Newark, which just happens to be Jenrick’s constituency.
This was followed, more recently by his breakfast news effort to clarify the rules on lockdown. Except Jenrick’s clarifications only further confused an already confused public when it turned out he did not understand his own government’s rules.
we have a consultation on toilets to look forward to. This has been launched on the premise that some folks don’t like gender neutral loos, and women probably take longer to pee than men. Why we need a consultation to establish that is unclear
Still, we have a consultation on toilets to look forward to. This has been launched on the premise that some folks don’t like gender neutral loos, and women probably take longer to pee than men. Why we need a consultation to establish that is unclear. But it is a technical consultation. So expect hordes of screaming Brexiteers seeking to wrest back control of our sanitation system from Polish plumbers, and demanding a return to Imperial pipework.
And of course, there will be submissions from the usual suspects, regaling the media with desperate tales of how they once shared a loo with a trans woman and it was awful. They just couldn’t, they couldn’t bring themselves to wash their knickers in the sink.
Yes. A loos consultation could turn out to be a real shit show. But honestly? Cash-strapped councils are shutting down social work, care for the elderly and libraries. The idea that they have the time, energy or resource to drop everything and focus on loo policy is about as plausible as the Captain of the Titanic filming his own personal TikTok as he goes down with his ship, muttering as he does so: “Damn it! I will not be upstaged by preening self-publicist Leonardo di Romeo…”
Turkey: trussed and roast
Next up, the roast of Truss would be a fine sight to see. And it may yet come about, as the Women and Equalities Committee are not all impressed with the Women and Equalities Minister, and the total turkey that was her response to the GRA consultation. Yes: there is a call for evidence. Yes: the usual suspects will be piling in. And no: we haven’t a clue whether the Committee will call in anyone with a passing acquaintance with the English language to play Parliamentary Just a Minute in the Commons Committee rooms.
What would be nice is if, just for once, such an inquiry heard evidence from women who weren’t transphobes. Then we might read not merely that “some women have concerns”, but also “some women do not have concerns”. Or maybe not. Forced to confront the possibility that not all women think the same way, Fleet St would go into meltdown. Like so many bad 70s sci-fi computers, a chorus would go up of “Illogical! Does not compute!” before the entire fourth estate vanished up its own paywall.
an act that in ordinary circumstances would get you suspended from a US magazine is nowadays de rigueur for trans folk wanting legal recognition.
Still, we live in hope that someone will ask the Minister why it was she thought trans people wanted reform of the GRA. A QI-style klaxon for the answer “because ideology”. Double klaxon with gunge for “I have a trans friend”. Full marks for knowing that trans folks kinda object to a system wherein people may be asked to drop their knicks on skype in order to obtain the magical gender certificate.
Yes: an act that in ordinary circumstances would get you suspended from a US magazine is nowadays de rigueur for trans folk wanting legal recognition.
Auntie takes to sherry, goes gammony
Then there is our national broadcaster. What is there to say, other than: “you’re drunk, BBC! Go home and sleep it off before someone decides it’d be a good idea to strip down to your scanties and take an image of your liberal credentials on the office photocopier”.
Last week, someone high up in the organisation declared that it would be a good idea for news staff not to get too involved in issues deemed to be political. Problem is: what’s political? Apparently not wearing a poppy. Or Laura Kuenssberg. Despite copious evidence that many folk consider the former excruciatingly political: and concerns that the date on which Kuenssberg appears on our screens just gets earlier every year.
Still, it could make a good panel game, along the lines of Would I Lie to You?. Team captains Jimmy Carr and Sara Pascoe would rock up each week to claim that eating meat or giving money to the RSPCA are not political acts. They would then be beaten brutally with celery sticks, by a coalition of vegans and PETA.
What started as a silly idea then took a turn for the perverse. Asked to clarify what was “political”, the BBC press office volunteered “like the trans issue”. Although when clarification was sought as to what that meant and who said it, answer came there none. At least, not initially. They’d have done better asking Robert Jenrick to clarify.
Is this just institutional transphobia as usual. Perhaps. Though, our favourite auntie is getting on a bit. Attitudes once considered quaint and loveable are now an embarrassment. After an evening out with the Question Time audience, she has had one sherry too many and come over all gammon. So now auntie believes in common sense and Captain Tom. Support the Government. What’s history, unless dates and Kings and Queens? Support the Royal Family, too. And wouldn’t it be nice if those dreadful Black Lives Matter people weren’t so loud and disrespectful.
Balance and impartiality have shrunk to equal platforming of climate deniers and bigots, lockdown sceptics and free speech absolutists. Protesting injustice is just one more view amongst many.
This, in the end, is the end of politics. It is the end that media owners, from Murdoch to the Barclay brothers have long sought. Balance and impartiality have shrunk to equal platforming of climate deniers and bigots, lockdown sceptics and free speech absolutists. Protesting injustice is just one more view amongst many. It is what the political right have wanted for years: because if all views are equally valid, then no view is more valid than any other.
It is the death of any critique of power and systems and the abuses that each imply. It is not good news for anyone, trans and cis alike.
But it could have been worse. A lot worse.