sebastienne: My default icon: I'm a fat white person with short dark hair, looking over my glasses. (Default)
[personal profile] sebastienne
As a birthday present to myself I spent half-an-hour shaking in anger and frustration, then wrote this:

Dear Editor,

I'll admit, I don't often by a physical paper any more - much preferring to read the news online - but today I had a hankering for a cryptic crossword so off I went to the cornershop to spend £2.50 on a copy of the Observer.

I chose the Observer because I believed it to be the best choice - lacking in the kind of uninformed bigotry and right-wing selfishness that typifies most of our other national Sunday papers. I was enjoying reading articles about David Bowie's time in Berlin, and learning more about the current political situation in Israel.

So I was completely, naively unprepared for what I found on page 34. Julie Burchill's comment piece, "Cut it out, you transsexuals", is worse than I would have expected from the Daily Mail - let alone a supposedly progressive organ like yourself.

In a piece which she claims to bemoan bullying, she nonetheless engages in the kind of hate speech which I was truly shocked to read in print. Here are just some of the phrases she uses to describe
transsexual women:

"dicks in chicks' clothing"
"oven-ready porn star"
"screaming mimis"
"bed-wetters in bad wigs"

I hope that I don't need to explain why these are unacceptable, but if I do, I would suggest that you start by looking at Trans Media Watch:

It is also the case that Burchill is either ignorant of key facts in this area (in which case she was a poor choice to write a piece about trans people), or is wilfully misrepresenting the facts in order to make a point (in which case, she is a poor choice to write anything for your paper).

For example, she suggests that Julie Bindel is being 'persecuted' for refusing to address trans issues. This is not the case; in fact, Bindel is subject to a broad no-platform policy (not just from trans groups, but also from LGBT groups and feminist groups, including the NUS women's campaign) due to the fact that she has published many articles nearly as hateful as the one I am writing to complain about.

She also suggests that all trans people have higher degrees, a non-sensical proposition which only starts to make some sort of sense when you realise that she is trying to draw battle lines between
"working class feminists" and "trans feminists". Does she think the two identities to be mutually exclusive? Does she think it is impossible for a a trans person to be working class, or for a working class person to obtain a PhD? The piece is so incoherently written that I can't tell.

The piece reads as if Burchill honestly fears persecution from the trans lobby. And yet, she is the one publishing hate speech in a national newspaper, while the trans community are the ones who meet yearly to observe a 'Day of Remembrance' for those who have been murdered in the last year just for being who they are. The idea that the trans community "ain't seen nothing yet" is one of the most offensive things I have ever seen in print.

While Burchill might find Suzanne Moore's throwaway reference to "the body of a Brazilian transsexual" to be a joke, or even a point-scoring reference to the beauty myth, for me and many of my friends it was a reminder of how many trans people were killed in Brazil last year. You
can read the full list (of those reported) at

I'm sorry that Moore responded negatively to this criticism, but I'm even more sorry that you chose to print Burchill's hateful, unresearched, and non-sensical knee-jerk response to seeing her friend criticised. Please, please, recognise the damage that this has done and take actions to remedy it.

However, I suspect that a preferable course of action is actually to take this to the PCC, whose 'code of conduct' contains two relevant points:

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

(yes, gender identity is a notable omission here; but in my submission I've simply assumed that this is covered under 'gender'.)

1.i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information

(in my submission, as well as rehashing points from the email to the editor, I have also mentioned her misrepresentation of 'cis' which implies that is it hate-speech.)

It would be literally the best birthday present you could give me if you could go there and report this too.

Date: 2013-01-13 05:19 pm (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett
Thank you, so much, for writing such a fantastic letter. I can't face doing it - sorry - but it is pretty much the best feeling in the world to know people have my back. <3

Date: 2013-01-13 05:22 pm (UTC)
happydork: A graph-theoretic tree in the shape of a dog, with the caption "Tree (with bark)" (Default)
From: [personal profile] happydork
Everything about that is vile. Really good idea to write to the PCC -- I will try, though i may have an Out Of Spoons error.

And happy birthday, though I'm sorry it comes with something this disgusting.

Date: 2013-01-13 05:53 pm (UTC)
silverhare: drawing of a grey hare (misc - fucks sake what a cock)
From: [personal profile] silverhare
I wrote a similar - though not as well-worded - email this morning.

Date: 2013-01-13 05:57 pm (UTC)
gatty: (Default)
From: [personal profile] gatty
Have complained. Don't want to spoil your birthday further, but thought I should bring this tweet & replies (guardian & observer writers) to your attention as it certainly needs bringing into the complain process, but I'm not sure how one goes about it.

Date: 2013-01-13 10:03 pm (UTC)
forthwritten: stained glass spiral (Default)
From: [personal profile] forthwritten
Happy birthday! I wrote some things about this on my other blog, and I shall be sending an email to the PCC.

Date: 2013-01-13 11:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I dunno what I'd say to be honest, I'm just flabbergasted, but I've signed the petition here:, have you seen it?

Date: 2013-01-13 11:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In other news, cannot believe that was actually in the print Observer. I assumed it was just squirelled away in the CiF section of the website.

Date: 2013-01-14 09:09 pm (UTC)
glittertigger: (Glitter tigger)
From: [personal profile] glittertigger
Likewise outraged. Well done for writing such an eloquent letter and I hope you managed to have an at-least-partly-enjoyable birthday


sebastienne: My default icon: I'm a fat white person with short dark hair, looking over my glasses. (Default)

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