A landmark case

A trans woman is suing The Times for…you’ll never guess.

A former editor at the Times is suing the newspaper for anti-trans discrimination, harassment, victimisation, and unfair dismissal on the grounds of gender reassignment — in a landmark case that, if she wins, could transform the UK media’s coverage of transgender rights.

Katherine O’Donnell was the night editor of the Scottish edition of the Times until January 2018, when she was made redundant after 14 years at the title, during which she transitioned.

Her allegations, which encompass bullying and blocking of promotions and pay rises before she unfairly lost her job, involve multiple senior figures at the Times, including the current editor, John Witherow.

O’Donnell transitioned on the job, which must mean that colleagues had to make the transition along with O’Donnell. Other things being equal it would seem the humane and decent thing to do to go ahead and make that transition…but how confident can we be that other things were equal? I ask that because the more we see of trans activism the more clear it seems that the movement attracts narcissistic bullies. Was O’Donnell reasonable and collegial about it? Or did O’Donnell take pleasure in making angry demands? If it’s the latter, could it be that O’Donnell’s deteriorating personality contributed to the redundancy, rather than the transition itself? To put it more crisply, is the issue with trans people often not that they’re trans but that they’re assholes?

The Times of course says it’s all bullshit.

The hearing at the Edinburgh Employment Tribunal, which began on Wednesday, could have far-reaching implications for UK’s news outlets. In addition to the standard employment law charges such as discrimination and victimisation, the case also rests on an argument that has never before been tested.

O’Donnell and her lawyer — Robin White of Old Square Chambers — allege that it wasn’t just what happened in the newsroom but also what those inside it published in the newspaper about trans people that constituted a hostile, anti-transgender place to work.

Sly. Very very sly. Bring one case and (if you win) make it so that the news media can no longer write or broadcast anything critical of trans activism or trans ideology. Wouldn’t that be awesome.

Should O’Donnell be successful, therefore, it would mean that a newsroom’s output could be deemed an internal, employment issue, too. News outlets may in the future have to consider how their coverage of trans people and other minority groups could be in breach of employment laws that protect members of these communities on their own staff from discrimination and bullying.

She claims that there was an atmosphere at the Times hostile to trans people in general and therefore also to her.

I wonder though. I wonder if the atmosphere was really hostile to trans people, or rather to the claims of trans ideology. It could have been both, of course.

O’Donnell alleges that she was excluded from consideration for acting editor in Scotland and believes this was because of her gender identity.

She told the tribunal that in the summer of 2014, the then–Scotland editor of the Times, Angus MacLeod, informed her about a discussion between him and two senior executives in London about who should be put in place while he undertook chemotherapy. When the subject of putting O’Donnell in that position arose, one of the executives replied, “Under no circumstances”.

But could that be because O’Donnell is a narcissistic asshole rather than because O’Donnell is trans? Given that being / becoming trans is currently functioning as a portal to being a completely selfish self-obsessed petulant bullying shit, the odds seem high.

The Times’ counsel responded by pointing to the email MacLeod had sent recommending someone else for the job and saying that “there was a better candidate” in the view of management, who were also concerned about the “difficult” working relationships O’Donnell had with staff in the London office. Callan also said that members of the staff found O’Donnell “aggressive”.

In her witness statement, O’Donnell wrote that “the framing of his argument — that I was ‘difficult’ to deal with was fundamentally sexist. Difficult and abrasive are terms frequently used to describe women in the workplace who stand their ground.”

But O’Donnell is not a woman. O’Donnell started out in life as a male, and thus received the training and the unconscious cues that male people are expected to stand their ground and be aggressive, and almost certainly brought it with him when he transitioned. Men as a group tend to be aggressive anyway, and trans activism gives them license to be even more so on the spurious grounds that trans women are doubly triply quadrupally oppressed because they are BOTH women AND trans. This does in fact produce people who are difficult to deal with.

It’s tricky. O’Donnell is of course not wrong that people who get unequal treatment are routinely labeled “difficult” and aggressive and all the rest of it. It could be true that The Times treated O’Donnell unfairly. It will go on being true that I don’t like seeing men help themselves to women’s status and then announce that they’re far more oppressed than women have ever been.

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