“People who are denying my humanity”

Patrick Strudwick at BuzzFeed reports that two trans people have quit The Guardian because they consider it “transphobic.”

A transgender employee of the Guardian — which once called itself the “world’s leading liberal voice” — has resigned, accusing the newspaper in an email to staff of being “an incredibly transphobic organisation”.

In a cutting resignation letter sent last month, the employee said the paper “fundamentally not only stands against my own values but also against what I am”. A second trans staff member resigned weeks later, also citing the “harm” they say the newspaper is doing to trans people.

Following the leak of the email to BuzzFeed News, the trans employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said she felt complicit in the newspaper’s “transphobic” reporting by continuing to work there, and revealed the damaging effect the Guardian’s coverage of transgender people has had on her well-being. This included fear of using the women’s toilet at work.

Such editorial lines, she said, are a “blind spot” for the largely progressive publication, which last month published a long read criticising other news outlets for their stigmatizing coverage of refugees, another marginalised group.

Ding! Note the comparison. On the one hand refugees, on the other hand two former Guardian employees who are uncomfortable with their birth sex.

For Victoria, the turning point came in October 2018, when the Guardian published what became a notorious editorial. In the leader article, the paper set out its official position on trans rights — which, it said, “collide” with women’s rights and put women at risk. This was despite LGBT organisations and many prominent feminists and women’s groups asserting the opposite.

But Victoria’s immediate concern was that she had to go to work the next day, knowing what her employer’s publicly stated position was on her. “It suddenly became real,” she said before characterising her thought process that morning: “I’m entering this building with people who are denying my humanity.”

Ding! No. They were not denying the employee’s humanity, they were taking a position on whether or not men can become women that the employee disliked. The two are not the same and they’re not comparable.

She raised concerns about the editorial with her line manager, who promised to take it further, but, Victoria said, “I never heard anything more from it.” The daily morning conference would also have provided an opportunity to respond to the editorial, but Victoria feared a hostile reception. “I thought, I’m not walking in that room, me, alone, against this bunch of people to discuss this. I think they understand perfectly what they are doing. There’s power in that room and power differences — we are not all equals.”

He’s a man though. Let’s not forget that part. The constant use of “she” and “Victoria” conditions us to think of him as a woman, but literally speaking he’s a man. He has much less reason to be physically afraid of walking into that room than a woman does. That doesn’t meant a hostile reception wouldn’t be very unpleasant, but since he’s talking about power differences, if there were women in that room then that’s another power difference, one that puts him on the more power side, not the less one. I think this kind of “poor fragile vulnerable me” rhetoric coming from people with male bodies is a form of appropriation.

The effects for her personally have been far-reaching. “I have lost some trans friends over this, from working with the ‘enemy’,” she said. “The worst part is that whether I like it or not, I have internalised parts of this.” It has contributed, she said, to her self-loathing because of “working in an environment where this [anti-trans] culture is not contested in any way.”

Instead, she said, the reporting is not balanced or objective. “Cherry-picking” of stories is done in such a way as to further stigmatise trans people: If a trans person does something wrong, it is seized upon, just as tabloids pounce on the tiny minority of asylum-seekers who transgress.

Ding! There it is again. “Victoria” is not vulnerable in the way asylum seekers are. That too is appropriation.

In July, a front-page story in the Observer, the Guardian’s sister title, ignited fury from some staff because of its accompanying tweet, “Young people not getting objective advice because of trans lobby pressure,” and the unchallenged views of a sole “expert” who opined that children were being fast-tracked into transition because mental health professionals were scared of being called transphobic.

Because…there’s no such thing as trans-lobby pressure? Come on.

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