This week I am deferring the next episode of ‘letting go’, which is due, and not writing about me at all. High time.
Last weekend, I am glad I wrote early, because everything went wild by Sunday. It had been a week in which Dr Curtis, the only private consultant on gender dysphoria, came under examination by the GMC as a result of a handful of complaints. The one lifeline for so many – and why? Because if the NHS in your neck of the woods is represented by blocking, ignorance or worse, you cannot find satisfactory diagnosis, let alone treatment for gender dysphoria. You don’t even get close to talking about it properly with a clinician.
The most positive outcome as that story circulated was a Twitter stream with the hashtag #TransDocFail representing personal accounts of treatment by, shall we say, ‘unsympathetic’ doctors or consultants. Thousands of accounts came through of not merely rejection but abuse, verbal and otherwise. And none of those complaints would be formally reported against GPs or even the Gender Identity Clinics across the land.
Why not? Well, if you have no other lifeline, no funds, and no desire to skip across to Thailand, you risk alienating yourself so far from the NHS that your hopes of receiving diagnosis and treatment are effectively ended. It’s almost an required attitude to keep your hood up and shuffle along silently in the queue so no-one notices you.
Then there was the offending remark in an otherwise excellent feminist article in The New Statesman by Suzanne Moore, regarding Brazilian transsexuals. We try not to offend minorities these days, and Suzanne I guess/hope didn’t mean to, or at best was thoughtless. She was picked up on it quite objectively, but quickly compounded the matter herself. And anger flared, because transgendered people have had enough.
We have managed to dispense with jokes that negatively stereotype races, disabilities, sexual orientation and much else, but, it seems, transgendered people are still fair game. Suzanne could have apologised straight away, but by digging her heels in a bit and becoming abusive, ended up being Tweeted back with some nasty comments, and making some more pretty nasty ones herself. And flounced off, ‘hounded out by a trans cabal’.
Good may yet come of it. Her journalist friend Julie Burchill wrote what must be the most hideous piece ever published, in The Observer, Sunday 13 January. I can’t link directly because a tsunami of protest from the early hours and lasting all day led to its removal online. Yes, that bad. PCC complaints, I don’t know how many letters to editors, countless Facebook comments and Tweets, and quite a few very good blogs from trans people, feminists and sane others. Basically, if Burchill had written a similar piece relating to Jews, gay people, black people, or even women, using such insulting, threatening and inaccurate terms, she might well have been arrested.
What better way to resolve this flashpoint then, than for The Daily Telegraph to republish the same article?!
This is not about an article any more though, it is about complex institutional and cultural transphobia, and it is now very plain to see, so a lot more people have encountered it than otherwise would. There is more to come, I am sure. A lot more.
You see, referring to Brazilian transsexuals means referring not just to beautiful people as a ridiculous ideal, but to beautiful people who are murdered there in hundreds simply for being trans. This is what cultural transphobia does. This is what respected journalists insulting and abusing trans people achieves: bolstering the opinions of the ignorant and resulting in abuse, discrimination and violence against trans people. This used to happen daily to gay and lesbian people, and sometimes still does, except in this country it is no longer commonly acceptable. We climbed out of the ‘no Irish, no blacks’ landlady culture a long time ago. But ‘no trans’ may just as well be posted by landlords, neighbours and employers (and some social groups) today.
This week I questioned the constant references to the ‘transgender community’ by asking why we don’t have a ‘red-haired community’ who we insult with ‘gingers’ or ‘carrot-tops’. (It used to happen in some places.) Community is unity in togetherness, and we cluster most tightly when in defence. There is a trans community because we are not widely accepted. Some like me, are very lucky, but very many more are not. This is why our abusers feel attacked by ‘the trans community’: it is because they abuse us. Criticise one person with red hair for daring to have red hair, and a community will not rise against you on Twitter or anywhere. Criticise one trans person for daring to be born with gender dysphoria, and you criticise us all.
It also occurred to me as the argument of ‘how dare you call me cis’ went on along the sidelines, that there was a time when people said ‘how dare you call me heterosexual’? The implication always being that ‘no, I am just normal. And that anyone not like me, gay, lesbian, red-haired or trans etc. is a freak.’ Well, all cis means is people whose gender and physiology are aligned – is that insulting? Maybe anyone in doubt should reflect on why they don’t like labels whilst applying them to others.
It is time to stop the othering of trans people, recognise that gender dysphoria is not about drag, fetish or sexual behaviour, and applaud the Dr Curtises of this world. On balance his benefit to the trans community is probably a lot better than that of the NHS as a whole. And it’s time to end the acceptability of editors and journalists to degrade a vulnerable sector of society, who are in part vulnerable because of them.
So much has been written, and much of it eloquently, in the last ten days, that surely the time has come. Because we have had enough.