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Whistling for dogs (transphobic ones)

Trans right now – Pride protest
Trans rights now!

Vociferous transphobia has become endemic to parts of the UK media in recent months. (I’d love to know why, but I won’t speculate about that here.) Some of the articles that appear in the right-wing press, especially the tabloids, are so obviously full of hate that there’s no escaping the intent of the authors (or at least the authors’ paymasters). Other articles make superficially reasonable arguments about ‘competing rights’ (for women, children etc.) and pretend to be broadly sympathetic to trans people.

Across the entire spectrum of transphobic articles, there are distortions, half-truths and biased framings that crop up repeatedly. In particular, there are a number of dog-whistle phrases and tropes that are used over and over again. I’ve picked out a few of these from some articles over the past week or two – from a UK broadsheet, a Scottish newspaper (this is a much more recent phenomenon in the Scottish press) and a local newspaper.

Content warning: some of the following may be upsetting, in particular for trans people.

The Sunday Times

Andrew Gilligan’s article on women’s refuges (behind a paywall, with limited free access) is pretty typical of the almost incessant stream of transphobic – mainly transmisogynistic – bile that has spewed forth from the Times and Sunday Times over the past few months, often under the guise of feminism. Rupert Murdoch’s UK broadsheets outrank even the wretched tabloid Daily Mail as the reading matter of choice for those who have a visceral hatred of trans people and would really rather we didn’t exist.

The National

The first clearly transphobic article I became aware of in the Scottish press was an unpleasant piece by Shona Craven just over a couple of weeks ago in the National. (This is also behind a limited-free-access paywall.)

More recently Vonny Leclerc has written an article on gender and feminism for the same paper. I have generally enjoyed her contributions, so I found some of her language here slightly disappointing. But I like to give her the benefit of the doubt, as her words suggest she is genuinely wrestling with the issues – and on the whole the article is rather good.

Edinburgh Evening News

This local newspaper has a tendency to become fixated on populist topics (trams and Gaelic are a couple that spring to mind – both portrayed as a waste of money) and is generally notorious for attracting a rabid commentariat on its website. The articles can be bad enough, but for your own health you should never read what’s beneath them. Opinion columnist Susan Dalgety’s article last week was a particularly nasty excursion into the topic of gender identity.

And … breathe

I try not to read too many trans-hate articles, but every so often I dip my toe in this media mire – if only to check whether it’s still happening. I did read each of these articles earlier, but re-reading them to put this post together was still quite an unpleasant experience for me. If any trans-unaware person reads this and gets a sense of some of the dog-whistling that is going on around trans issues at the moment, my post will at least have served some purpose.

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