I have been doing my best to get into the Independent. But maybe I didn’t exactly intend for it to be like this.
As I posted yesterday: we had an exciting day of it in London, what with slutwalk, Queen’s birthday fly past, and bumping into the tail end of the naked bike ride. The highlight of slutwalk was stepping in very late in the day to provide a trans voice at Trafalgar Square. I didn’t have time or opportunity to say much: but I’m glad I did; think it important I did.
Fast forward to today when the Indie report my speech. Its only a dozen or so words, but yay! I finally made it into their pages. Or maybe not. They write: “a transgender woman told of attacks on people who had undergone sex changes”.
Huh? I did get introduced and, because I am picky about these things nowadays, I asked the organizer to announce me as “Jane Fae, writer and sexual rights activist”. Which she did.
I don’t announce myself as trans nowadays, because increasingly I see that as less and less the business of anyone but friends and those close to me. Nor do I call myself a “trans activist”, for two reasons. First, because there is ambiguity: that could be interpreted as what I just said I didn’t want…my outing as trans…with people reading that description as “an activist who is trans”.
Second, even if it isn’t read that way, I am, I hope, far more than an activist limited to trans causes. I write, speak, lecture about almost all aspects of sexuality: my most pressing concern at present is the way in which the police are using the Proceeds of Crime legislation as a way to put pressure on sex workers; and I am pretty unhappy with the way that trafficking seems forever to be derailing debates about support needed for sex workers.
I also have some pretty stark things to say about the sexualisation debate. None of which issues are much or even at all to do with transgender stuff.
So. Its true that I’m a transgender woman. But I wasn’t announced as such and, whilst I agree that one shouldn’t expect every journalist to be sensitive to every single minority concern, it is time that journalists on a paper as exalted as the Indie realized that outing a trans woman without it being germane or, where that fact is incidental, without her permission, is controversial. Or, as I put it to the nice guy on the newdesk with whom I spoke an hour or so back: it is a big no-no.
So much for identity! I did indeed speak of attacks. However, my focus was attacks on people who had transitioned or were transitioning. I certainly don’t talk about “sex change” which was a term, I also explained to newsdesk guy, that many in the trans community find deeply offensive. Thirteen words: two, maybe three quite fundamental mistakes.
When all they needed to write was: “Writer and Sexual rights activist Jane Fae told of attacks on transgender women”. Same word count. No objections, though.
A pity. The Guardian, at one time, was a bit of a snakepit as far as trans issues were concerned: but it has come on by leaps and bounds in the last twelve months – not just by taking on Juliet Jacques, but also having input from writers like myself, Natacha Kennedy and Roz Kaveney.
The Mail remains a bit of a hit-and-miss affair: but I am pleased to report that a little kicking and late night lobbying meant that at least one recent trans story (the Baltimore McDonalds beating) was written from a relatively benign viewpoint. Even the Sun managed a not half-bad story about teen transition last week.
The times, they are a-changing. So how amazingly irritating if the last place where reporting of trans events improves should turn out to be the one paper I actually pay for on a regular basis, the Independent.