Spun!

It is disconcerting, not to mention slightly irritating, to find that a story you have discovered, developed and broken has subsequently been bowdlerised, mostly in order to score a single party political point, by various of the national press. Predictable, though: and maybe a lesson for me in future on the copper-bottoming of stories to prevent this sort of thing happening.

The UK.GOV story

As mentioned in my previous post, i was amazed, surprised and generally gob-smacked to receive a direct answer from UK.GOV. Yes: the Passport Service “are considering the gender options” for the UK passport.

Did that include intersex issues? Could do. Because, as their spokesman later put back to me, the statement is pretty wide ranging. And literal. They are looking at ALL gender options.

The newspaper story

So how did the Daily Mail (and others) turn this? Why, tis a proposal to end a centuries old British tradition (it is not: the passport in its current form is little more than a century old) as a sop to the sensitivities of trans and intersex individuals.

How shocking, the great British dog being wagged by such a small and outlandish minority tail.!

Was this them having a go at us “freaks and weirdos”. Actually, i don’t think so. Or at least not directly. The main target of their piece was the Lib Dems, who now rank as DM hate objects far above most sexual minorities. No. This was a chance to take a swipe at the Lib Dems on the grounds of “political correctness gone mad”, for being out of touch, and for coming up with ludicrous ideas.

The grassroots view

Funny, that.

A straw poll amongst a bunch of feminist academics on Monday produced the result that most would quite happily opt for a gender-free passport. Many women, with whom i have discussed this would equally go for the non-gendered option.

Not all intersex folk would: because they prefer to identify as a particular gender. My own guess (without research) is that the majority of trans men and women would much prefer to opt for a specific gender, unless half way through transition and in need of a non-gendered passport for other reasons.

In other words: this is not a clear cut “let’s appease the minorities” move. Rather, its something that affects different people in different minorities differently (and in the case of intersex folk, that minority covers potentially up to 4% of the population!). Its worth a debate.

But still, mea culpa: i should have been that much more careful with this story. How? I think by getting my retaliation in first: making sure that quotes obtained from people such as Julian Huppert MP covered off the above.

Which still would not have prevented distortion, but would have made it that much more difficult.

Controlling stories…

Should i have sat on this story? Probably not.

Two reasons. First, despite my initial concern that adverse publicity could have led the Home Office to go back in its shell, this issue is now out in the public arena (at last count, as far as the Times of India!). Initial reaction, from all the usual suspects, has not been good.

But that’s initial reaction, and the considered stuff is yet to come. There will be some far more insightful pieces on this later, picking up on the issues i cover above – and public debate should help dissipate many of the presumed negatives.

Second, i suspect i do myself no good, at times, by dithering between my role as writer and activist/commentator. I won’t trade sensationalist stories – especially not where my information has been gained as a result of providing help and support to a vulnerable individual.

That’s a bit of a downer, bank balance wise, because my involvement with a range of sexual minorities means i get to hear of a lot of stuff that the red tops would love. So be it, though. Its about trust – and if i were selling out every last victim simply in order to raise cash i’d not be happy in myself.

At the same time, i suspect i sit on stories like this one a tad too long. If its general news and out in the local press, or something that government is up to, then it cannot, will not remain unreported. No matter how hard i try not to report on something, someone else almost always does…which leaves me kicking myself at the wasted opportunity, in two senses.

First, that i failed to get the story – and second, that very often, because i am a serious nit-picking detail girl, i could have reported it better/more accurately.

So, on the whole, i am not unhappy that the passport story is out there: but i shall certainly do all i can to fireproof such stories in future.

jane
xx

ETA: for the avoidance of doubt (since i have been asked about this)…I DO deal commercially with the Daily Mail, and did do so in this instance.

4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    janestheone said,

    the passport my parents had the first time they travelled abroad was a joint one, which could not be used by the wife to travel alone. And that was only about 50 years ago. Things do change… good. I would go for the non-gender option, largely on the grounds that if I went to eg Saudi Arabia it might make things a bit easier.

  2. 2

    Paula said,

    What are we supposed to do when we have a generally right wing hate peddling ranting press?. They are not fit for purpose and show how far from reality they are every time any story or “issue” concerning anybody not “mainstream right wing ranter” comes up. They spin lies and hate at every turn with an obvious relish and a desire to return to the days when “the mob” controlled both “public opinion” and “political thinking” (is that an oxymoron?). Reading all the comments in the Daily Heil on the story I’m struck by the way even after professional medical opinion and real peoples stories are presented along comes a ranter insisting on pushing the “party line” with either complete ignorance of the scientific and medical facts, or more likely with complete disregard for anything but their own over inflated ego and sense of importance. There are always these nasty bigots who believe their opinion is fact and who will impose that opinion on all around them without any care or concern for how idiotic they look, just as long as they incite the rabble to keep on screaming.

  3. 3

    MishMich said,

    Wish you’d keep your nose out of intersex, Jane. When trans people start mouthing off about intersex issues, it usually messes something up for us. Sick of being walked over so that our issues can be used by other people for their own agendas.

  4. 4

    alexkingsley said,

    I would opt for the non-gender option for two reasons. 1.) It is irrelevant to me. 2.) To make a political statement.


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