…and one that in the fullness of time may well come back to haunt the Beaumont Society which, on the face of it, appears to have come as close to outing a trans man as it is possible to come without naming names.
A large chunk of the trans community is now up in arms and less than happy at the role played by a body that has always been viewed with suspicion by the transsexual end of the “umbrella”, while the justification for its action given by that organisation seem more likely to fan the flames than put them out.
Let’s start with what is known. A well-respected freelance journo, by name Lois Rogers, who specialises in issues of medical ethics and practice was looking into questions arising from the desire of some trans men to re-re-assign: or at least to have children. She approached the UK’s Human Fertility and Embryology Authority for comment, and the impression given is that they didn’t exactly confirm, but hedged.
When a story is not a story
She then phoned round various trans organisations and one decided to hand her a story on a platter. According to an official statement put out yesterday, the BS affirmed that in response to a query from the Sunday Times, they had told them:
“We were contacted last year through our information line number asking for details on this issue. As an information line, we were unable to help with this query and so referred the matter onto GIRES. Some period of time later we received a thankyou for being there and the info we provided.”
That, in anybody’s book, is confirmation. That is what stands a story up – although it was hard to convince the BS that they had in any way been at fault in this respect.
The attitude of their press officer, contacted yesterday, appeared to be that whatever one told the press it did not much matter, because they would “make it up anyway”.
Nope. Hard as it may be to credit it, the vast majority of the press need SOME substance with which to work. They may spin, twist, misrepresent and generally imply you said something other than what you said. But for the most part, outright fiction is not on the cards.
Which is why both the statement and the subsequent denial that the BS had in any way given out this story was so extraordinary. Total, utter disconnect.
Google is your friend!
The BS were officially puzzled at how the press had got hold of the name of Joanna Darrell,the individual who is quoted as giving out the above information (clue: her e-mail and mobile number were on their site. It took less than 30 seconds to get from there to a name, via google).
Beaumont Society: speaking first, speaking for all
As for whether they should possibly have maintained a more dignified silence and not put themselves forward as speaking for the UK’s trans community, well they, unike other trans organisations are prepared to speak to the press.
As their spokeswoman put it, if other organisations want to be in the press, its up to them to get back and respond. She told me: “if they want a response, we’ll give response: if the rest of the trans community doesn’t respond, then that’s their problem.”
None of which is likely to go down well with sections of the trans community already concerned at the increasing way in which the BS appears to be becoming port of first call for press comment on issues of particular concern to the transsexual community.
The suggestion, also made by their spokesperson, that they are “authorised to speak on trans issues because they have ts members on their committee” is unlikely to go down well with those who have felt less than helped by the BS in the past.
Certainly, since this story came to light yesterday, a number of prominent trans women have commented publically about how unsupportive a role – negative, even – the BS played in their early transition.
Yesterday’s story has beyond a doubt stirred up both prurience and a great deal of hostility towards the UK’s trans community. The fact that it was possibly an accident waiting to happen – that there ARE trans men out there who wish to have children and sooner or later one of them was bound to be cuahgt out by the press – is neither here nor there.
This particular outing – this pr disaster – seems to originate in one clearly identifiable quarter: to owe as much to a lack of professionalism in dealing with the press as anything else.
Whether it will end there remains to be seen. The tabloid press are still conducting a witch-hunt for the individual in question.
Moreover, a number of individuals seem sufficiently riled up to “out” the BS in terms of breaches it appears to be committing of the Data Protection Act, both generally and in respect of this case.
It is all the most awful mess – far from edifying – and no way for a community to behave.