We appear to be living in interesting times – which is not always a blessing. Because, as events around the Paddy Power fiasco unfold, I am beginning to sense that this story, after the heady days of the Leveson inquiry all of two weeks ago, has the potential for being a real trans disaster.
For that reason, I am going to ask all those currently getting hot under the collar to calm down, at least until tomorrow, when a few things will become a lot clearer.
An ill-conceived campaign
To begin at the beginning. This looked like just another piece of transphobic silliness: an ad campaign based on the premise that racegoers at Cheltenham’s Ladies’ Day should be prepared to sort out the mares from the stallions (trans women).
OK. There was an awkward little twist to the saga: the real possibility that Paddy Power would send its own monstrous regiment of trans women in on the day to give the punters something to chew on; though I am still waiting confirmation of same.
The campaign crossed the trans community’s horizon a week or so back, since when the volume of complaint has been growing steadily louder.
“Just a bit of fun”
Today I started to talk to some of the principal actors in this story. To his credit, Mr Paddy Power (the guy who set up the organisation which, co-incidentally, also carries his name) returned my call and gave a fairly stock response.
The concept for the ad was based on punter comment. It had been cleared with UK standards body, Clear Cast. They had consulted with a leading transgender organisation before putting the ad together.
And I can see his point. Sort of. After all, its much the same mindset as folks brought up on a diet of “Black and White Minstrels” once had. Where’s the harm? Tis all just a bit of craic.
All the usual suspects
Still, his answers led on to other questions, which are even now in the process of being answered. I have asked Clear Cast why they gave approval to this vile campaign when surely they would never have approved anything similarly racist. They’re getting back to me tomorrow. However, I also suspect this will act as catalyst for them and Trans Media Watch to get talking.
I have a name for the trans organisation that gave the advice which, once I’ve checked a little more, I’ll be giving out tomorrow…but I can’t see that answer, when it comes, as doing much for trans comm-unity.
And next we are on to the serious stuff, from two quite distinct angles. Bloody Paris! 🙂
She has written an absolutely spot on piece in today’s Pink News about how this is all panning out. She quite correctly identifies that, for an organisation that proudly took the title of most complained about advertiser in 2010 (for an ad featuring blind guys kicking a cat!), yet another complaint to the ASA is likely to be welcomed as battle honour.
The gloves are off
Just complaining is not enough. If people wish to dissuade PP from doing this sort of thing, Paris argues, they need to do things that hurt. Complain to MP’s. Appeal betting shop licenses.
Which is where this all gets serious and where the backlash could set in. As of tonight, I am aware of possible court action about to kick off.
That’s impressive. More serious, I have been talking to Police and Women’s groups in Cheltenham, because… well, for the fairly obvious reason that some folks may not have understood.
This ad goes way beyond “offence. It invites a bunch of drunken racegoers to play “spot the tranny”. And if there is one lesson the trans community knows full well, it is that that game does not combine very well with alcohol.
The chances of a trans woman being assaulted, or worse, in Cheltenham between now and March 14 just got a whole lot greater. And not just trans women. Any woman who fails to live up to conventional views of femininity and beauty is potentially open to challenge as the race meet gets under way.
Which means that the possible net for collateral damage just got a whole load wider.
And here’s where the collateral sets in. This is potentially a major public order issue – even if trans folk don’t decide to demonstrate on the day.
I am still waiting, tonight, for a reaction from Cheltenham Police and Martin Horwood, MP for that fair town (where, incidentally, I lived and worked for several years a decade or so back). But it could be fairly extensive.
Ban the event? I don’t think so. They wouldn’t dare. But as the temperature on this story rises, I can see views polarising. This campaign, even if abandoned now, makes life in Cheltenham a lot riskier for a lot of people in March. Police might yet suggest that, “for their own safety”, trans women not visit the town during that period.
Huh? Or maybe we are about to see a mega police operation set in train to protect anyone identified as trans by Paddy Power’s punters during that period. The bill could be very large indeed…and while the resp[onsibility would lie wholly with the bookmaker, that’s not, I suspect, how some of the tabloids will see it.
Time, therefore, for caution and a little bit of reflection. This story just got very interesting indeed…possibly, even, a lot more interesting than most trans folk would like.