The Leveson Inquiry will hear today from Trans Media Watch, a charity which supports accurate and respectful reporting on trans and intersex people in the media.
The Inquiry has been investigating invasions of privacy by the British press since it opened in mid-November.
Paris Lees, the charity’s Project Manager said: “Our evidence reveals monstrous intrusion into the lives of private individuals, including children and rape victims, leading to people being forced out of their jobs and the breakdown of families. Some have received death threats following unwanted and hostile press attention.”
She added: “Newspapers have incited witch-hunts by neighbours, and families with children have been trapped in their own homes by media camped on their doorsteps. Some children have even been forced to move school or to new neighbourhoods.”
In their submission to the Inquiry, the charity refers to a “climate of prejudice” against trans people fostered by the media.
They added that trans people are vulnerable to allegations which often disrupt their lives and put them at risk of violence.
The charity’s submission includes numerous tabloid headlines about individual trans people with multiple references to sex “swaps” and “changes” as well as incorrect use of pronouns and the use of quotes when discussing transgender and intersex status in a way which appears to cast doubt over their existence.
TMW’s witness for Leveson, Helen Belcher, says fear prevents many from seeking justice: “Perhaps most sinister are the many accounts of families and individuals afraid of complaining to the PCC, and who dare not take legal action – for fear that the bullying will start again.”
“None of these people led public lives; there was nothing in their lives of any public interest. The interest was pure prurience and sensationalism, due to the fact that they were undergoing medical gender transition – a highly personal process.”
On 30 January, Tim Toulmin, a former Director of the PCC, gave evidence to the Inquiry, saying “not very long ago, it was quite commonplace for people to be ridiculed on the basis of gender dysphoria, and that’s something that the Code Committee recognised needed to change and they changed the rules and you just don’t see it any more.”
Lees says this is not true: “Mr Toulmin’s evidence to Leveson flies in the face of what TMW sees regularly in the British press. Most of our evidence was gathered from press articles published in 2011. We see a number of abusive pieces each month. It just shows how out of touch the PCC actually is.”
Gender identity has been protected since 2005 under the PCC’s Code of Conduct in the same way as race, disability and sexuality.
But the charity alleges that ordinary people are relatively defenceless against poor reporting.
Among seven key recommendations for future regulation, TMW suggests allowing complaints to be registered by marginalised groups, the provision of an ombudsman for those with limited means, and the regulation of press agencies.
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