Protesters are set to demonstrate outside the offices of the Observer newspaper on Thursday, following a column written by Julie Burchill yesterday, which came under heavy criticism and was accused of being transphobic.
Burchill was roundly condemned on Twitter for describing members of the transgender community as “a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs” and “dicks in chicks’ clothing” in a column in the newspaper yesterday.
The protesters demand an apology from Guardian Media Group, and for it to steps to ensure that the Guardian Media Group’s publications will not be used as a platform for hate speech.
Protest organiser, Kai Weston, told PinkNews: “The reasons for this protest, whilst triggered by Burchill’s recent transphobic article in the Observer form part of a wider picture in which trans people are frequently seen as legitimate targets by media outlets. All too often we see trans people being used a cheap comic devices, or having their identities dragged through the papers.
“For those within society who have never had extended interaction with a trans person, the media may form their sole source of information. Given that violence and discrimination against the trans community is rife within society, I feel let down when a supposedly progressive paper publishes a piece which amounts to nothing more than an outright transphobic hate speech.
Weston said: “Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Guardian Media Group has published a transphobic article, and on each occasion the issue has been addressed with a rebuttal from a trans commentator, and then swiftly brushed beneath the carpet.
“What we are seeking to achieve in protesting outside their offices is to ensure that the editors take the issue of transphobia as seriously as they would any other form of prejudice, and to make a commitment to keeping transphobic articles out of their publications.”
Members of the Facebook event, Protest Transphobia @ the Observer, have been voting on the best way to make a statement at the protest.
Delivering a coffin containing the names of victims of trans hate crime, was leading, followed closely by, Mob with pitchforks and burning torches, and, chanting with banners and placards.
Over 110 people have confirmed they will attend the demonstration at 13:00 on Thursday, which seeks an apology from the Observer, and assurances that the Guardian Media Group will not be used as a platform for hate speech.
The protest is also accompanied by a petition to demand an apology from Guardian Media Group, which had almost reached its 4,000 signature goal.
Alan Rusbridger, the editor-in-chief of the Guardian Media Group, which owns the Observer distanced himself from the column yesterday. A spokesperson for the Guardian Media Group said: “We acknowledge the strong reaction to Julie Burchill’s piece published in The Observer. As indicated by Observer editor John Mulholland on Twitter, we are taking such reactions extremely seriously and we have asked our independent readers’ editor to urgently investigate the matter.”
Julie Burchill launched the attack in defence of her friend and fellow writer Suzanne Moore who last week was severely criticised for suggesting women were expected to look like “Brazilian transsexuals”.
Many considered the term to be offensive – not least because Brazil has an appalling record on transphobic hate crime.
Guardian columnist Julie Bindel defended Moore and tweeted @PinkNews last week: “Can those of us who hate bullying PLEASE do something about the trans cabal running a witch hunt everytime they get offended?
Writing in the Guardian, trans rights activist Roz Kaveney accused Burchill of “bullying the trans community” and of using “hate speech”.
Supporters of the protest have also been tweeting the hashtag #TransSpring.