Comment: Does today mean change for the trans community?

Jane Fae February 8, 2012
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Listen. That sound you don’t hear: the silence. That is the UK’s trans community waiting with bated breath. Because today, by a strange co-incidence of events, really does feel to many like the day that things change.

Because trans is in the news not, as so often, as sensation, as spectacle: but as grown up, fully-fledged participants to ongoing political debate. Can it be? Can it possibly be? And is this just flash in the pan, or the beginning of something larger?

Today’s stories are actually quite closely linked. First up is the news of ten-year old trans girl, Livvy James. Sick and tired of being picked on at school: fed up, too, with the way press intervention has made matters worse, she has started a very simple petition. It asks the press to lay off trans folk.

She pulls no punches in stating that press prurience contributes to bullying, abuse and worse. The bottom line is inevitable: careless talk costs lives. And Livvy thinks its time that stopped.

Co-incidentally (or not: I don’t much care, since the cause is pure), Helen Belcher from Trans Media Watch is to appear before the Leveson Inquiry this afternoon to talk about trans experience of the press. There will be cases similar to Livvy’s.

There will be heart-rending stuff, too, about lives destroyed and families riven asunder by this same press carelessness. In sharp contrast to the wilful complacency of former PCC Director Tim Toulmin, there will be evidence that this continues, two years after the PCC allegedly put a stop to that sort of thing.

The two events are rounded out by a great deal more serious media interest than the trans community usually receives. Paris Lees, of TMW, and Livvy on the BBC’s Breakfast Time today. Pieces likely to follow in the broadsheets.

Does this mean change is on the way?

Er, no. And yes. Because the real point is that what is happening today – the willingness of the establishment to take trans issues seriously – is not the beginning of anything: it is the culmination of months, years of work. It’s there in some small improvements in the press.

There too in Ministers like Lynne Featherstone, and in every comment on trans-related articles – more often from women, I fear – that acknowledges trans people should just be left to get on with their lives.

Leveson will report. Government will obfuscate. Some time in the distant future, laws will change.

Meanwhile, it is to be hoped that editors and bigots everywhere will understand the message behind today’s dignified display of quiet anger from the trans community. We have teeth: and this is no flash in pan. Its too late for that.

Because in the UK at least, the trans minority has come of age. Today is not the beginning of change – but a sure sign that it is happening already.

Jane Fae is an independent writer and sexual rights activist.

More: Leveson Inquiry, Trans

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