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British newspaper apologises for ‘dehumanising’ cartoon portraying trans people as ‘predatory’

Josh Milton February 23, 2020
A satirical cartoon published in British daily newspaper Morning Star has been embroiled in criticism for being transphobic. (Twitter)

A satirical cartoon published in British daily newspaper Morning Star has been embroiled in criticism for being transphobic. (Twitter)

The Morning Star, a British daily newspaper, was condemned Tuesday after it published a cartoon branded as “dehumanising, facist” and “transphobic” in both its online and paper editions.

Illustrating a group of newts bopping in a pond, a crocodile then “slithers” into the scene. One newt says: “But you can’t come in here, this is our safe space!”

“Don’t worry your pretty little heads,” the crocodile responded, “I’m transitioning as a newt.”

The cartoon winnowed through Twitter immediately drawing intense detraction, with countless users stressing the importance of inclusivity in socialism as well as pressuring trade unions on the paper’s management committee to condemn it.

In the wake of widespread criticism, The Morning Star issued an apology. A staff representative described how the socialist outlet published the cartoon without first authorising it and was removed once seen by the editor.

What happened?

The drawing was doodled by Stella Perrett, a political cartoonist whose work, spanning 40 years, has “regularly” been featured in The Morning Star, according to the artist’s website.

Moreover, the drawing itself is called “Labour Pledge”.

Currently, Labour leadership and potential deputies are being asked by independent lobby group Labour Campaign for Trans rights to sign a 12-point pledge to back trans and non-binary people.

The pledge states that “there is no material conflict between trans rights and women’s rights” and calls for supporters of “trans-exclusionist hate groups” to be expelled from Labour.

Launched this month, the grassroots group cautioned that the party has “failed to act as transphobia has gained ground” within Labour, despite the party’s official support for trans equality and gender recognition reforms.

But the cartoon appears to reference the retaliation the pledge has faced, where some anti-trans lobbying groups are advocating that certain spaces and services for cis women exclude trans women.

LGBT+ activist skewer socialist newspaper for printing anti-trans cartoon. 

Describing the drawing as “offensive”, “hideous” and “harmful”, the cartoon drew sharp criticism from LGBT+ activists.

Moreover, the cartoon prompted some to push against the narrative the cartoon peddled by showing that trans folk can be socialist.

“Socialism is trans inclusive!” one user wrote.

A petition was also made decrying the drawing. Petition organisers PSC Rainwbow Collective described how the ongoing, relentless “debate” about whether trans people should, well, exit, has become a “toxic space of transphobia”.

Petitioners pelted the paper for publishing the “abhorrent form os transphobia that undermines the protections and the rights that we believe the trans community must have.”

Tallying more than 750 signatures in less than a day, the collective called on trade unions “to distance themselves” from The Morning Star.

Why did The Morning Star publish the cartoon?

The Morning Star published an apology Sunday acknowledging that staff “failed” to follow procedures for approving cartoon submissions.

“It was removed from online editions of the paper the same day, as soon as it was seen by the editor,” the statement read.

Moreover, the statement said, The Morning Star circulated a note that day “reminding them of the process by which cartoon submissions must be approved before publication and we are determined that such a lapse in standards will not recur.”

“Again, we apologise for the offence caused by this cartoon, especially to our trans contributors and readers whom we have let down.”

More: 2020 Labour leadership, Labour trans pledge, The Morning Star, Trans

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