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Own-goal from Stonewall over transphobic Paddy Power campaign

In what appears to have been a colossally mis-judged own goal, an article published today in the Guardian and written by Stonewall UK’s media manager endorses the use of transphobia if it helps further their anti-homophobic campaign.

The trouble stems from an advertising campaign featuring run by Paddy Power in early 2012 that the Advertising Standards Authority banned, branding the campaign “likely to cause serious offense” and “irresponsible”. When it was announced that Stonewall were teaming up with Paddy Power with a rainbow laces campaign, it was met with some grumbling from trans activists, but given Stonewall’s long history of working with transphobes it was hardly news.

However, today’s article appears to be the first time Stonewall UK have said the transphobic actions of someone else are actually helpful in working against homophobia:

It was clear from the very start of the campaign that working with an organisation like Paddy Power would allow us to communicate directly with fans, players and clubs in a way we simply wouldn’t have been able to had we worked alone. This, coupled with Paddy Power’s reputation for eye-catching, and yes, at times risqué campaigns would allow us to draw attention to the issue of homophobia in football.

Just in case the reader was in any doubt what was meant by “risqué campaigns”, the link (Yes, that’s in the original article) points to another article discussing the banning of the transphobic Paddy Power adverts.

Looks like Stonewall UK are back to being S’onewall again.

Update: The author of the original article has now “unambiguously condemned” the Paddy Power transphobic campaign, stating that the link to stories about it was added by the Guardian after the article was written.



Ranting at the BBC about factually inaccurate trans reporting

The below was sent to the BBC today at 23:18. It will be interesting to see how long it takes them to fix the article – or if they even bother, given they don’t usually cover trans issues at all. (I count exactly one direct reference since the start of June – the Cory Mathis bathroom case in the US. The remainder are references in passing, generally as part of defining what “LGBT” means and discussing pride events.

It seems you’re more likely to get referred to on BBC News for being a cis person making boots in large sizes or being a cis person getting an MBE for volunteering to help trans people than you are if you’re actually trans and campaigning on something. (The first story does mention a trans person in passing. It old-names them and uses some problematic and transphobic language presumably due to missing context in their quoting)

Dear BBC,

I am writing in relation to the article “Same-sex marriage set to enter law later this week” posted today on BBC News Online. It says:

MPs decided not oppose a number of minor changes agreed by the House of Lords. Among these were protections for transgender couples, which will allow people to change sex and remain married.

Ignoring the misleading statement about “opposing minor changes” (They were mostly, if not entirely, government amendments in the first place) the mention of amendments for transgender couples is incorrect. The provision to allow people to gain recognition of their gender whilst staying married, subject to a spousal veto, was part of the original bill. The Lords amendments altered the wording used to define the spousal veto and reintroduced a simplified version of gender recognition for those who transitioned many years ago.

The amendments would not allow anyone to gain gender recognition and remain married who would otherwise have been unable to do so.


Zoe O’Connell



ASA: Paddy Power advert seriously offensive, irresponsible and caused harm

Being heavily run by the BBC today is the news that the Advertising Standards Authority have finally (After 3 months!) ruled that the Paddy Power “Ladies Day” advert breached their codes. It had already had its clearance by Clearcast, a separate group who pre-vet adverts, withdrawn after the complaints.

Complaints fell broadly into three categories: That the advert was offensive, that it caused harm and that it was not socially responsible and the ASA upheld that all three rules had been breached. Highlights from the ASA ruling on being offensive:

We therefore considered that the suggestion that trans people could be segregated into the gender stereotypes “stallions” and “mares” as part of a guessing game, trivialised a complex and difficult issue and objectified them in a way that was likely to cause them serious offence.

We considered that the ad in general and those scenes in particular depicted those negative stereotypes in a way that was also likely to be seriously offensive to trans people.

We considered that the suggestion that a trans woman would need to, or should, use a men’s toilet and the reference to a woman as a dog were also likely to cause serious offence to women generally and trans women specifically. We concluded that the ad was likely to cause serious offence.

And on social responsibility and causing harm:

We considered that by suggesting that trans women would look like men in drag and that their gender could be speculated on as part of a game, the ad irresponsibly reinforced those negative stereotypes and, particularly by framing the game in a way that involved a member of the public who had commented on Paddy Power’s Facebook page, the ad condoned and encouraged harmful discriminatory behaviour and treatment.

Sadly, there was no mention that the adverts put Trans folk at risk of physical harm, but unsurprisingly given the above, they conclude “the ad must not be shown again in it’s current form“.


“Hit and Miss”: Clue still required

Having listened to Chloë Sevigny talk about her role in “Hit and Miss” on yesterday’s Woman’s Hour (It’s right at the start) I think I have to stand by my first view that the production company are seriously lacking in clue, as shown by the fact that their initial casting call was for a pre-op trans woman. (The pre-op bit was explicit)

The way such interviews usually work is that the production or publicity company will have a fact sheet or similar that they will give to the show and, although Chloë has some interesting views as a result of playing the part of a trans woman, (Perhaps enough to make me watch the show) it’s pretty clear from the interviewers questions that the fact sheet and likely the show itself will be awful.

We’ll start with the usual rant: Transsexual is an adjective, not a noun. The interview was littered with the interviewer committing the usual crime of referring to Chloë as playing “a transsexual” instead of “a transsexual woman” or “a trans woman”. (Chloë did not make this mistake once)

Interestingly, the text accompanying the podcast refers more correctly to her as playing “a transgender contract killer”.

The worst bit is, predictably given the requirement for any trans people playing the part be pre-op, the rampant genital essentialism which sounds like it’s going to be present throughout the series, and not in a good way. As well as the interviewer referring to her not having had “the full operation”, there’s this exchange:

Interviewer: “And we see her naked on a number of occasions and you wear prosthetic genitalia. Why was it important for the audience to see that?

Chloë: “According to the producers…” (Laughs, slightly nervously: I don’t feel she’s comfortable with this explanation) “…they wanted, that was their way of reminding the audience that she is… still a man or still has her male genitalia… and I think it was provocative.

That’s rather worrying for a series like this: They want to be provocative and they want to remind the viewers that she’s “still a man”. (Because as we know, you’re not “really a woman” until you’ve had “the full operation”… ugh!)

Interviewer: “And how did you deal with this, wearing it?

Chloë: “Not very well. It was painful… physically and emotionally because Mia, of course, has a very bad relationship with her genitalia as most, I think, people that are transitioning do. It’s very uncomfortable and humiliating being naked with it on. It’s hard enough to be naked yet then to have… you know, I just felt like a freak which Mia does, it helped me inhabit the character

This is more interesting – as Paris Lees put it, “Sounds like gender dysphoria to me”. (Or at least, a serious degree of body dysmorphia, even if I’m not entirely happy that she used the word “freak” there)

Later the interviewer refers to an earlier role of Chloë’s, in Boys Don’t Cry as the girlfriend of a trans man. The interviewer describes Brandon Teena as “a female-to-male not quite transsexual but crossdresser” which is pretty inaccurate.

If I watch this, it’s going to be because it sounds like Chloë’s experiences playing a trans woman are interesting. From the ham-fisted approach taken by the production company, I suspect overall it will do nothing to advance Trans equality and understanding and will likely be horribly cringeworthy.


Thinking Allowed on Transgender issues…

A comment I sent in to the BBC’s “Thinking Allowed” last week on Transgender issues has been read out on air. I’ll publicise this here mostly because I just love the inflection the presenter has given my words. I don’t think I could have done better myself! Start from 13:45, it’s about 30 seconds long.

Also on BBC’s Thinking Allowed Podcast site

The programme I’m commenting on is the one from 2nd May and Zowie Davy’s piece is towards the end. Here is the full text of my comment – the second paragraph was read out on air.

I was somewhat surprised on today’s show to hear basic linguistic errors being made by both the presenter and the academic author, Zowie Davy.

As someone who has apparently spent some time working with trans people, I would have expected Zowie to understand that “Transsexual” is an adjective, not a noun. You would not say “John is a black” or “Sue is a disabled” as that is very othering. Similarly, you should talk about someone being “a transsexual person”, lest one cause serious offence.

I hope that Zowie’s overall research is better informed than her use of language would suggest!


Paddy Power advert approval withdrawn

For those who have followed the Paddy Power issue, approval for the advert has now been withdrawn by Clearcast, the body that approves broadcast adverts in the UK. It now cannot be aired on any UK broadcast or Video on Demand service.

Here’s what ClearCast have said:

Last week we approved a tv ad for Paddy Power featuring references to transgendered people. When making our decision to approve the ad, we took into account the fact that the advertiser had sought a view from the Beaumont Society (a body run by and for those who cross dress or are transsexual) which did not find the script idea offensive.

However following a number of complaints over the last few days, it appears that the ad has caused offence and in consultation with broadcasters, it has been decided that the ad should no longer run on their TV or VoD services in its current format. We regret offence that may have been caused.

Updated: Paddy power now have a post on their web site in which they’re completely unrepentant on the issue. (And being rather shitty about it too) Apparently it’s all OK because they consulted a Trans organisation (Apparently unaware that BS is predominantly TV/CD) and some Trans folk were going to appear in it. No clue if the the Trans folk who would have been featured were Transsexual or Transvestites.


Parliamentary Motion on Press Trans Intrusion (You can help!)

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceA Parliamentary Early Day Motion – the MPs method of saying “down with this sort of thing” – has been started. It was proposed by Caroline Lucas (Green) and seconded by Julian Huppert (Liberal Democrat) and Mark Durkan (Labour) so has cross-party support already, with the topic being the Sun’s attempts to hunt down the trans man who recently gave birth.

It’s very timely that it’s been released today of all days, with the Metro running a front page story on a 5-year-old child diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria. (A story complete with photo, full name and the names of her parents!)

You can help – Please write to your MP if they have not signed it already and ask them to support this. If you do not know who your MP is, you can use Write To Them to find out. More signatures will not just increase the pressure on the press to act responsible towards the Trans community, but also to act responsibly across the board.


Harry Potter: “Adult Media” according to Ofcom and the BBC

An “update” from Ofcom landed in my Inbox yesterday that has me a little worried, as it’s pushing a report by “ParentPort”, of which they’re a member as well as other media organisations such as the BBC. The headline is “Revealed: How parents control children’s access to adult media” with the lead-in stating “of those parents surveyed whose children watch films at home, 40% had allowed their children to watch a film classified above their age” and that this “reveals the challenges and pressures parents face when it comes to keeping the media their children see age-appropriate.

Shock horror! Near half of kids are watching inappropriate adult content!

But hold on a second – we do not have the actual survey results or know exactly what questions were asked. Do they really mean adult content, I.e. films rated R18? Probably not, but they’ve still put it in an attention grabbing headline.

My eldest is 10, but all three of my kids have seen all of the Harry Potter series of films. All but the first three films are rated 12 or 12A, so by ParentPort’s definition this is somehow “revealing” that I’m facing pressures “keeping the media they see age-appropriate”. I don’t think I am, because (In line with BBFC guidance!) I saw the films with them at the cinema.

Actually, I mostly saw it at the cinema with them because I wanted to see it too. I’d have had no problems with them going to watch it on their own and I suspect many parents adopt the same view.

I am not sure if this is poor headline writing by someone at Parent Port or if they are trying to push some agenda, but I’m sure this will be seized upon negatively by some who want to campaign for their own brand of control and censorship.

In terms of my own approach, I don’t let the kids watch/play just anything. They’ve been allowed to play some of the Grand Theft Auto games only under rather close supervision, because they are permitted to do the driving around but not the storyline missions. They’re completely uninterested in sex, but they lack the appropriate knowledge to put some of the plot and dialogue in context and it’s understanding the context that’s my main concern with any sex-related media, rather than wanting to keep them away from sex completely.

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My Transsexual Summer

Cleaning up from yesterday’s internet meltdown has meant that I’ve not had the chance to write about this at length, but last night I went to a preview of the first episode of Channel 4′s new documentary, “My Transsexual Summer“, which airs tonight (Tuesday 8th November) at 10pm.

First off, it’s not perfect. But then, nothing ever will be – we can be an argumentative community at the best of times and even if this was produced by Trans folk, either everyone would still object or it would be terribly, terribly dull. (Follow my life with a camera and unless I happened to be on holiday, you’d mostly just get shots of me sitting in meeting rooms and typing on computers – not exactly blockbuster stuff.)

And some of the language used in voice overs at the start is a bit cringeworthy for anyone involved in the community, but the producer was quick to put his hands up to that one. He admitted that it changed over the course of the series and if he’d redone it from the start, different wording would have been used.

But in a way, that helps the programme as even from just one episode it felt as if it was telling the story of a journey, rather than a lecture or just a snapshot of someone’s life.

Notably, the cast – four trans women and, unusually, three trans men – did have a big say in how they were portrayed at their “summer retreat” house, enough that they got to veto many proposed titles and Max stood up and spoke in defense of the title they finally picked -before the producers could say much – when someone asked a question on it. Perhaps it was having the cast sitting at the back giggling and groaning along to various parts, but it felt positive. I identified (As a trans person) very quickly with the cast and many parts reminded of many past conversations I’ve had within the community… yes, right up to using the word “Tranny” to describe oneself to others within the community.

I’ve no doubt someone is going to complain about that at least, and perhaps the overuse of makeup at the start and lots of other things. But having seen it and having chatted to many of those in it and having had the chance to talk over the challenges faced by the producers and those that worked on it, I’m inclined to be very defensive if someone does take exception to it.

I felt that it’s more than just a step in the right direction, it’s a programme that pretty accurately reflected how many trans people carry on with each other in private. And we’re not all perfect paragons of Political Correctness, and we don’t all take ourselves that seriously.

One warning: There is a rather graphic part in the first episode where they show one of the transwomen being operated on. Yes, it’s that operation and it was certainly possible to get a good idea of who in the audience was either a cis male or pre-op transwoman from who was squirming and looking uncomfortable.


When a gay marriage isn’t gay

Foreign news stories that feature Trans issues can get confusing. There are often mistranslations and missed cultural nuances involved and this story from Cuba (BBC Link) is a good example. The headline when originally posted was “Cuba set for first ‘gay wedding’“. Which was rather incorrect and problematic, as the updated headline now illustrates: “Cuba gay man and transgender woman marry“.

For clarification: She’s a post-op transwoman. So it’s actually a straight marriage.

So, where did the “gay” come from? It’s not clear. Appropriation by the local LG community? If so, and the translations are accurate, the groom at least seems to be part of it:

This is the first wedding between a transsexual woman and a gay man,” Mr Estrada, 31, said.

“We celebrate it at the top of our voices and affirm that this is a step forward for the gay community in Cuba.”

But there is some confusion on the matter even in Cuba:

Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, who acted as a godmother at the ceremony, said that while the marriage was not technically a gay wedding “it is the closest we have come”.

I don’t know if there’s possible mistranslation from the Spanish going on here – do the Cubans have a word for “bisexual”? Or are transwomen just viewed as “gay men” over there? Either way, the original “gay wedding” headline certainly did not read well in this country.

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