Channel 4 and transphobia, all mouth but no trousers?

There’s unease in some portions of the Trans community at the moment over how committed Channel 4 really are to their new Memorandum of Understanding. There’s a much longer post by Adam Smith over at Wrestling Emily Dickinson about this, but this excerpt sums it up nicely:

So in a similar way, as angry as I am with Peter Kay I find myself angrier at Channel 4 when I read that said channel – which, just last week, to general acclaim from the trans community, signed the Trans Media Watch Memorandum of Understanding – is planning to repeat the very programme in which Kay first aired his transphobic caricature, Geraldine. Yes: on March 26th, a grand total of twelve days after signing the MoU, Channel 4 plans to air a programme featuring a character and a performer universally reviled by trans people.

Adam has also set up a petition on the issue, which is worth a look.

But that’s not the end of it. At the TMW launch, Stuart Cosgrove (Director of Nations and Regions for Channel 4) said that the Trans community was still free to “shaft him” if he got it wrong. With they way they are acting at the moment, that shafting may come rather sooner than he expected, given the transphobic remarks in his BBC Scotland radio show, Off the Ball, this weekend. This from from just under 17 minutes in: (There’s another bit just under 42 minutes in but I’ve not seen the clip they’re referring to, so can’t really comment as I lack context)

So, Health & Safety. “Warning this product may contain nuts”
Said on what? A bag of nuts?
Airdrie lassie’s knickers! (Much laughter – Airdrie is a town in North Lanarkshire)

These are not particularly unusual remarks and typical of the usual kind of casual transphobia you will get in such circles. In the normal course of events, they would probably have passed unnoticed. But given that Stuart just helped to host a high profile event to tackle transphobia, should we not be holding him to a higher standard?

TransMediaWatch/Channel 4 MoU launch event

Last night was the launch of Trans Media Watch’s Memorandum of Understanding with Channel 4, which for anyone used to Trans events would have seemed a little unusual, hosted as it was at Channel 4′s HQ in their James-Bond-esque underground bar and cinema. I do feel a little inadequate trying to explain the mood of the room and significance of the event as it really would need the eloquence of someone such as Laurie Penny to do it justice.

This was a novel event to be at because in recent years, when it comes to big LGBT events, I’m more used to standing outside waving a banner than being inside in the warmth with wine and canapés. But Trans Media Watch achieved something truly remarkable with this MoU, aimed to end transphobia in the media and promote more accurate, positive images of transgender people as a whole. As anyone who has been involved in Trans campaigning will know, we can be a very fractious and transient community so it’s good to finally have a cause that I believe everyone can rally behind.

We had several speeches not just from TMW, C4 and the BBC but also from a Government Minister (Yes, a Government Minister turned up and gave a speech about Trans issues at a Trans event organised by Trans folk! How cool is that?) and Channel 4 showed a few clips from “4thought”, a series of short vox pops that include trans folk and I understand will be going out during prime time some time soon.

It was good to finally meet up with many people I know from Trans campaigning that I have either not have the chance to meet or I have not seen for some time. As well as many people from Channel 4 and TransMediaWatch, we had Lynne Featherstone MP (LibDem, Minister for Equalities who gave a speech); Dru Marland and Richard Beard (Becoming Drusilla); Victoria Aitkin (Jason Costello, Hollyoaks); Juliet Jacques (Writes about her transition for the Guardian); David Allen Green (Lawyer, Journalist and Orwell Prize Judge, also gave a speech); Christine Burns MBE (“Just Plain Sense” podcast and co-founder of Press For Change); Dr Stuart Lorimer and Dr Leighton Seal (Charing Cross GIC); Roz Kaveney (Journalist, Author and ex-vice-chair of Liberty); Terry and Bernard Reed OBE (GIRES); Dr Richard Curtis (Transhealth); Dr Evan Harris (President of the LGBT LibDems); representatives from the Government Equalities Office and Scottish Governments; at least one person from the BBC (Who I understand will also be signing the MoU, if they haven’t already) and video clips from Caroline Lucas MP (Greens) and Julie Hesmondhalgh. (Hayley Cropper, Coronation Street). Apologies to anyone who was there who I’ve missed. There were enough people about that I’m sure I’ve neglected to mention someone significant!

And finally, two quotes from the event:
There is no good reason why, just because a Trans person is caught up in a story, it becomes newsworthy” – David Allen Green
This is game changing” – Everyone

Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceI hope that these events will stop being unusual and the next time we all meet, it’s inside in the warm and not outside waiving banners.