There are many common threads running between the public’s distrust of the media messages about Covid-19 vaccines, pandemic mitigation efforts and vaccine passports these past twenty months and the public distrust of media reports which cover one story after another of “female sex offenders” like Rachel Smith and Amy Gray. Smith was given a suspended jail term and a sexual harm prevention order in 2018 for making indecent photographs of children. Gray had a previous conviction for three offences of sexual assault for which he was convicted in 2005. Where the public was told early in 2020 that face masks were discouraged from public use to being part of everyday clothing outside the home, media reports have mysteriously shifted from reporting sex crimes by men in recent years by recording these crimes falsely as being committed by "women."
Most gender-critical feminists reading these news stories in recent years have noticed the increasing reports of “female rapists” and paedophiles as the photos accompanying these news stories generally clinch the reality that these sexual criminals are not at all women. Still, British media cherry picks which rapists and paedophiles it deems worthy of calling men or those to whom it refers as “women.” It is unclear why there seems to be no clear measure of when the media can refer accurately to men in its stories, or when it must play into the theatre of gender identity by following the informal diktats of lobby groups that have infiltrated the professional guidelines of journalism.
The case of Jessica Brennan from earlier this year was widely reported throughout British local and national media with the BBC recording Brennan through his “dead name,” Allan Brennan‚ while also referring to him as “Ms Brennan” and “she.” The York Press similarly “dead-named” Brennan while also referring to him through female pronouns. Although the readers of both stories would understand that Brennan was a man, the niceties paid to a paedophile found guilty of numerous charges of sexual and indecent assault of children, this seems a curious—albeit fictional—formality to extend. A similar pattern is found within many other stories like those of Marcia Walker and Melissa Wilson among many others.
Then there are stories where rapists are regularly referred to as “women” without any mention that the sexual offenders are men. The media is replete with stories of “women who rape”—from the rapist Michelle Winter, to Rachel Newton who sexually abused a young boy and downloaded images of child sexual abuse, to Denen Anderson, a man who downloaded a toddler rape video among other graphic images of children. Anna McKone, a paedophile who was sentenced to a three-year community order, is also covered throughout media reports of his case as a “woman” and “she." So too is Gemma Anne Hicks, a man who attempted to engage in sexual communications with a child. Increasingly, major media refers to an overwhelming number of male sex offenders as “women” and “she” without any concern for facts: that all of these offenders are men. There are many cases of trans-identified men who effect sexual offences against women and children while increasingly media is caving to the trans lobby’s demands that “dead-naming” be abandoned and that “preferred pronouns” be observed.
This summer’s Wi Spa incident involving a man who exposed himself in the women’s section of a spa on 23 June and the ensuing, at times violent, protests this summer in Los Angeles set the foundations of journalistic integrity against the behemoth transgender lobby that has captured public and private institutions across many western nations over the past decade. What we would learn, however, is that left-wing media got it wrong simply because no journalist bothered interviewing any of the witnesses to the incident or fairly representing the facts of this case.
On 9 July, Slate writer Evan Urquhart maintained that Wi Spa incident and the video was a “hoax.” Several weeks later, Guardian journalists Lois Beckett and Sam Levin claimed that the incident was “distorted by anti-transgender groups” and that the claims made by the women present were “unsubstantiated.” The writers went on to claim that the protests “offered a case study in how viral misinformation can result in violence, and provided clear evidence of the links between anti-trans and far-right movements, including QAnon conspiracy theorists, who believe that a cabal of elite paedophiles is manipulating the American government.”
Instagram user @CubanaAngel documented the aftermath of the incident and posted her video of the encounter on Instagram after she and other women and children were exposed to a naked and “partially erect” man, Darren Agee Merager, in the women’s section of the Los Angeles spa. Journalist Andy Ngô covered the misinformation of the incident in his exposé for the New York Post that Merager has been a registered sex offender since 2006 as a result of convictions for indecent exposure in 2002 and 2003 in California and he is awaiting trial on seven counts of indecent exposure that were first filed in 2019. What Ngô’s piece makes clear is that the left-of-centre media that covered this incident and the protests thereafter only interviewed people who shared their ideological bias which resulted in misinformation.
The ethical dishonesty of these publications merits closer examination as what happened was not merely an oversight of these journalists but was demonstrably a series of dishonest editorial decisions and incompetent reporting in concert with press standards organisations coercing journalists not to represent certain facts.
Urquhart’s article was quietly doctored without any errata notices and only an “update” dated 2 August at the end of the article which records the fact that five women pressed charges against Merager. Here is the headline and subhead on 9 July:
Here is the headline again on 3 September after the publication of Andy Ngô’s coverage demonstrating that both Slate and Guardian journalists had lied about the incident. Both headline and subhead are doctored:
“Violence Over an Alleged Transphobic Hoax Shows the Danger of Underestimating Anti-Trans Hate” to “Violence Over a Transphobic Hoax Shows the Danger of Underestimating Anti-Trans Hate” with the addition of “reportedly” in the subhead, Slate has toasted its reputation to report the news. Slate should have admitted its error by including the formality of an erratum or corrigendum or it should have left the original headlines for the public record.
While the Guardian journalists did not doctor their coverage of this story from 28 July, they added comments to the piece the next day about @CubanaAngel. Still, they ignored the various witnesses who presented their testimony on Twitter weeks earlier confirming the story was, in fact, not “distorted.” Moreover, shortly after Ngô’s article was published last Thursday, Levin and Beckett then committed to misrepresenting their 28 July article by writing a new piece that entirely disassociates their earlier coverage of Merager.
From the Guardian’s July article, “A nightmare scenario: how an anti-trans Instagram post led to violence in the streets,” last week’s story moves the focus away from transgender identity to this: “Person charged with indecent exposure at LA spa after viral Instagram video.” This is a not-so-subtle shift from their earlier coverage wherein they state, “It is unclear whether a trans woman was actually present” to now suddenly having verified that a male “person” was naked in the women’s section of Wi Spa. Instead of admitting that their earlier article was badly investigated or that the many women at Wi Spa did not make “unsubstantiated” claims about the naked man in the women’s section of the spa, Levin and Beckett ran a story about a “man” (their quotes) who was in the women’s section of the spa while confirming that Merager was a registered sex offender.
How is it that The Guardian has been allowed to redact its July coverage while refusing to investigate, much less reference, the many people on Twitter who have openly posted being present at the spa? Major media failed to cover this story responsibly while purposefully ignoring the witnesses to this incident, an event which is not only well-documented by @CubanaAngel on Instagram, but lawyer and political columnist Bennet Kelley made a second video wherein we can see @CubanaAngel filming her interaction with the Wi Spa administration—the same video she posted on Instagram on 24 June. This more than corroborates the @CubanaAngel video while putting the nail in the coffin of Guardian journalists’ professional malfeasance regarding their failure to do basic research on the events.
I read through Kelley’s Twitter commentary on the original Wi Spa incident where he answered actor Patricia Arquette’s now-deleted tweet that insinuated that the Wi Spa video “may have been a hoax.” On 18 July, Kelley responded to Arquette here: “Not a hoax. I was there that night. I'm one of the people in line in the viral video. A bunch of women stormed out of the ladies lockers, including a mother with her young child, complaining about a naked transgender person. #WiSpa.” I reached out to Kelley and within minutes I was sent his phone number and we spoke about what he witnessed.
Kelley gave me an accurate and detailed description of the Wi Spa venue—from the first level single-sex areas, the chill room with televisions and headsets, the steam room, sauna, whirlpool, the cold tub, the computer room, and reading room. He even lauded the Korean food served in the dining area of the spa. He tells me how he went to the spa with his girlfriend and while waiting in line to pay for his meal, his girlfriend went to the locker room. He notes that it was then that “someone warned her that there was a guy in the women’s area and so she got her things and came out later. I was paying when the woman came out and made a stir and I caught part of it.” He pulled out his mobile and filmed this excerpt of @CubanaAngel’s interaction with the Wi Spa management. “I talked briefly to one woman while we were in line for the valet and she told me how she was there with her daughter who saw a penis for the first time that moment in the spa.” He described that this was a large group of women with many of them angry, demanding refunds.
I found Kelley’s video and testimony within two minutes of reading through the Twitter feed of the Wi Spa incident. How is it that Urquhart, Levin and Beckett decided that what Kelley witnessed was not newsworthy? Or, might it be as Ngô contends, that these writers “only interviewed people who shared their bias and thus ended up misleading & misinforming the public”?
Savage Minds’ launch story last year addresses the Guardian’s monetary incentives to cover transgender issues to the tune of $250,000 from the Open Society Foundation. There are serious ethical questions behind how media is funded, what goes into print, and which witness stories are avoided. However, the Wi Spa incident is a far larger story that moves in and out of financing and into areas of editorial control, which articles are redacted, which editors approve the manipulation of facts and how media is not held accountable for erasing lies it has spun into the social ether of online debates, evidence ignored for the public record and the doctoring of stories wiped clean from public scrutiny.
Just yesterday the Guardian ran an interview with Judith Butler that has already been redacted with an misleading editorial note: “This article was edited on 7 September 2021 to reflect developments which occurred after the interview took place.” To be clear, this interview was doctored with the Guardian having removed an entire section of Butler’s interview to include the question. Here is what the Guardian removed under the pretence of “developments which occurred” after this interview:
It seems that some within feminist movements are becoming sympathetic to these far-right campaigns. This year’s furore around Wi Spa in Los Angeles saw an online outrage by transphobes followed by bloody protests organised by the Proud Boys. Can we expect this alliance to continue?
It is very appalling and sometimes quite frightening to see how trans-exclusionary feminists have allied with rightwing attacks on gender. The anti-gender ideology movement is not opposing a specific account of gender, but seeking to eradicate “gender” as a concept or discourse, a field of study, an approach to social power. Sometimes they claim that “sex” alone has scientific standing, but other times they appeal to divine mandates for masculine domination and difference. They don’t seem to mind contradicting themselves.
The Terfs (trans exclusionary radical feminists) and the so-called gender critical writers have also rejected the important work in feminist philosophy of science showing how culture and nature interact (such as Karen Barad, Donna Haraway, EM Hammonds or Anne Fausto-Sterling) in favor of a regressive and spurious form of biological essentialism. So they will not be part of the coalition that seeks to fight the anti-gender movement. The anti-gender ideology is one of the dominant strains of fascism in our times. So the Terfs will not be part of the contemporary struggle against fascism, one that requires a coalition guided by struggles against racism, nationalism, xenophobia and carceral violence, one that is mindful of the high rates of femicide throughout the world, which include high rates of attacks on trans and genderqueer people.
The anti-gender movement circulates a spectre of “gender” as a force of destruction, but they never actually read any works in gender studies. Quick and fearful conclusions take the place of considered judgments. Yes, some work on gender is difficult and not everyone can read it, so we have to do better in reaching a broader public. As important as it is, however, to make complex concepts available to a popular audience, it is equally important to encourage intellectual inquiry as part of public life. Unfortunately, we are living in anti-intellectual times, and neo-fascism is becoming more normalized.
We should be very concerned about any media outlet that edits an article under false pretences. We should be even more worried about these kinds of redactions becoming commonplace where scholars are pretending those who are gender critical “have never read any works in gender studies,” a claim Butler knows to be untrue since I wrote her years ago. Not only have I read her work, I have taught it! So have many other gender critics in and out of academia. When Butler states that “anti-gender ideology is one of the dominant strains of fascism in our times” and these words are removed by a powerful media corporation, we know that the pot has indeed met the kettle. More to the point, the bit the Guardian ought to have removed is this:
How has your own gender identity informed your political theory?
My sense is that my “gender identity” – whatever that is – was delivered to me first by my family as well as a variety of school and medical authorities. It was with some difficulty that I found a way of occupying the language used to define and defeat me.
Butler has effectively revealed that gender identity is a hoax and that her ideological hat trick rests in denying material reality through her mandate to render “complex concepts available to a popular audience.” The problem, of course, is that people have read Butler, they disagree with her ideas, and mostly they reject her spicing up decades-old gender stereotypes with contemporary discourse served on the side that pretends to be empowering but which is easily identifiable as the same old sexist-ridden, misogynist rhetoric of old. In short, Butler fails to address, much less negotiate, any criticisms made by gender-critical feminists. The Guardian’s removal of Butler’s contention that gender-critical women and men are part of neo-fascism is something that is directly linked to the fact that this publication has been handsomely funded to posture gender ideology in a way that is palpable, digestible and easily quotable by the masses. That is until we see how these ideas collapse under the Wi Spa story where pronouns are changed, “man” is put into quotes, person replaces “trans woman,” and the valences for understanding what words actually mean are now moderated by the very scholar whose own work in the field of gender ideology once made her the winner of the journal of Philosophy and Literature’s Bad Writing Contest in 1998.
It’s not as Butler would have it—that many women and men haven’t read or lack the skills to read gender theory. It’s quite the inverse. They have read these theories and recognise them as socially regressive, conservative and sexist. In the same sentence that Butler utters the word “femicide,” she fails to understand that femicide is uniquely linked to the material reality of the sexed—not gendered—body. Where Butler’s influence to have this quotation removed rests we may never know. But the burden of editorial responsibility towards accurate reporting was sunk in the Guardian’s decision to remove this vast tract from its interview.
I have been investigating the history of the media capture into which large media outlets have been handsomely paid to cover transgender issues running roughshod over journalistic ethics to truthfully and responsibly cover the news. The organisational efforts of trans activists to push on the journalist unions and organisations within Britain is long and well-documented and we must step back in time to look at how media has become submerged in its own political devices instead of carefully covering media around this issue specifically.
Press for Change is one of the key transgender lobbies that has worked on institutional capture within the UK. An organisation founded by Mark Rees and Stephen Whittle in 1992, Press for Change undertook “key lobbying and legal support” for trans-identified people in the UK. Christine Burns joined Press for Change in 1993 and was the Vice President from 1993 through 2007.
It is notable that Burns served as Director of Plain Sense Ltd, an organisation that “provides strategic consultancy to public sector and private organisations” (2002-2014), Equality and Diversity Programme Manager for the NHS Northwest (2008-2013), Chair of the North West Equality and Diversity Group (NWEDG) (2007-2010), Appointed Advisor to the Department of Health’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advisory Group (2006-2010) which involved the “restructure of the Department's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advisory Group in the first half of 2008” and for which Burns coordinated “activity with the chairs of two other committees to recommend the investment of £250K (2007/8) on projects to promote the inclusion of LGBT people throughout Britain's health and social care services.” Burns also took part in the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advisory Group (SOGIAG) in 2007 which involved stakeholders from across the country.
To say that Burns is a major figure in the strategic organisation of the legal, political and institutional capture that transgender ideology has held within British public and private sectors would be an understatement. Burn’s CV demonstrates how the transgender lobby in Britain has involved powerful managerial figures like Burns who were able to advance gender ideology within the NHS, institutional diversity and equality policies, as well as regional and national human rights policies. Burns’ work as a media influencer within Press for Change involved: policy formation and presentation, consultancy for government departments, chairing the transgender workstream for the Department of Health Sexual Orientation and the Gender Identity Advisory Group (SOGIAG), participation as a member of the Parliamentary Forum on Gender Identity, and being awarded an MBE in the December 2004 New Year's Honours List for “Services to Gender Issues.”
In 2004, Press for Change published a document authored by Burns entitled “Transsexual People and the Press Collected Opinions from Transsexual People Themselves” wherein Burns lays out the road map to capturing media institutions throughout the UK. The publication’s contents, Part C: Key Areas of Concern Among Trans People, lists pronoun usage, terminology, balance ad accuracy, respect for privacy and “opinions encouraging antipathy towards transsexual people as a group.” The document states that “Deep offence can be occasioned by use of inappropriate pronouns –referring to a transsexual woman as ‘he’ or a transsexual man as ‘she’ and goes on to gives first-hand accounts of those who have complained of the use of “incorrect pronouns” and more serious threats of bodily harm. The links between pronouns and threats to bodily harm are completely unrelated, however, yet this document places the idea that “wrong pronouns,” verbal harassment and physical harm are all somehow interrelated or that accurate representation of a person’s sex would somehow be “prejudicial”:
One way of explicitly signalling this need for change is to adopt the very small but significant change in the code recommended by Dr Lynne Jones MP. Dr Jones simply recommends that the code committee should insert the expression “(including gender transition)” after the word “sex” in paragraph 12(i) of the code. It would then read: 12(i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual's race, colour, religion, sex (including gender transition), sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
This document makes the argument that trans-identified people are part of a “vulnerable group” and asks that statistics be accurately registered by the police about hate crimes committed against trans-identified people. It then leaps to the press stating, “Without a way to distinctly catalogue discriminatory journalism focussed on transsexual people it will remain possible for editors to continue in denial that it exists. And that is a free license for the behaviours evidenced in this dossier to carry on happening with impunity.” Asking for shifts in language by editors and journalists in the ethos of honesty and clarity regarding crimes against trans-identified people, this document asks that the press make changes in how it refers to trans-identified people.
Trans Media Watch (TMW), founded in 2009, published its “Memorandum of Understanding” in 2011. In collaboration with Channel 4 TV whose goal was “to help eliminate discrimination relating to trans people in all media by setting out goals that all the parties can aspire towards,” Channel 4 became the first organisation to subscribe to the principles set forth in this document. This document makes a series of demands some of which are reasonable requests, such as being “assured of respectful, fair treatment.” But what is respectful and accurate, as we have seen in recent years, fall into conflict and pit the safety of women against the desires of men who usurp gender identity to their own interests. Hence, this memorandum tends towards an orthodoxy that conflicts with journalistic principles of accuracy. The signatories of this memorandum promise “to practice and support the following”:
• Avoid the use of language which is widely considered to be offensive to transgender people.
• Avoid gratuitous descriptions, comments and references that subject transgender people to ridicule.
• Avoid sensationalist reference to transgender persons or issues, especially where their gender history has no direct bearing on the subject of a media item.
• Avoid references to the medical histories of transgender persons except where they are directly relevant to the subject of a media item.
• Avoid using pronouns and gendered descriptors that conflict with the personal identities of individual transgender people.
• In accordance with the Gender Recognition Act, avoid revealing the previous names of transsexual persons except where explicit permission is given to do so.
This document also sets out the idea that there are more reliable sources for “statistics in relation to transgender people” which place the transgender people as the sole arbiters of what is true or false asking for journalists to develop "major pieces of work that analyse or reflect on the transgender experience." This memorandum also sets into motion the idea that journalists should be given training “in relation to transgender issues” and that media representation be made in such a way as to “increase [the] visibility of transgender people and transgender issues in wider contexts” while providing “positive role models for young transgender people.” There are also human resources issues addressed within media organisations whereby this document asks that “adequate training” be offered to “employees to prevent transphobic harassment in the workplace.”
The problem, as is painfully clear a decade later, is that the terms for “transphobia” and “visibility” have not been at all thought out in the context of reality-based journalism where facts matter both for public information, safety and human rights of others. As daily news stories on transgender issues have gained traction within left-of-centre media, the sole arbiter of what is or is not “trans positive” or “transphobic” has become a very tightly-knit ideology that seeks to remove the material-based reality that sex lends to the accuracy of any news story. Certainly, the specificity of sex in news stories wherein the perpetrator is a man who cross-dresses is demi-sexual or who identifies as “transgender” specifically affects women and gay men and lesbians within society today.
At the end of 2011, TMW made a submission to the Leveson Inquiry into the culture, practice and ethics of the press wherein this document continues Press for Change’s 2004 document, by giving examples from the media such as The Sun’s coverage from 2009 entitled, “Dad-of-two driver changes gear in sex swap.” It critiques the coverage of this article:
In this piece the subject is referred to as male throughout, starting with the headline (“Dad of two”), using her former name and male pronouns all the way through the article. In fact, her former name appears more often than her real name (5 times as opposed to 2). We also have the seemingly obligatory “before” photo. The net effect is to render her as a fantasist. This is compounded by the use of terms such as “burly” (a much-favoured term intended to underline the subject’s presumed visual incongruity) and an ambiguous joke about “gear” (playing on an intended double entendre involving either clothes or genitals), essentially reducing her to a comical parody, further reinforced by “sex swap” which is offensive, reductionist language.
TMW homes in on trans-identified persons and the use of “inappropriate pronouns” and “male pronouns” throughout this document, introducing the concept of “misgendering.” While some of the points of ridiculous and mocking journalistic prose were rightly criticised within this submission, the Leveson Inquiry was handed a document which equated insulting coverage with accurate coverage to include the historical revisionism of where a term like “transvestite” was suddenly rendered obsolete and offensive. This document also advances the notion that a person can be “a gender different to that assigned to them at birth” leaving the ethical dilemma of news media to represent the feelings of this community through prescriptive—and at times inaccurate—language.
The submission attempts to link “negative” news coverage to familial breakdowns, negative reactions at work and “from service providers, including the NHS, which they felt were related to items in the media.” Where facts matter for the transmission of news and current events, TMW’s submission to the Leveson Inquiry carefully conflates individual notions of gender identity as being directly affected by factual news reporting where pronouns and previous names might be central to the public interest and this report attempts to draw connections between media factual representations of trans-identified individuals and these individuals having been harassed in public, excluded from family events, threatened in a public place, and verbally or physically assaulted at work. The report also links suicide attempts and trans-identified individuals’ fear of using public social facilities to media coverage. There is no scientific data demonstrating how “misgendering” would result in any of these examples of harassment or self-harm. A self-completed questionnaire is used to demonstrate how “feelings” of disappointment in media representation are conflated with media representation of this community which TMW contends promotes “social isolation.”
Nowhere in TMW’s document is there any understanding that the media’s role might necessitate using correct pronouns and in some cases require a more truthful rendering of a person’s life and sex. This document extends the recommendation that “the protected characteristic “gender” in the PCC code (or that of its successor) be explicitly changed to “gender identity” in order to give wide-ranging protection to transgender people of all types.” Where self-perception and this lobby’s claim of feelings over facts is riddled with problems of factual and ethical reporting on the subject, the Leveson Inquiry was handed the task of considering the protection of minority groups as a matter of priority without taking up the conterminous task of truthful and ethical reporting for the public record.
The National Union of Journalists Guidelines on LGBT Reporting was issued in September 2014 and later revised in April 2021. The guidelines set out a new level of journalistic capture that we can see patterned from the above documents. The NUJ Guidelines state: “A person's sexual orientation or gender identity status should only be mentioned if relevant to the story. Intrusion into people's private lives is only justified by overriding considerations of public interest and journalists should not produce material which is likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.” The document then devotes an entire section to “transgender” wherein intersex people are again conflated with trans-identified people:
Intersex people—those born with one or more variations in physical sex characteristics that do not fit the typical definitions for male or female bodies—are sometimes discussed in the same context as transgender. There is a clear distinction between the two, but at the same time a similarity, in that intersex people have also faced discrimination and persecution as a result of their non-binary gender/sex identity. Reporting of intersex people should therefore adopt a similarly sensitive approach.
The guidelines fail to mention that the transgender lobby has conflated intersex conditions to politicise the narrative of gender identity. Intersex people do not make the claim to having a gender, much less a gender identity which raises questions as to how and why this has made an appearance under “transgender.” The guidelines then advocate that all reporting of trans-identified persons orbit around the subjects “chosen” name and pronouns while requiring journalists to revert to sexist stereotypes to assess which pronoun might be valid:
In your reporting, always refer to a transgender person's chosen name, and ask them which personal pronoun they would prefer to be used to describe them. If this is not possible, use the pronoun consistent with the person's appearance and gender self-expression. Avoid putting quotation marks around a transgender person's name or pronoun.
This raises questions as to the task of the journalist if one must guess that a butch woman is somehow a “man” or an effeminate man a “woman” just as this calls into question the larger ethical dimension when reporting a man in a woman’s section of a spa or a gym.
I wrote the NUJ earlier this year and asked about this organisation’s guidelines and what the ethical line was between accuracy in reporting versus carrying through “gender-correct” public relations. I asked the NUJ how their policy was shaped and which actors and organisations had a seat at the table. Francis Rafferty, the NUJ’s senior editorial and communications officer answered my query and wrote that “when the NUJ’s councils and committees draw up advice or signpost our members to advice, they seek to consult widely with organisations such as the Trades Unions Congress, experts, and lobby groups in the field.” I asked Rafferty what the guidance implies for journalists who might not wish to commit to “preferred pronouns” and she wrote:
All our guidance is just that and is intended to provide a source of information. However, we do expect our members to adhere to the NUJ’s code of conduct which says that members must “produce no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination”. If members do, they can be taken through a disciplinary process which could result with their membership being rescinded.
How might misgendering or referring to a man who claims to have an internal sense of gender as “he” be remotely linked to the production of “hatred or discrimination”? The notion that journalists have a hand in contributing to the discrimination of trans-identified people seems to balance on a purely ideological plateau given that accurate news reporting is hardly to blame for discriminatory views of a certain group of people. Rafferty’s words here indicate that the notion of equality implicates journalists in a never-ending free-fall within a prescriptive language shaped from pure ideology. The notion of safety seems to counterpoise this discussion which is corked up within guidelines that journalists fear to breach:
The union has a proud track record in responding to members who face discrimination during their work. Following a recent survey of our LGBT+ members the NUJ’s Equality Council launched a LGBT+ network to enable members to meet and discuss issues in a safe space. The NUJ is committed to promoting good practice and to stamping out discrimination in all its forms.
That the NUJ sees its primary mission as “stamping out discrimination” seems to be part of the problem since journalists covering the news and responsible for disseminating facts are dissuaded from accurately relaying the sex of the “person” in the Wi Spa’s women’s section because they will obliquely be accused as “promoting” discrimination.
In 2016, the UK’s Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) issued guidance on researching and reporting stories involving transgender individuals “to make clear that the press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s gender identity and that details of an individual’s gender identity must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.” Terminology is in this guidance is initially laid out clearly where the journalist is asked first and foremost to obey the first clause of the Editors’ Code of Practice—accuracy—that “requires that the press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images. This clause also makes clear that the press, whilst free to editorialise, must distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and fact.”
IPSO’s guidance then derails from this first ethical duty in terms of having to watch out for the feelings of vulnerability, harassment, discrimination and privacy that a trans-identified person might experience. Suddenly, the IPSO guidance presents the language that the journalist needs to adopt as moving as fast as the issues and coverage around transgender issues making the claim that “the issues faced by the transgender community and the language used to talk about gender identity and gender transition is also changing.” How are journalists supposed to cover anything involving self-identified transgender individuals if the language that we use to represent them is dictated uniquely by them irrespective of the facts?
Last year, Mediatique issued a report on standards in coverage of transgender matters entitled “Examining trends in editorial standards in coverage of transgender issues 2020” wherein the analysis looks at the factors that may have influenced any change in coverage of transgender issues. One of this study’s key findings was the observation of “a marked increase in the number of articles concerning subjects relating to policy rather than personalities.” Still, Mediatique based its analysis on the notion that the metamorphosis of language in the media (eg. the use of “preferred pronouns”) is a positive outcome without putting together the concern over self-ID or the use of hormone blockers on children as perhaps evidence that the language was covering up the larger political divide.
More troubling is that Mediatique’s analysis of what is an “improvement” rests solely on the notion that “preferred pronouns” are to be respected except in terms of crime (eg. the reporting over Karen White who sexually assaulted female inmates) noting that “there are areas in terms of accuracy around statistics and laws, the use of pronouns... – perhaps partly due to the fundamental complexity surrounding transgender-related issues – where we have identified some potential editorial standards concerns.” One must wonder how a journalist can cover the Karen White story accurately if we are expected to await the outcome of the trial of White or any other rapist who “identifies as” before being allowed to use correct pronouns. Why, in fact, is there even the recommendation to use “preferred pronouns” laid at the feet of journalists and editors?
As Mediatique claims that the issues of language are “perhaps partly due to the fundamental complexity surrounding transgender-related issues – where some publications are neglecting to provide readers with a full understanding of the facts and concepts underpinning the debate,” it is clear that there is nothing complex about this matter. Where the feelings of this population have been captured by legal, medical, judicial and media institutions, the journalist is unable to accurately conduct their profession ethically and honestly without fearing being disciplined by the NUJ or editors acting against IPSO’s Editors’ Code of Practice that informs editorial decisions.
Where words have meaning—especially for the writer—such guidelines wreak havoc over the journalistic integrity of those covering the news accurately. We have even seen editors step in ready to trans-wash editorials such as that of Chelsea Mitchell in USA Today on 22 May. Mitchell is one of the three plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed last year with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) against the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) after these women were “stripped of their right to fair competition.” Three days after her op-ed was released in USA Today, the editors changed the word “male” to “transgender” throughout Mitchell’s piece and added this editorial note to the top of her opinion piece: “This column has been updated to reflect USA TODAY’s standards and style guidelines. We regret that hurtful language was used.” The fact that a female athlete cannot name a male athlete “male” speaks to the level of journalistic capture animated within today’s media.
There is only one choice for journalists today who seek to abide by ISPO’s guidance as to the accuracy and that must remain in the domain for journalists to correctly cover stories using sex-based language and pronouns that no longer mystify fact-based reporting through the prescriptive language and lens of tyranny to a lobby that will not stop lobbying for control over what we all know to be the truth.
@CubanaAngel speaks truth to the situation in which she and other women were put: "I just want to be clear with you: It’s OK for a man to go into the women’s section, show his penis around the other women, young little girls, underaged. Your spa—Wi Spa—you condone that. Is that what you’re saying?” The Wi Spa worker referred to this man’s “sexual orientation” to which @CubanaAngel answers:
What’s sexual orientation? I see a dick. It lets me know he is a man. He is a man. He is a man… He is not a female. He is not a female, sweetie. There are girls down there that are highly offended from what they just saw, and you did nothing, absolutely nothing. In fact, you sided with him. So, Wi Spa is in agreement with men that just say they are a woman, and they can go down there with their penis and get into the women’s section? Is that what you’re saying?…You got a man with a penis talking about how he’s a woman. He ain’t no woman.
@CubanaAngel is then told by a woke dude that this man is a “transgender person to which she responds: “There is no such thing as transgender—he has a dick. OK? He has a penis, he has his penis hanging out... I’m a woman who knows how to stand up and speak up for my right. As a woman, I have a right to feel comfortable without a man exposing himself. OK?” A bystander tells her to go “somewhere else” to which she responds, “No, you go somewhere else!…He has a penis just like you do…That’s traumatising to see that…So, how dare you sit up here and tell me that I don’t have the right as a woman to defend—I’m telling you that he has a penis—and testicles…It’s a man. You got one? You’re a man.”
This debacle was created and fed by woke media and journalists who have told @CubanaAngel and billions of women around the planet that their right to accurate information is invalidated by a man’s right to have a wave his “penis and testicles” in front of our faces. This is one of many such incidents that have been forced upon our societies at the behest of institutions like the NUJ, IPSOS, and Mediatique who have been paid handsomely to skirt fairness and accuracy in reporting. This in addition to woke media outlets like The Guardian and Slate that fundamentally insist on telling women that a man is really a woman because if they can ignore witness statements at the Wi Spa, we know that fundamentally facts don’t matter.
@CubanaAngel speaks for billions of women and girls around the planet who know the dangers that this ideology presents to them as their voices are erased from media coverage because it respects the “improvement” to IPSO’s media standards. Any media organisation that elevates men’s subjectivity in favour of the manufactured and quite protected narrative of gender-nonconforming men while also rendering invisible the physical reality and human rights of women and girls is not adhering to the editorial standards of accuracy.
Greater questions remain regarding how long journalists will continue to call men “women” or why readers claim to dislike “fake news” stories while coveting the one state of exception to their demands for fact-based news: that journalists pander to men who insist on being called “women.”
Indeed, @CubanaAngel, he ain’t no woman.