THE BLOG

Response to Columnist Attacks on Trans People

28/01/2016 17:46 GMT | Updated 28/01/2017 10:12 GMT

A step-change in gender diversity has taken to seed with the recent findings from the Women and Equalities Committee. It probably isn't going to be a game-changer, but it certainly provides the roots from which progress can flourish. Nonetheless, some commentators continue to spread vile prejudice against trans people.

Columnists like Richard Littlejohn and Jeremy Clarkson, encouraged by their editors, too often discard any sense of responsibility. The old adage that 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me' is nonsense, as they do hurt so many people.

Let's not forget that it was Mr Littlejohn's column in the Daily Mail that humiliated Lucy Meadows three years ago, tragically leading to her suicide. More recently in the same newspaper, Littlejohn said: 'let's stop pretending that 'trans' is the new normal.' In the same piece Littlejohn distorts jihadist terrorist sneaking over Middle Eastern borders with the dignity of trans people to freely travel. He wrote:

'We've got enough trouble already with male jihadis trying to sneak across borders by disguising themselves under burkas. We don't need long queues at airport security behind men and women who refuse to declare their gender to immigration officials, even though it's bleedin' obvious to a myopic mole in bottle-top bi-focals.'

'You can't say you weren't warned. I've been writing for the past ten years about 'trans' being the next frontier for the diversity warriors.'

As recognised by the Parliamentary Committee, barometric passports and diversity of people's presentation, gender markers aren't necessary. Their absence isn't going to create airport chaos, nor a rampage of cross dressing transgender terrorists.

Littlejohn goes on to say that:

'It's been full steam ahead to adapt society in line with the demands of a noisy, belligerent, but minuscule number of people -- with the police and local councils, naturally, in the vanguard.'

'We have now ended up with an official approach which turns nature, reason and common-sense upside down.'

As a Labour politician it isn't often that I defend a Tory. Maria Miller's past misdemeanors over expenses have been dealt with, losing her Cabinet seat. That has nothing to do with the recent Commons report on gender identity. Littlejohn's attack is just another cheap and nasty 'character assassination' in a desperate effort to undermine the report's legitimate findings.

Jeremey Clarkson, in his latest diatribe in the Sunday Times, brushes aside the deep rooted feelings of some children over gender identity by castigating their parents for 'indulging their whims'. He argues that the issues encountered by trans children and adults are over exaggerated. He adds that left-wing activists 'have decided that we must now all turn our attention to the plight of people who want to change their name from Stan to Loretta.'

Referring to his recent attempt to seek out a parent at a social function, Clarkson said:

'I wanted to seek them out and explain that they were free to live a lunatic life, they must not - and I was going to emphasise this with spittle -, be allowed to poison the mind of a child.'

'It's what kids do: dream impossible dreams. You don't actually take them seriously. You don't take them to a hospital when they're 10 and say, "He wants to be a girl, so can you lop his todger off?'

'Because what's going to happen five years later when he's decided that being a man isn't so bad after all and he's in the showers at the rugby club?'

Whilst Clarkson would doubtlessly describe me as one of those left-wing activists, there is no evidence that any parent pursues a 'lunatic life' just to 'poison the mind of a child' about gender transition. No parent is asking doctors to 'lop off his todger', nor is there evidence of many people regretting their transition. However, we have significant evidence of people taking their lives or contemplating suicide because they feel trapped, unable to be their true selves.

Clarkson went on to attack trans prisoners by arguing they are:

'Pretending to be trans so "they get a bit of make-up and some breasts to play with.'

'They are then transferred to a women's prison, where they can spend the rest of their lives being a lesbian. It's every man's dream.'

Clarkson doesn't have the faintest idea of the tough journey people go through. That was so evident in December 2011 when he commented on The One Show about train delays owing to incidents when people have taken their lives. He said: 'Trains should resume their journey as soon as possible following a suicide and leave the body parts for scavenging animals.'

In his most recent intervention, Clarkson says:

'As far as I was concerned, men who want to be women were only really to be found on the internet or in the seedier bits of Bangkok They were called lady boys, and in my mind they were nothing more than the punchline in a stag night anecdote.'

These interventions are cheap, nasty and beyond the pale, but columnists like Littlejohn and Clarkson still persist with their mindless rants - encouraged by their editors. If their child was trans or gay, I suspect they would reject them out of hand and not care that suicide might be a consequence.

Yet there is hope with the coverage of the Women and Equalities Report, as much of the media has taken an inquiring approach, if not enthusiastically supporting the recommendations. At least there is growing recognition that society is embracing difference.

Indeed, 'a seismic shift in attitudes is occurring' when I give The Sun credit for a recent rational piece. Lizzie Pook explains the emergence of gender fluidity and society's changing perceptions. The change in tone is very welcome, but wouldn't have happened without some of us challenging past prejudices and others seeking to educate. That's what we must continue to do, to hold Littlejohn, Clarkson and their editors to account.