By David Gazet
When I read the title of Julie Burchill's recent article - "Transsexuals Should Cut It Out", now removed by the Observer - I couldn't help but expect a great deal of self indulgent, vitriolic drivel. Burchill certainly delivered, and more, with a tour de force of self righteous indignation spiced with a healthy dose of bigotry. It was enough to make me want to check my local sun dial to make sure that this really is in fact the 21st century. You might wonder amidst this ringing endorsement what it is exactly that transsexuals should cut out? Being transsexual? Lobbying for recognition and social awareness? For even having the temerity to want to be recognised by a precious, elitist little feminist clique? Burchill herself certainly doesn't seem to know.
In the space of a few succinct paragraphs Burchill launches a series of savage and calculated attacks on transsexual lobbyists, and implicitly, all the wider transsexual community (or, as she likes to call them "a bunch of dicks in chicks clothing".) Whilst some might argue that using offensive language in a rebuttal against bullying is like sponsoring a dolphin protection charity whilst dining on a fillet of flipper, Burchill cheerfully goosesteps to the defence of Suzanne Moore, a woman who was recently routed from Twitter after stating in an article that women were angry about "not having the ideal body shape, that of a Brazilian transsexual".
Aside from the rather dubious reasoning in insulting an entire community because of the reactionary (whether justified or not) behaviour of some individuals on Twitter, Burchill is actually quite elegant in her dismantlement of the "vociferous transsexual lobby and their grim groupies". Shame her understanding of such communities amounts to a gross misrepresentation. Even basic information like the meaning behind slang such as 'cis' (a Latin prefix meaning on the same side) or the basic mental leap to realise that the trans community encompasses huge variety of individuals and not just "bed-wetters in bad wigs" (though it could have been discovered with five minutes of research on Google). It is understandable though, basic journalism must never get in the way of steamrolling your opponents in the name of "natural-born women".
Perhaps the most depressing aspect of the whole controversy is how illustrative it is of the wider cracking of the beguiling façade of liberalism, what Tim Stanley describes as "different political classes of minorities who compete with each other for the title of most oppressed." Burchill, in a rare moment of clarity, actually says something to this effect, in how much easier it is for the lobbyists to "lash out" rather than deal with the "real enemy." A pity then that she cannot refrain from doing the same. After all, "natural-born" or not, gender inequality across the world remains a pressing problem, with a recent flash survey indicating that violence against women is still the most important form of inequality in the European Union.
As for the transsexual community as a whole, this issue effectively illustrates how completely divorced from reality members of the press are, when they lacking even the most rudimentary knowledge of those they seek to target. Lou McCudden for instance tweeted yesterday that the "absence of trans people in the media is as important as the absence of women", and in the light of this little spat, I'd have to agree.
Burchill's article has been recently removed from the Observer's website, which has issued an apology. The article has been republished here.