More than 100 trans people and allies demonstrated outside the London offices of Guardian Media Group on Thursday evening to protest writer Julie Burchill’s transphobic column in last Sunday’s Observer.
In the column in question, Burchill defended friend and fellow writer Suzanne Moore, who had written than biological women are being pressured to have the body “of a Brazilian transsexual.” The ensuing backlash led Moore to deactivate her Twitter account and an incensed Burchill to tell transsexuals to “cut it out.”
But they’d rather argue over semantics. To be fair, after having one’s nuts taken off (see what I did there?) by endless decades in academia, it’s all most of them are fit to do.
In her column, Burchill used a number of offensive terms to refer to the trans community, including “a bunch of dicks in chicks’ clothing,” “trannies,” “shemales” and “bed-wetters in bad wigs.” She defended her blatant bigotry, claiming she and fellow feminist Julie Bindel earned their stripes through a lifetime of struggle:
She, the other JB and I, are part of the minority of women of working-class origin to make it in what used to be called Fleet Street and I think this partly contributes to the stand-off with the trannies… We know that everything we have we got for ourselves. We have no family money, no safety net. And we are damned if we are going to be accused of being privileged by a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.
Martha Dunkley, a member of TransLondon, called Burchill’s article “deliberate baiting” of the transgender community. “It was straightforward, transphobic hate speech for which, had she been targeting another group, she would have been arrested.”
While the demonstrators say they want a full apology from the Observer and reassurances it won’t allow its pages to be a platform for hate speech, MP Lynne Featherstone is asking for Burchill to be fired.
The Observer has removed Burchill’s piece from its website, and issued a statement through a spokesperson:
“We respect the reasons behind today’s peaceful vigil by members and supporters of the trans community. The Observer withdrew Julie Burchill’s comment piece earlier this week, acknowledging that on this occasion we got it wrong.
The Observer readers’ editor will respond to this issue at greater length in due course. We have spoken with representatives from the gathering with a view to continuing this dialogue once we have considered and reflected on the letter they have delivered to us today.”