In her powerful message on last night’s 4thought.tv ‘writer, rights campaigner and raver’ Paris Lees named the biggest problem faced by transgender people – the discrimination, bigotry and prejudice that is summed up in the word ‘transphobia’, meaning a strong aversion to trans people.
Paris gave a personal example: some people seem to think that they have the right, just because she is transgender, to ask intimate questions about her genitals. As she said, ‘that’s not OK’.
This invasive attitude is sometimes carried to extremes, ending in the brutal murder of the transgender person, simply because they are different, deaths that are commemorated annually now on Transgender Remembrance Day.
Paris argued that transphobia is one of the last, perhaps the last form of socially acceptable discrimination, not least because of ‘where the power structures lie’ – she is unaware, for example, of a single transgender MP in parliament.
The media too – a power structure in itself – has a poor record when it comes to reporting transgender people’s lives accurately and respectfully. This series of 4thought.tv programmes is intended, in part, to address that, and three of the interviews were shown at the recent launch of Trans Media Watch’s Memorandum of Understanding at Channel 4. Paris was involved in that campaign to sign up the bigger players and improve media coverage of transgender people and issues.
Changing Attitude began to network with Trans Media Watch in the wake of the dreadful initial press reporting of the death of Sonia Burgess, and we wish to play our part in addressing what is a human issue.
Like Paris, we are shocked and saddened when religious people invoke the name of God to support discrimination against trans people – or any other vulnerable minority come to that.
When people state that it is against God’s will to be transgender, or wrong to transition, they often present these views as ‘strongly held religious convictions’. I’m sure we’re going to hear some of those tonight when Keith Tiller tells how his Christian beliefs prevented him from transitioning.
But strongly held religious convictions need unpacking. Are they true – to the Bible, to human experience, to God? Crucially, do they bring life to others or deal death?