I was super proud to be commissioned for Indy Voices a few years ago. I sent every piece to my parents like “look, its me, I wrote that!” But today that pride has been a little bit tainted as Indy Voices have platformed a defense of perhaps one of the most prominent anti-trans figures. This via Jordan Tyldseley’s piece titled “JK Rowling is being made out to be a hate preacher — it is absurd as it is troubling”.
The piece tries to frame JK Rowling’s position on trans people’s human rights as “a legitimate opinion”. Rowling’s position has included supporting those who have referred to trans people as “black face actors”, “sick fetishists” and even her recent support for career anti-LGBTQIA+ campaigner Caroline Farrow who appeared on Question Time in 2014 to oppose gay marriage. Her opinion simply isn’t legitimate, it is bigoted garbage.
The piece goes on to suggest that people are “unduly distrusftul” of “gender critical” people. “Gender critical” being an attempt to rebrand transphobia and encompassing all kinds of different transphobes. Though it must be said the most prominent tend to be the most extreme. Such as Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull who has a whole laundry list of awful things she has said. Including that she believes trans men should be sterilised and the time she called for armed cisgender men to police women’s bathrooms. Even the attempts to make the “gender critical” brand seem more professional result in examples like LGB Alliance, who have full page adverts suggesting birth certificate law being changed will “give predators the green light” as part of their transphobia.
The piece finishes with some out of left field transphobic rhetoric. The usual kind like; “male bodied people” in “female spaces” and talking of how its a “risk”. It’s out of left field because the rest of the piece doesn’t have anything to do with this conclusion, it just appears out of no where dropping in blatant transphobic rhetoric and suddenly making an article defending JK Rowling into one about spaces. Wild.
I’m disappointed. Transphobes already dominate so many mainstream platforms and when Voices initially commissioned me (and some other trans people I know) it felt like we were finally being heard. I won’t lie, Voices have a good track record when it comes to platforming trans voices, which is really important given the UK’s current media landscape. They even had my back when people were sending doxxed photos of me as a child to their complaints, they called me up, reassured me and it was awesome. Before today I would totally have recommended new writers reach out to them with pitches. But now that they’ve done this it kind of feels like they are just trying to double-dip and I don’t like feeling used like that.
An editor at Voices has seen my complaint and reached out. First of all stating that the positions in the piece aren’t their own, which to me doesn’t matter. They still platformed it, they still gave it credibility. But also asking me if I would like to write a piece which “states and lays out why there’s so much hurt, upset and outrage” with the example headline being “As a trans person, this is why the discourse matters”. But the discourse doesn’t matter, the discourse is a distraction; its an endless back and forth, a constant debate, all questions no fucking answers just so we can continue pushing back the day we, as a society, decide trans people deserve basic human respect too. I am fucking sick of discourse.
I replied and I’m going to post this reply in full because I think its actually pretty good writing and I am a bit proud of it;
“Honestly? Not really no. Not for Indy. You’ve platformed a defense of someone decidedly against my human rights and are now trying to double dip by turning it into some kind of debate. Like trans lives are a circus to indy voices now. I can’t take part in that. I wish you well on the new direction you’re taking, but I will be advising those in my community to steer well clear of it.”
They replied mentioning that they think they have a good track record of pro-trans activism, and I don’t disagree. They generally do. But if you were a baker making really good pies and then one day you served me a pie with a shit in it, I’m probably not going to trust your pies anymore. The conversation finishes with the classic “I’m sorry you’re upset” rather than any kind of admission that what they did wasn’t really okay and yeah, I’m pretty convinced I’ve made the right decision. I won’t be writing for Voices any time in future, not until they acknowledge that this was a fucked up thing to do.
I’m still proud of the pieces I wrote for them, proud of the fact that they sought me out to commission me originally and all that. I was a really new writer at the time and to have been noticed and supported in the mainstream at all made me feel like this writing thing could actually go somewhere for me. That’s cool and will always be cherished, but yeah no. I can’t write for a platform who is just fine with dropping money to people in order to defend blatant hate campaigns. No thanks.