Senior Lib Dems call on media to apologise to transgender people over hostile coverage

Senior Liberal Democrats are among the signatories to an open letter in support of transgender people and transgender rights. “Free speech does not give free reign to cause people harm,” the letter says, highlighting that the onslaught faced by trans people is not consequence free.

The letter was organised by Chippenham Lib Dem candidate Helen Belcher and the Lib Dems who have signed include Deputy Leader Jo Swinson, President Sal Brinton, Layla Moran, Lorely Burt, Brian Paddick, Liz Barker and Alex Carlile. I may have had my differences with Lord Carlile over the years, but we should remember that he has been a supporter of transgender rights long before most other people.

The letter, published in Pink News, calls on the media to apologise for the mental and emotional damage they have caused transgender people over the past year or so and to revise the way they cover these issues.

We strongly condemn the way the British media has given significant coverage to small groups who wish to push organisations to break existing law with regards to trans people. The Equality Act protects trans people from discrimination and automatic exclusion from same sex spaces, yet over recent days, weeks and months, the media has given significant space to activists who wish to roll back trans people’s existing rights.

This coverage has often conflated trans women and girls with sex offenders, implied that all trans women and girls are threats, and has usually been insufficiently challenged. The reality is that trans people are far more likely to be targets of violence than other women. Isolated extreme and abhorrent cases cannot be extrapolated to infer the behaviour of all trans people. Those countries where gender recognition is operated on an administrative rather than a quasi-judicial process also do not provide any evidence to support the assertion that trans people are a threat or misuse the process to cause harm to others.
The relentlessness of the hostility across the media and the media’s inability to adequately challenge the false claims put forward have led to a significant decline in the mental health of many trans people. Reports of suicides of trans people are on the increase. Free speech does not give free reign to cause people harm.

We call on the British media to revise the way they cover trans stories, to look at the reality faced by trans people rather than focus on extreme theories which have no basis in fact, and to apologise for the significant emotional and mental stress they have caused to trans people over the past year.

This letter was turned down by the Guardian and the Independent. This is ironic, given that they have frequently published transphobic, ill-informed arguments accusing transgender people of shutting down debate.

Unfortunately, the Guardian has chosen to publish an editorial today that basically repeats the myths peddled by transphobic organisations that women’s and transgender rights are in conflict.

As a lifelong feminist, I find that extraordinary. That’s why LDV invited representatives from Scotland’s feminist and transgender organisations to our Conference in Brighton to talk about the enduring, respectful and kind dialogue between them to advance rights for all.

As liberals we can’t stand by while our transgender sisters and brothers are being victimised. We never tolerate bullying of marginalised groups.

That’s why it’s so important that we all respond to the Government’s consultation on amending the Gender Recognition Act before it ends tomorrow. This is to do with getting a new birth certificate. It’s entirely administrative and poses no threat to anyone. The current process causes a huge amount of harm to transgender people. Jean Johnson and Ms A have told their stories on this site.

lGBT+ Lib Dems have a handy guide that will help you fill in the consultation.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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2 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th Oct '18 - 1:12pm

    Agree with what Caron says here and staunchly, and therefore also about this fine letter and position from colleagues.

    Do we understand that the excellent Alex Carlisle is back amongst us with the party whip, unlike some, my view is he was and is a true interpreter of the Harm principle of Mill, throughout his advice on terrorism and security. Ia m pleased to see Caron allude t his work on trans rights, for many years, knowledge of that is something I too admired years ago, when as a youth I heard the remarkable trans woman Caroline Cossey speak so movingly and impressively about these issues, and became a strong supporter.

  • Thanks Caron

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