Protesters demand the Guardian ‘stop platforming transphobia’ outside newspaper’s HQ

·6-min read

A protest outside the London headquarters of the Guardian demanded that the newspaper “stop platforming transphobia”.

“The Guardian/Observer is consistently publishing articles that push transphobic tropes and identify male violence with trans rights,” a digital flyer for the protest read. “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”

Thursday’s (7 October) protest was the third of its kind in less than a month, with organisers telling PinkNews that two articles published by the newspaper in recent weeks were what spurred them to action.

The most recent was a 3 October Observer column about the murder of Sarah Everard by police officer Wayne Couzens. In the article, the brutal rape and murder of Everard in March was linked to the unevidenced claim by “gender critical” feminists that trans women should be banned from “single-sex” spaces because they supposedly pose a threat to cis women’s safety.

Many Guardian and Observer readers shared their frustration on Twitter after that article was published – with some cancelling their subscriptions as a result.

Natacha Kennedy, who has been at all three of the recent protests, told PinkNews she organised the demonstration because she was “really shocked” at how the Guardian had “appropriated Sarah Everard’s murder”.

“That was such a horrible crime, there aren’t words for it,” Natacha said. “I thought there would be somebody in the anti-trans community who would do this, one of the really extreme fanatics, but I really did not expect it to be the Guardian using her memory to oppress people. I really never thought the Guardian would sink this low.”

Another article that sparked the protests was a 7 September Guardian interview with feminist philosopher Judith Butler, in which Butler discussed the links between “gender critical” feminism and the far-right. The interview was edited by the Guardian after publication and the section about fascism and “gender critical” activists was deleted, leading to accusations that the paper had censored Butler.

Natacha added that along with the “censorship of Judith Butler”, another issue is that the newspaper is “totally excluding trans people and excluding our voices from having a part in any conversation about us”.

“The Guardian markets itself in a particular way,” Natacha continued, “as ‘a counterweight to the spread of misinformation’. It isn’t. It’s spreading disinformation, about us. It says it’s trustworthy and accurate and it’s not, it’s totally inaccurate.”

‘Transphobia kills’

Over the course of an hour and a half, around 40 people went to the Guardian’s London headquarters to add their voices to the demand that the paper “stop platforming transphobia”.

Jamie, a trans man, travelled from Manchester to London specifically to attend the Guardian protest.

He told PinkNews that he was there “because on many occasions this year I’ve felt driven to end my life because of the transphobic hate in the newspapers, and the way society takes up that hatred”.

Jamie continued: “I’ve attempted to end my life six times. I also have trans friends who have died through transphobia that they’ve experienced from friends and family members. The newspapers publish transphobic hate on a daily basis.”

Five years ago, Jamie said, media coverage of trans people was along the lines of “trans rights are human rights”. Now, what he mostly sees are articles arguing that “trans women should not use the women’s loos” or that “trans men don’t have cervixes“. He came out in 2019 and has been directly impacted by the worsening transphobia in the British press.

“I was in a women’s refuge when I came out and I got served notice straightaway for coming out and identifying as a man, not a woman,” Jamie said. “I got kicked out the refuge and moved to a homeless hostel because there were no refuges in the country that were willing to accept a trans man, and I was raped in the homeless hostel.

“That’s when my mental health got bad. From then, that’s when my suicide attempts started. It was the transphobia that began when I left the refuge that made that worst.”

Jamie said he thought the Guardian’s recent Sarah Everard article was “totally disgusting and totally wrong”.

“The guy [Couzens] isn’t even trans, or there’s no evidence of it, so why have they equated Sarah Everard’s murder to trans women?” he asked. “It doesn’t make any sense at all.”

‘I was dreading someone making Sarah Everard’s murder about trans women’s access to spaces’

Another protestor, Tamsin, told PinkNews they’d been coming to the Guardian protest “since the Judith Butler thing, which I thought was the grossest double standard”.

Meanwhile, they’d been dreading someone bringing trans women into the discussion about Sarah Everard’s murder.

“I felt like I was waiting for some transphobic person with a news platform to make this [her murder] about trans people and trans women’s access to spaces,” Tamsin said. “That dread was there and then it came through on Sunday, and it wasn’t the Daily Mail or a right-wing paper.

“Can there be a mainstream newspaper that’s safe [for trans people]? A mainstream political party that’s safe? That’s why I’m here protesting today.”

Two friends, one of whom went to the protest and one who was cycling past and stopped, said they’d been talking about the Guardian positioning itself as a “progressive voice” despite “publishing transphobic material”.

Ciara said: “I was cycling along and from quite far away I saw the colours of the trans flag, so I was wondering what was going on, and then I saw my friend at this protest so I decided to stop. I have trans friends and colleagues and I play on a women and non-binary people football team, Goal Diggers FC.”

Her friend, Hannah-Lily, added that they had been “really relieved and excited” to see that there was a mobilisation around the Guardian’s trans coverage.

“I’ve been reading the Guardian for a long time and feeling kind of crazy, reading things and thinking they sound transphobic. I thought maybe I was being oversensitive,” Hannah-Lily said.

“Seeing that it’s not just me who’s angry makes me feel better. I just hope they’ll listen and they’ll change and then we can read the Guardian again without avoiding it for being transphobic.”

A Guardian News & Media spokesperson said: “The Guardian respects the right to peaceful protest.”

If you are struggling with your mental health and are based in the US, you can contact The Trevor Project Lifeline for free on 1-866-488-7386 (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week).

In the UK, you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123 (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) or call the LGBT Foundation helpline on 0345 3 30 30 30 (open Monday to Friday between 10am and 6pm).

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