Sarah Brown (auntysarah) wrote,
Sarah Brown

Bindelwatch: Stephen Whittle Speaks, and G3 Attempts Journalism and Fails

The Bindel affair is the saga that will not die, mainly because I think the woman seems to revel in her own martyrdom (a bit like my mother-in-law, someone who mispronouns trans people, hates men, constantly belittles anyone who isn't exactly like her, and is generally an objectionable waste of oxygen. I suspect they'd get on famously).

Recently, Press for Change's Stephen Whittle broke silence on the whole S'onewall/Bindel thing and posted this response on rozk's LJ, and this one on zoeimogen's. Despite Zoe's post being pretty much just a direct link to my own LJ article on the affair, I didn't get a comment, which makes me suspect I'm still off the Christmas card list. Oh well.

Stephen's tone seems conciliatory, and he goes to some lengths to distance PfC from the Bindel thing that he's chairing in Manchester this coming Friday, saying that it is a university event and nothing to do with Press for Change. I think it's only fair to mention that my own confusion on this issue stems from Stephen describing the the then unannounced event as a Press for Change event in private email to the_local_echo (it was a reply to her explaining why we had cancelled our standing order to donate monthly to PfC over their silence on the S'onewall issue).

Anyway, Stephen says that "we did make a mistake by failing to publicly engage, but lessons have been learnt, I can assure you", which is very good to hear, but goes on to say, "it might take a little longer for some wounds to heal", which I guess means I'm going to be off the Christmas card list for some time to come.

Some acknowledgement on this issue, and movement towards reconciliation with those in the trans community who feel deeply hurt by what we saw as indifference towards our concerns from our own "aristocracy", or even outright betrayal in some cases, is very welcome, even if it's only via entries in the comment threads of personal LiveJournals. Stephen says that he is not giving Bindel a platform, as she already has one in the Guardian, but I do think he's giving her fuel which can only be used to hurt us. At the very least, it allows her to try and split the trans community even further by proclaiming that at least some of the trans community are willing to "be reasonable" and entertain her offer to hold a dialogue (about why we shouldn't be allowed to exist). This is not mere conjecture on my part - she's already adopting precisely this tactic. I'll say more on this below.

So I still think that Friday's debate is an incredibly bad idea, and represents an own goal for the trans community, even if Susan Stryer takes no prisoners when eviscerating Bindel's position. I suspect the only remotely likely outcomes from this, at least in the public eye, involve Bindel being able to further her anti-trans agenda in the name of "dialogue and engagement".

The mood on the ground, that I've seen, seems to be that we can agree to disagree on the wisdom of this event though, and I for one don't intend to attend it. I won't be protesting outside either though, and I get the feeling that there's not really much appetite for doing so in general.

Meanwhile, Bindel (who wants nothing to do with any of us, remember?) has written all about us again, this time in G3, a publication for lesbian and bisexual women (I wonder if this includes the devil-worshipping, cat f-f-f-fancying ones?). The entire issue can be downloaded as a PDF, and Bindel's article is on page 98, in which she continues with her self-portrayal as the innocent victim of a vicious persecution campaign:

In January 2004 I wrote a column for TheGuardian’s Weekend magazine entitled: Gender Benders Beware. It was primarily about the case of Canadian male-to-female transsexual, Kimberly Nixon, who had taken a rape crisis centre to court over its decision not to invite her to be a counsellor for rape victims.

The article caused uproar amongst some sections of the transsexual community. Penance was paid. The paper apologised. I apologised publicly three times and I have attempted to enter into a dialogue with members of the trans community.

Revisionist much? Recall, the leaflet we were handing out at the S'onewall awards concentrated on Bindel's stated beliefs that we should be denied legitimate access to medical treatment, and that if we're offered anything it should be some sort of psychological intervention to talk us back into the closet, and try and persuade us to live with the crippling emotional pain of gender dysphoria. Our anger stemmed from S'onewall being so willing to entertain someone who wants to see trans people subjected to the same sort of hateful "treatment" that some of the religious right in the US wants to subject GLB people to.

There was, of course, no mention of this in Bindel's article, nor was there in the G3 editor's own comment on the issue (page 5):

We arrived at this year’s Stonewall Awards to find an anti-Julie Bindel protest in full swing. The Guardian journalist and human rights campaigner was up for an award, and owing to an article written in January 2004 to which the trans community took exception, hordes turned out to express their opinion. I must admit, I was quite shocked by the effort made, and wondered how so many people can hold such vehement hatred for something this lone lesbian did so long ago. However, I thought back to when we did our ‘Campaign against the Daily Mail’; Melanie Phillips wrote a story in November 2007, during the time when IVF laws were being reviewed, which would allow two women using IVF to be registered as legal parents. She wrote: “Having two mothers – or two fathers, for that matter – is grotesque and wrong.” While I don’t hold any contempt for this deluded woman, it’s amazing how much damage such articles can do and how much power the media really has. Since writing the article, Julie Bindel has apologised, which is more than we can say for Melanie Phillips. Although, despite Melanie’s attempts, the IVF laws have recently been passed, it would seem there are many bigger battles for trans people to protest about an article that was published nearly a half decade ago.

My first thoughts on this are ... not printable. It is, of course, very kind of the editor of G3 to take the time to explain to trans people what should and should not be important to us, but I am dismayed by the shoddy approach to journalism that this shows. Surely any journalist half worth of the name would recognise that there are two sides to any controversy, and that taking one party entirely at their word about the motives of the other is rather naive. It's especially sloppy considering that, as she says, she was there at the event where we were handing out leaflets explaining exactly why we were unhappy, and makes this look a little less like mere carelessness, and a little more like deliberate misrepresentation.

G3 may be contacted by email via I have written them this email. It remains to be seen if they're willing to represent both sides of the story.

Bindel herself, after going on to portray the whole thing as a spat between nice trans people (the ones who will help her further her agenda) and nasty trans people (the ones who, rather unreasonably, suggest that our right to exist is none of her damned business), signs off with:

I have absolutely no intention of ever trying to connect with those trans people again and will not be apologising for a fourth time. They only have themselves to blame

I've lost track of counting the number of times she's gone public to say she wants nothing more to do with us. I just wish she'd make good on the promise and leave us the hell alone.

Julie Bindel will be appearing in "Why all transsexuals need to die, an afternoon with Julie Bindel*" this Friday in Manchester.

* - Actual title may differ.

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