I have mentioned the Trans Writers Union before in the context of their complaint to the Press Ombudsman regarding a review of a contentious book in the Independent. Then, I expressed concern that authors weren’t sufficiently speaking up against bad behaviour against trans people in the Irish media, promptly got TERF-swarmed, and locked my account until they got bored.
Anti-trans activists take great pains to paint themselves, to quote transgender poet Harry Josie Giles, as “the reasonable people”. They say they are parents who are concerned, women who want “women’s spaces”, that what they are asking for is not too much. That the “trans activists” – dehumanised into an entity known as the “twitter mob” for having the nerve to speak up – seek to deny them that. They are loud in British media, getting louder in Irish media, and are fite fuaite (interwoven) with the Irish literary world to such an extent that detachment would be painful and difficult.
But not impossible. The latest initiative by the Trans Writers Union is to boycott the Irish Times until they stop describing trans people in hateful and dehumanising terms. (I’ve read and signed. I’m in the unique position of having little to lose.) This is a request that strikes at the very heart of the literary world nexus and its tightly-knit power structure, which is centred around that paper*, so unsurprisingly, the central core of Irish writerhood is silent. But many people are breaking ranks, speaking up and signing.
Which is why it’s rather galling to note that several of these “reasonable” individuals previously mentioned have rocked up to the petition and signed transphobic slurs, deadnamed many prominent trans people, and made disgusting puns that would not be seen scribbled on the back of a schoolboy’s textbook. It’s like when psychologist Stella O’Malley, who is “gender critical, was all about “addressing concerns” about transitioning and then next thing she is retweeting white feather propaganda from WWI. (I’m agin that, incidentally, haha.)
One could well argue that “the reasonable people” are not showing themselves in a very flattering light here.
Unfortunately there is little the TWU can do until they alert the host to the problem, since the site does not appear to afford them a dashboard for approving comments. But perhaps what might be useful is if authors stopped worrying about whether they’ll wreck their careers if they go agin the Irish Times and its embedded media, spoke up and signed the bloody thing. Because it appears the paper has gone down the wrong road, and if this sort of behaviour is connected with its ethos…that’s not good.
*By natural process rather than detailed plotting, but centred, nonetheless. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say there are several nexi, since it’s a complicated system historically based on patronage, dynasty, loyalty and patriarchy.