Let Trans People Speak

20 April 2023 | Inclusive Journalism Cymru

These days, when I wake up in the morning, I know that two things are certain. Firstly, the sun will have risen, or will at least be about to, as has always been the case. And second, somewhere in the UK media, there will be an article or news item about trans people. 

Chances are there will be several.

You may be wondering why, given the enormous amount of coverage we are afforded, that a trans woman is writing for an outlet such as Inclusive Journalism Cymru. But the situation isn’t as rosy as might seem.

To start with, these pieces are very rarely authored by trans people. Writers such as Roz Kaveney, Paris Lees and Juliet Jacques no longer appear in newspapers. 

It isn’t just trans journalists who are being eased out. Science writer, James Wong, who wrote for The Observer, was upset at a column in that paper suggesting that trans women were a worse threat than the misogynist influencer and suspected sex trafficker, Andrew Tate. He said so on Twitter and was told that his behaviour was unacceptable. He has since resigned from the paper.

Having non-trans people write about us is not necessarily bad, provided that their coverage of our issues is fair and balanced. Sadly that is rare. 

The situation hasn’t gone unnoticed. Back in 2018, journalists at the US edition of The Guardian called out their UK colleagues over what they regarded as transphobic attitudes.

The recent furore over Gary Lineker’s tweets has thrown a spotlight on the BBC, but trans people have known that the Corporation has had deep problems for years, as Jane Fae of the campaign group, Trans Media Watch, has documented.

There may, of course, be genuine attempts to address the issue by some UK journalists. The problem is that they are swimming in such a dense morass of misinformation that it must be hard to take an objective view. For example, reading media coverage of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon’s attempts to reform gender recognition laws, you might reasonably assume that the proposed systems would allow any man to declare that he’s a woman, at any time, and be legally required to be treated as such.

"Having non-trans people write about us is not necessarily bad, provided that their coverage of our issues is fair and balanced. Sadly that is rare. "

Cheryl Morgan


The truth is very different. Both pieces of legislation require trans people seeking legal gender changes to sign a statutory declaration attesting that the change will be permanent. Doing so falsely is perjury, a crime that can be punished by up to 7 years in prison.

And yet parts of the media suggest that men could use the proposed laws to evade rape charges. Why any wannabe rapist would undergo such trouble and risk, when all he has to do to be able to commit sexual assault with apparent impunity is join the police, is a mystery to me.

You may wonder why trans people are not queueing up to do media interviews so we can put the record straight, but sadly most of us have lost faith in the media. One reason for this is the prevalence of the ambush interview. The trans person will be invited to state their case at a TV or radio studio, but when they get there they discover that an anti-trans campaigner is also present, and is getting preferential treatment from the interviewer.

Media companies claim that such things are essential to maintain “balance”, but anti-trans campaigners regularly get opportunities to state their case, unchallenged by anyone.

Speaking to newspapers is even more dangerous. The chances are that anything you say will be taken out of context, and in the final piece will be accompanied by a rebuttal from an anti-trans interviewee.

The media are forever asking trans people to “debate” their opponents, but such invitations are always traps because they are framed in the style of “when did you stop beating your wife” questions. No trans person wants to go on television having to defend their right to exist.

As a result, trans people desperately need a means of speaking to the public that does not have to go through media organisations noted for their anti-trans bias. For example, if you want a more balanced view of the issues surrounding the care of trans youth, try reading what a trans person has to say. 

You’ll note that this article does not advocate for unfettered access to medical transition. Trans people know how important the decision to transition is. Many of us have spent years, even decades, agonising over the pros and cons. The last thing we want is to see young people rushed into decisions.

Nevertheless, the narrative that “trans rights activists” push people down the path to transition has been firmly established in the mainstream media. So too has the idea that all trans women are deviants who live as they do purely as an excuse to commit sexual assaults. Following the example of the United States, it is now being suggested that we are all paedophiles.

Speaking as someone who has been quietly using women’s toilets and changing rooms for over 30 years without causing any trouble, I’d like to be able to put my side of the story. But I can only do so through media outlets that are not known to be biased against me. In the UK, those are few and far between.

You can follow Cheryl on Twitter and Mastodon.