EDITOR’S LETTER: Attacks like Janice Turner’s are putting people in direct physical danger
Attacks and aggression targeted towards LGBT people are on the rise across the world. In the UK, the mainstream media questions the validity of teaching our existence in schools and gay women are assaulted in public for refusing to entertain straight men.
While people from across the community are feeling the effects, it is specifically black trans women who are getting the brunt of it.
Eight black trans women have been murdered this year in the US so far, and of all LGBT they remain statistically the most vulnerable to domestic abuse, sexual abuse and murder.
That’s why it came as welcome news when the NSPCC, the UK’s leading children’s charity, announced that they’d be working with black trans activist Munroe Bergdorf to help kids with LGBT issues. Munroe is a tireless campaigner for trans rights, as well as the rights and representation of other minorities.
Inevitably, depressingly, it didn’t take long for complaints to roll in. One of the first was made by a brand new Twitter account with 504 followers, called “Safe Schools Alliance”. In a letter to NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless, they said “one of the things we are particularly concerned about is the social pressure on girls to look and act in a certain, sexualised way.”
“We should be telling all girls that they do not have to participate in porn culture…with this in mind, we were surprised and disappointed to read that the NSPCC has appointed Munroe Bergdorf to be Childline’s first LGBT+ ambassador.”
This letter got a fairly small amount of traffic – another eccentric spark of outrage from your everyday internet trolls. It was bolstered though when Times columnist Janice Turner tweeted NSPCC following the letter saying “Hey NSPCC can you please explain why a children’s safeguarding charity has hired a porn model as a Childline ambassador?”
A flurry of transphobia directed at both Munroe and the NSPCC then followed. And on Friday, the NSPCC announced that Munroe would no longer be associated with Childline.
It’s a crystal clear example of how these attacks in the media can give a voice and a perceived validity to other bigots. Twitter users see people like Turner taking part and assume that, because they’re prominent in media, it’s the correct view to have. They’re directly creating and encouraging hate and as a result of that, are putting people in direct physical harm.
In our 2019 social media-driven landscape, people don’t listen to each other as much – they look to strangers on their timeline for advice, on everything from how to boil eggs to how to make bombs – who to fancy, who to aspire to, who to elect, who to deride, who to be outraged by, who to hate.
People see things online, then go out into the world and act on it. We’ve seen horrifying, bloody examples of that with our own eyes on news channels, multiple times. But this has not deterred those pushing their anti-trans agenda.
There’s also the fact that the accusations Turner made about Bergdorf are not true. She is not a “porn model”. She’s done some saucy photoshoots, yes. As is her right as an adult woman. And they’re far less saucy than content produced by, say, former lingerie model Abbey Clancy, who was an ambassador for an NSPCC campaign in 2014 (who has also fully exercised her right as an adult woman to do saucy photoshoots).
When questioned on Twitter, Turner gave the weak explanation that she was referring to the fact that Bergdorf once modelled for Playboy Magazine. It was for an interview written by Anita Little and was part of Playboy’s rebrand from lad’s mag to fashion/culture publication. The article was entitled “What Munroe Bergdorf can teach us about womanhood.” Playboy has recently featured Ezra Miller, Roxane Gay and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards – would Janice
Turner’s automatic and illogical association of Bergdorf with pornography is something trans women have always been victims of and is transphobia 101.
Next time you see a comment like Janice’s, no matter your views on trans rights specifically, start thinking about it in terms of fundamental human rights. Do you think everyone has the right to physical safety? Do you think everyone to walk down the street without fear of being murdered? And to the NSPCC – we understand that the online torrent of complaints must have been scary. But it’s time to publicly apologise to Munroe Bergdorf and stand by her as a valid role model.
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