Earlier this week we reported on the British government’s consultation into changing UK passports to be more accommodating to trans and intersex citizens. However British newspaper the Daily Mail, rather than reporting on this fairly and accurately, chose to run an article on its website that put the words transgender and intersex in scare quotes and therein ridiculing these minority groups. This is unacceptable.
The article (which you can read here) was published on the 19th of September, 2011, under the headline:
The gender-free British passport: UK travellers may no longer have to declare their sex, to spare feelings of ‘transgender people’
There is absolutely no reason to put the term transgender in quotation marks. Trans people are a cognizable group and gender variance, transgender identity and Gender Identity Disorder are all recognized by the medical community. Their identity is not in doubt, nor is it for these purposes a nebulous term. To suggest, therefore, a sneering skepticism of the community’s existence or to infer a disregard for the worth of such an initiative shows a blatant prejudice.
The article then details how the British government is considering, as part of one of many options, abandoning the current male or female qualifiers on passports so as to make them gender neutral.
While talking about existing rules, the Daily Mail article goes on to use scare quotes once again:
Under existing rules, a ‘transgender’ person undergoing a sex-swap is free to change their identity to a new sex, once the procedure is complete and a gender recognition certificate has been issued.
While undergoing a sex change, a person can also nominate their intended new sex, and place that on their passport. They must produce a certificate from a doctor saying that is the gender under which they live their daily lives.
Note the “sex-swap” and “sex change” language that fails to acknowledge the difference between sex and gender. Both instances also suggest a disregard for accurate and accepted terminology.
At one point the article gives similar treatment to intersex people and puts the word intersex in quotes, though it should be noted that further down the article intersex is not framed in this way — most notably because the article is viewing being intersex as a recognized medical condition in that particular paragraph.
This is not the extent to the bias in the article, however. In fact the lede to the article suggests that this change would “rip up centuries-old rules” as though this itself should be enough to dissuade us from change. This is curious given that the article goes on to admit that several UK identity documents including the MOD 90, and some with potentially higher clearance, already do not reference gender — so this is hardly revolutionary.
The article also cites concerns from “Home Office officials” that the change could “make life harder for the already stretched UK Border Agency by giving them one fewer piece of information to work from.”
At no point does the article qualify who exactly voiced these concerns or how the change would make life harder for officials.
Indeed, the article goes on to quote an Identity and Passport Service spokesperson who says that the change would of course need to adhere to the “rigorous” border control standards already employed in the UK, and a Liberal Democrat MP who says that, at any length, gender is not a good biometric when it comes to identity documents. One must ask, therefore, who these mysterious Home Office officials are and what exactly are their misgivings about this change?
The Daily Mail has a history of anti-LGBT bias and regularly gives a platform to anti-gay commentators, without a counterbalance, while allowing columnists to repeat lies like children are best raised by a mother and father and not two dads without acknowledging that a wealth of research studies show that gender has no impact on child welfare.
In this case, the Daily Mail has dehumanized trans and intersex people.
Care2 activist Jennifer P. has created a petition demanding an apology from the Daily Mail. You can sign it below.