The Daily Mail’s Transgender Rights Fail


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.

Related Reading:

British Gov. Announces Gay Marriage Consultation

Groups Advise Trans Servicemembers Ahead of DADT Repeal

Kristin Chenoweth: Don’t Persecute Chaz Bono

Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to PhotoComiX.


K s Goh
KS Goh7 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado7 years ago


Peter B.
Peter B7 years ago

thanks for posting

George C.
George C7 years ago

A few thoughts. Gender identity is not a "medical condition." It is a state of inner being and recognition. This can manifest on physical, emotional and psychological levels. It is no more a medical condition than being belligerently male, for example. People have the right to understand and perceive their own gender identity and reality and should not be frightening, but small-minded bigots are easily terrified and respond with vitriol at the least worst that inspires others to commit violence. This is why raising an alarm against printed, published bigotry is a fine idea to me.

Also, while DADT and DOMA were indeed passed under the Clinton administration. As were other nightmares like NAFTA. This merely underscores the dangerous, vile, rightward lurch of American politics at LEAST since Reagan. The right wing embraces stuffing more wealth into the hands of a very few and are not adverse to using bigotry (racism, homophobia, misogyny) to achieve their goals, often wrapped in some perverted notions of the flag or the "bible" (books most of them have never bothered to read).

Brenda Towers
Brenda Towers7 years ago

It looks like the U.K. is on the right track.

David Anderson
David Anderson7 years ago

What a bunch of hair-splitting! As much abuse and insult as some take on account of such things as their religious and/or political views from those who supposedly hold tolerance as their highest virtue, there isn't a chance in the universe I am going to get distressed over the use of punctuation marks or terms that the average reader would consider interchangeable. I am becoming convinced that the average liberal doesn't actually believe in open-ended tolerance any more than Al Gore actually believes in global warming, as evidenced by his lavish energy expenditures.

Marilyn L.
Marilyn L7 years ago

There may have been unneeded bias in the article and that should not be condone. However, I do think think the following was not unfair or bad ideas:
"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."

I removed the quotes from transgender on purpose. I just don't think passport should be gender free. I think it is just a silly and unnecessary step, especially when we are offer up viable alternatives.

Zoe B.
Zoe B7 years ago

well, being honest, how often do the care2 bloggers get things so wrong... pot kettle....

Janice A.
Janice Adams7 years ago

It is the Daily Mail for God's sake. A newspaper that is full of garbage and salacious articles to satisfy the lowest denominator reader. Everybody alive considers themselves to be either male or female regardless of their genitalia. Why on earth not leave it up to the person to assign him/her self a gender on the form when applying and leave it at that. What difference would it make if a bearded woman passes through the home guard as long as the photograph looks like her and her signature matches. Children are often non gender specific when you look at them and no one worries about whether they have the right gender on their passports. In the 21st century we should be more in tune with what is comfortable for people than what is correct.

Brian M.
Past Member 7 years ago

This topic illustrates just how inadequate our language can be in identifying people.