Here is the story of how a message board post ignited a media frenzy that battered trans people for the entertainment of a nation.
In the last few days of October this year, a reporter for the Mail on Sunday found a post on a message board complaining about an online show about a trans kid. The irate poster claimed that the show was dangerous and could result in huge swathes of parents demanding ‘sex change drugs’ for their kids, whilst potentially confusing and disturbing millions of children. It didn’t seem to matter to them that the video itself was buried in the guts of the BBC website and had barely been noticed since it was released in early September, or that the video was a tame half hour about a trans kid going to school. But upon discovering this thread, the reporter smelled a story, and after getting a quote of condemnation from a British member of Parliament (a man who has previously voted in favour of keeping blasphemy as a criminal offence), they filed the report and probably went back to searching online forums for stories, hitting cats with hammers or whatever else Mail journalists do.
Of course it made the front page.
Over the course of that Sunday, other papers copy-pasted the story to try and siphon some of the outrage clicks, other papers defended the show because it was a chance to attack politicians they didn’t like. Before the end of the day, social media was exploding with cis people ‘discussing the issue’. Radio call-in shows across the country were asking lorry drivers to come on the air to talk about how they think ‘sex changes’ are gross. Daytime television shows framed the existence of trans children in the same way they framed the issue of whether curtains should be purple. For the next three days, transgender children were ‘the national conversation’ here in the UK. Trans kids had made the news cycle.
It is safe to say that most of the people engaging in this ridiculous conversation had barely any knowledge on the subject of transgender children to draw on, or any real knowledge about trans people in general. But they had a lot to say about it, because their reactionary reflex was kicking off and instead of reporting on the subject in any kind of depth, the Mail and the other papers settled on selling outrage to the people who bought it, lapped it up, had sex with it and talked about it in anyway they could to anyone who would listen.
“Eventually it became a debate about whether transgender children are real and need help, or whether they are the subject of parental abuse.”
After a while it stopped being about the show that triggered this national spasm in the first place. Eventually it became a debate about whether transgender children are real and need help, or whether they are the subject of parental abuse. Two sides were beginning to be drawn.
Are trans kids a thing or not?
For or against?
For the people who already waste all of their time fighting for or against transgender rights on social media – your standard online SJW types, Gender Critical nightmares and Alt-Right assholes – it was Christmas. It was another excuse to go to war in 140 characters or less with their favorite enemy, only this time they had more people to play with. Their pet cause had gone mainstream and they loved every second of it, not knowing that they were being played into becoming walking billboards for the papers and media companies who were selling ‘the conversation’. Every outraged retweet pushed yet more people to donate their time and clicks to the papers and the cycle continued, resulting in me vomiting myself inside out forever.
Due to the right wing papers being more critical of the concept and the left wing papers being more supportive, this made it easier for thousands of cis people on social media (who don’t like to think too much), to line up for their side and start fighting. For the Left, it was another example of how evil and cruel the Right are. For the Right, it was another example of the Left abandoning common sense. In reality it was thousands of people screaming about how evil and stupid ‘the other side’ are, in the hope of somehow proving to themselves that they are the good guys in a world gone mad. The whole thing had become thousands of idiots furiously intellectually masturbating themselves into frenzied outrage orgasms, whilst trans people watched in utter despair and bewilderment as two sides threw chairs at each other.
“Parents of trans kids, the people who were at the center of the endless talking, couldn’t contribute a voice.”
Oh yeah, where were the British trans people during all of this? We could barely get a word in. We don’t have newspapers. We don’t have platforms. We don’t have the numbers. Most of the time an average trans person is the only trans person in any room they happen to be in. What could we do to get our voices heard? Cis people were having a discussion about us and thanks to social media algorithms, blanket coverage in the news media and the fact that this was about us, we couldn’t ignore it even if we wanted to and we had no way to engage. Parents of trans kids, the people who were at the center of the endless talking, couldn’t contribute a voice. Hell, if they did they would probably just put their kids at risk. Experts in the field, people who could actually contribute anything, were drowned out by the noise.
We were drowned out by all the cis people who were taking a holiday in transgender town.
And we all had to sit back and take it. We had to watch these two teams of thousands argue for or against if the mere idea of trans people is dangerous to children. How the fuck are we supposed to go out and buy milk knowing that?
And everyone got paid. The columnists, the journalists, the papers, the media, Facebook, Twitter…thanks to ad revenue, everyone got a nice slice for ‘generating engagement in content’ and sowing divisiveness in an already dangerously divided country. All of these institutions have somehow turned inciting heated debates about the legitimacy of minorities into a cottage industry. They portray the complicated issues as a team-based sport and they gleefully sold the tickets to people who don’t have to live with the reality of the issue at hand.
To the majority who bought the tickets, they were the players in a great game.
Trans people were the ball.
After the game ended, the two sides went to the next big ego wank. Nothing was solved. Nothing was decided. Nobody’s mind was changed. Nobody learned anything. Instead, everyone got pushed a bit more to the extreme because in a battle between the good guys and Satan, how do you reach a middle ground after that? To many, trans people will now represent a very real danger to their children. It isn’t exactly a leap to think that at some point one of those parents will try to stop a transgender person with their fists.
And trans people will have to get on with their lives knowing that, as well as knowing that the media could incite yet more hatred under the cover of starting another fucking conversation.
And all they would need to do that is just one single message board post.