Wanted: Someone To Hate

The ongoing fallout from #TransDocFail continues to generate blog posts. Mostly people are a bit bemused. Dru Marland notes that the sort of abuse documented in #TransDocFail should be investigated by crusading journalists. It won’t be. Those stories have already been relegated to the status of “alleged abuse”, the deranged fantasies of people who are widely regarded as insane.

On Twitter Christine Burns is asking why all of the journalists who are wringing their hands about the failure to believe the victims of the serial pedophile, Jimmy Savile, are not listening to the tales of trans people abused by doctors. It is a nice point, but nothing will happen.

Kat Gupta notes how professional contacts within the media have allowed Suzanne Moore to respond easily (and dishonestly) to the way her abusive comments about trans people have been received. Moore has plenty of friends in the media, while trans people do not.

Savile, of course, had plenty of friends in the media (and in politics, he was a close friend of Margaret Thatcher). And of course he was well loved by the public. All that made him untouchable while he was alive. Even though many people knew the truth, no one would speak out. Or, of they did, they would not be believed. The victims of child sex abuse are generally not believed when their abusers are celebrities, or other powerful people such as priests. But that’s not all there is to it.

Gupta, who is an academic specializing in gender and the media, also notes something interesting about the nature of existing trans coverage: it is all very personal. That is, journalists look for individuals whom they can write human interest stories about. This should give us a clue as to why #TransDocFail won’t get any further traction in the media.

You see, journalism is all about stories, and just as in traditional fiction you need compelling characters: heroes and/or villains. Richard Curtis makes a good villain because he’s a doctor in private practice with an office near Harley Street. I’m also self-employed, and my guess is that he earns a lot less money than the NHS consultants who are trying to put him out of business, but it is easy to spin a story that paints him as a rich private doctor who ruthlessly exploits the “mentally ill” (i.e. trans people).

Savile too, now that he’s dead, makes a good storybook villain. But #TransDocFail has no obvious heroes and villains. It is about large numbers of disgusting freaks ordinary people being routinely abused by large numbers of other ordinary people. That makes it bad story material. Without an obvious hero, victim or villain, the press won’t be interested.

Last night Helen Belcher was tweeting about what I assume is another case of trans abuse. “And then I come back to a story of repeated abuse in an NHS hospital which has left me completely stunned”, and “Every so often you stumble across a story of abuse that’s so bad, it takes your breath away”. It sounds awful, but Goddess help me I found myself wondering if this was the story we need to keep this issue in the news. I see that Jane Fae is on the case. Watch this space.