I’d also suggest “No lying in bed for a week because you’re so ill,” but sometimes you don’t have much choice.
Maybe it was the stress of helping to organise such a big event last week when Channel 4 signed a Memorandum of Understanding to improve its coverage of trans people. Lowered immunity. Leaving the house in nothing more than a skimpy wee dress and some red lippy… But whatever it was; it knocked me out of action.
Stuck in bed I also starting to get a bit sick of all the negativity coming from sections of the (blogging) trans community. I see where they’re coming from – I’ve certainly not held back on my thoughts regarding 4Thought.TV, in which I appeared. But while I tried to stick to constructive, (deserved) criticism of a well-intentioned series, others seemed a bit too eager to write the MoU off completely and, in particular, C4’s good intentions.
I’ve already had a few heartfelt apologies, so I’m really not having a go at anyone in particular. People can say what they want. But I simply must speak up for Channel 4. They should be showered with praise; I’m not ashamed to say it.
Channel 4 – like most of the British media – may be indulging Peter Kay’s transsexual character this weekend, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to turn a blind eye. As Natacha Kennedy points out, changing such a large media organisation is like turning a plane around. And no matter how long that takes, we need to be on board.
C4 put their money where their mouth is. I put their money where my mouth is. I’ve consumed at least three bottles of wine from them.
And this year they also commissioned a groundbreaking piece of research into trans people’s relationship with the media. It’s being worked on by a research company who not only boast impressive professional credentials, but a trans woman employee, who is heading up the project. The research is qualitative – so not some superficial questionnaire.
Yet on Twitter, someone accused TMW of getting into bed with the enemy. While there are many people at C4 we’d jump into bed with (Steve Jones, call me, please – I’m not single, but hey!) we’ve piously remained on the bedroom chair. And anyway, C4 is the friend, not the enemy.
If you’re going to get angry with our fourth channel and its offshoots, you may also want to direct some of that discontent towards Aunty Beeb, ITV and FIVE. ITV were not at the MoU launch, though we are currently in talks with them and hope to develop a stronger relationship in future. The only reason we have one with Channel 4 is because they genuinely do care.
If you’re passionate, write to Ofcom about Geraldine McQueen’s Loose Women appearance this week. Or how about host Kate Thorton, who recently told Jerry O’Connell that his wife was “too beautiful” to pull off her Ugly Betty role as “a woman who used to be a man”. (20 mins in.) I’d love to go on Loose Women and see if Kate would tell me I’m not beautiful enough to be a ‘real’ woman.
Channel 4 is a family. How many times did a well-meaning relative slip up over your new name, or pronouns? How many things have they done which they would be ashamed to think of now? Did that make them the enemy? It made them people who had probably never been confronted with this issue before, taking their own journey. (NB: That’s not to erase the experience of those who have suffered family-breakdown.)
We hope TMW will get to speak with more of the commissioners at C4 – many of whom were at the launch, as that is where we can make a real difference. It’s going to take time. Projects taking root at the moment may not bear fruit till a year from now. That’s how television works. And let me tell you how MoU works. It doesn’t mean “magic wand that gives TMW control over C4”. It’s not about retrospectively chastising them for everything that’s been produced before – we know there is a problem: C4 admit this. The focus today and tomorrow is for TMW to educate C4 further and concentrate on improving future content – working with them.
I’m not saying they’re beyond reproach because, believe me, they’re not. But we should be as vocal with our praise as we are our criticism. Where are the blogs praising Hollyoaks? When did you last see a trans man’s struggles portrayed in a soap? And if you hadn’t seen such a storyline before, then neither would the millions of other Hollyoaks viewers – some of whom probably started out from a place of transgender-ignorance.
As we all once did. Indeed, when I met one of my now-best friends, my first question was “Are you a man or woman?” Today, I think that’s completely inappropriate. As Calpernia Addams puts it, if you don’t know, you don’t need to ask.
I’ll add something extra: If you don’t know a better way, you don’t need to tell us our methods are crap. Give us a few years to change the British media and then make your judgments.
In the meantime, look for the positives rather than obsessing over the negatives. There will be more, I’m quite sure, but you can rest assured that C4 are now talking about trans issues in an unprecedented manner. And that can only be a good thing.