Monday, October 24, 2011

Pinker than before

Yesterday, the Independent on Sunday published its Pink List 2011. 101 names of people judged by a panel of appropriate luminaries, with assistance from the general public, to be making the most significant contribution to the lives of LGB & T people today.

It is of course, utterly subjective. The media...the popular culture...loves lists. That sense of jockeying for position, of relative influence. Lists of things - especially ones with people - attach a certain 'value' to individuals, speaking both to our competitive instincts and giving us something against which to respond, to measure our feelings. We might blame the record industry of the 1950s for starting all this, but we're stuck with it now.

The Pink List is attracting quite a lot of comment. There's some grumbling from a few in the trans community about the exclusions - the people who might be on it, but aren't (right off the bat, I can think of 5 or 6 people who might well have claimed a place there). There's some other whining that it's a dumbed down stunt, without any meaning.

But generally, it's been received positively. And there's one massive reason for that. Seven trans people are on the list. Several more are mentioned alongside it. Seven out of a hundred and one. Not many. But a vast improvement on last year, when there were none - that's right, none - on a list of LGB & T people. Even the equivalent Time Out list a few months ago managed to score only a baldly tokenistic one trans person.

Does the Pink List matter? Yes it matters. The Indie on Sunday might be small incarnation of the smallest national circulation quality paper, but in the absence of many similar resources this list becomes an instant reference point for journalists and broadcasters who want someone to interview, or from whom they can find a quote. And the trans people on it are all quite capable of doing a good job in that regard. It becomes a resource to which politicians and civil servants can turn if they are trying not to forget us. It becomes a place where another 150,000 readers are introduced to the names and achievements of some trans people.

Being there also gives a lift to a community which is finally beginning to make some real progress. The first years of this century have seen trans activists break down some enormous barriers, walking in the footsteps of those who came before. Legislation has been passed which once might have seemed a ridiculous dream. The mainstream media - the bearpit in which social attitude is crystallized - remains for the most part a self serving, amoral, profit chasing hydra.  But finally trans people are finding their voice in it, and to it.

We have had to fight to start to have our lives and our experiences presented with accuracy, dignity and respect, and for every victory we achieve, we still see ghastly examples of prejudice, ridicule and ignorance. But the tide is with us. You can feel it. Latest attempts to force change upon the media only began in March 2009 (after some stunningly transphobic comedy in an ITV sitcom galvanised hostility and anger in a way nothing had done before) but doors have opened in the last two years which had been shut for decades. Trans Media Watch was built around that moment in 2009, and soon joined with others who were taking the fight to Ofcom and the tv production community - moving from a monitoring site based on Facebook to a group with growing influence.

There are years to go yet. There are laws to be passed - not least one that allows trans people to have their gender recognised and stay married (and it looks like it might be coming). The situation with respect to trans children remains horrendous in many instances - though breakthroughs are appearing (like here). NHS treatment of trans people for this entirely authentic medical condition remains patchy at best, insulting and dangerously bad at worst. And there are parts of the country where to be trans, and to be in public, means being in desperate physical danger still.

But things are getting better. The momentum is growing. Change is coming.

And having seven people on that list is part of it.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Previously...

I have moved across to Blogger from nineteenthnervousbreakdown.blog.co.uk, a platform I started using but found awkward and choked with banner ads. Every time I went there to write something, I locked horns with the terrible interface and lost my thrust. So now I'm here. Much better.

There are a couple of posts over there still, discussing media presentation of trans people in the UK. Drop across and have a look...

Superficial, Unconvincing, Insulting and Unacceptable
Changing the game? Not yet. But getting on the pitch