My letter to a famous gay journalist
I'm not going to mention who this is to because I will probably recycle the letter several times over the next couple of weeks - but I think it is a decent stab at some of the issues...And when did I become Good Cop?
'Sorry if you misunderstood me about the question of self-marketing. What I would argue is that the anti-trans stuff is intrinsically bound up with the particular version of feminism which provides Julie Bindel with much of her fire. I would further argue that some of her absolutist positions on other matters are thrown into question by it, potentially damaging them. Given the long history of the Guardian's commissioning transphobic material from her, Germaine Greer, Sally Vincent and Julie Burchill, I am sure that she is aware of knocking at an open door when proposing pieces on this - similarly, she thought it crucial enough to use her chance at a radio slot on it. In brief, I don't for a second think her views are insincere, but I would say that she is aware that they have been at times convenient.
It is precisely because you have written well and movingly about transphobia - though I notice that your piece had comparatively little to say about transmen - that I felt I could approach you on this.
I appreciate that you have a personal relationship with Julie Bindel, but isn't the point here that friends don't let friends think that certain sorts of bigotry are OK. I hate to drift in the direction of contravening Godwin's law, but I don't think that people in your position would be nearly as sanguine about racism or anti-semitism or anti-disability prejudice in a friend as a lot of people with personal regard for Julie Bindel seem to be about her transphobia.
She has withdrawn some of her more hurtful remarks, under pressure, but it is significant that she made them in the first place and that she made some of them after a group of transwomen and transmen tried to engage calmly with her after the radio broadcast - so that her remarks about a world inhabited by transexuals looking 'like the set of Grease' were made in the face of meeting real people who look nothing like the stereotypes she was describing. She has deliberately and repeatedly used hurtful language that plays to a lowest common denominator of prejudice - given the number of transphobic killings per year (in a small community) and the difficulty of securing convictions because of jury prejudice in favour of killers, this is highly irresponsible.
More importantly, she advocates the use of reparative therapy to persuade people to stick with their birth sex. To this end, she quotes figures on 'regret' that tally with no reputable studies and appears to rely on Catholic apologists like McHugh. Given the advocacy and use of reparative therapy against lesbians and gay men by 'ex-gay' ministries, this is selling the pass and a direct betrayal not only of young trans people but potentially of vulnerable lesbians, gay men and bisexuals.
She is doing what might be turned into serious damage - her positions are liable to be co-opted by the religious right in the way that the draft anti-pornography legislation of Dworkin and McKinnon was co-opted in Canada.
The path of her friends might perhaps be not to condone her bigotry but to reason with her as to why it is unacceptable and dangerous,