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In defence of Suzanne Moore

15 January 2013

6:30 PM

15 January 2013

6:30 PM

Tell me if you have heard this already but it appears that Suzanne Moore has offended the trans-gender lobby. She did this by writing an essay about women’s anger for a Waterstone’s collection of essays, which was then republished by the New Statesman. The following sentence caused deep offence (is there any other kind?):

‘We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.’

Faced by the not-inconsiderable wrath of the trans-gender community, Suzanne responded in characteristic fashion with a counterblast in the Guardian:

‘In Iceland, they put bankers in prison for fraud. Here, we give them knighthoods. So to be told that I hate transgender people feels a little … irrelevant. Other people’s genital arrangements are less interesting to me than the breakdown of the social contract. I am asking for anger and for alliances. Less divide and rule. So call me a freak.’

Suzanne Moore is, and, as far as I know, always has been a freak. Of all the people I know, she is the last person I would have imagined offending the LGBT community and the most likely to invite a Brazilian transsexual for tea – especially if she had fled to Britain for fear of attack from ‘transphobes’ in her own country.  I’m sure the last thing she needs is the political editor of the Jewish Chronicle jumping to her defence on the website of a right-wing magazine. These acts of solidarity can sometimes be taken the wrong way, as Julie Burchill discovered when she wrote in the Observer this weekend about the issue only to see her article pulled from the website by a repentant editor. But solidarity matters when the left has the scent of a traitor in its nostrils, as I know from bitter experience.

Now Lib Dem Minister Lynne Featherstone has intervened and called for Julie Burchill and Observer editor John Mulholland to be sacked. Author and activist Ros Kaveney used a Guardian blog to cry ‘bully‘. It is all getting out of hand and Dan Hodges has suggested this is the radical left at its worst.

Now Suzanne has reappeared on Twitter to apologise, a move welcomed by Trans Media Watch (an organisation I must say I did not know existed before this row). To most readers of the Spectator this must all seem utterly baffling. Indeed some on the more traditional side of the sexual politics debate must feel mildly reassured as the feminists fight it out with the transsexuals for the moral high ground.

But this is not just another example of the left’s instinct for sectarianism (although it is that too). It is not just another example of the Twitter mob run riot (although it is that too). People are passionate about these issues because they matter. It is a shame that the substance of Suzanne Moore’s original article has been forgotten in the wave of offence over a throw-away remark. But these were not the words of a ‘transphobe’. As Suzanne said herself in one of her tweets: ‘To think I am opposite side of anyone who has had to think long and hard about gender is horrible. I am not your enemy.’

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