Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Did the PCC just transform coverage of trans issues?

The first full adjudication of 2010 from the Press Complaints Commission was encouraging.

A complaint about a Sunday Life article headlined 'Tranny worked in rape centre' was upheld in what the PCC called:

a landmark ruling on the use of terminology in this area.

They ruled:

Taking into account the full context of the piece, the Commission considered that the use of the word ‘tranny' - which was a needless abbreviation, held by many to be offensive - was pejorative. The complaint was upheld on this point.

If the PCC regard 'tranny' as 'needless', 'offensive to many' and 'pejorative' - as they should - then context should not matter.

The PCC added that this was the first ruling under a change to the Code which occurred in 2005 after representations from community organisations:

Individuals who are undergoing or have undergone treatment for gender reassignment will be included in the categories offered protection from prejudicial or pejorative references.

All of which should mean that the word 'tranny' is effectively banned, along with other offensive slang terms on race and homosexuality.

But if this change has been in effect for over four years, how has the Sun published stories such as:
And those are just ones where 'tranny' is used in the headline in the last year.

In all, there appear to be over 50 results found for 'tranny' on the Sun website, although a couple of these are about transisitor radios.

Press for Change, a lobbying and educational organisation for 'equal civil rights and liberties for all transgendered people in the United Kingdom' produced Transsexual People and the Press in 2004, which said:

Expressions such as 'gender-bender', 'sex change', 'tranny' or 'she-male' are considered inappropriate ways to describe persons experiencing a medically recognised condition.

And, unsurprisingly, there are several references to 'gender-benders' in the Sun archives too (for example, here, here and here).

The Sun isn't the only one - the Star also uses 'tranny' needlessly, and the Mail seems to have a policy that has renamed Trinny and Susannah 'Trinny and Tranny'.

But if the PCC thinks the word 'tranny' is pejorative and offensive, why has it taken four-and-a-half years for them to issue a ruling against the use of the word? Why has it ignored the repeated use of it by the Sun, and others, for so long?

And can we expect the PCC to challenge any future use of the term?

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