Over 150 attended a vigil against transphobia outside the office of The Observer newspaper in London last night.
The vigil was in response to a column by Julie Burchill published in last Sunday’s Observer which was littered with trans slurs.
The Observer withdrew the article from their website and apologized, but those at the vigil felt the newspaper had not gone far enough in condemning Burchill and to reassure them that such hate speech will not be published in the future.
‘If the article was about black people, gay people or disabled people she [Burchill] would have been arrested,’ said Sarah Savage, organizer of the vigil, in a statement.
‘How could they ever imagine that writing such awful words was “exploring contentious issues”? This was a deliberate attack on a minority.’
Speaking on a Channel Four News ‘hang out’ last night Paris Lees, editor of transgender and gender magazine META said she felt the row was evidence of a ‘tipping point’.
Lees compared the increasing visibility of trans issues over the last 12 months with ‘gay and lesbian coming out in droves’ in the early 1990s and the greater societal acceptance of people with disabilities after the paralympics in the UK last summer.
Lees said the row has been ‘useful’ because it has exposed the ‘ugly ideas’ or ‘older white established journalists’.
‘Things can change and they can change very fast,’ said Lees. ‘It has been a positive thing… You cannot pretend that trans people don’t exist now. We’re real people facing real issues.’