“It also erases the existence of trans men and non-binary people.”
A British municipal council’s attempt at inclusivity has backfired after it rolled out a new icon for transgender the transgender community that was not received well by its target audience.
Last month, the Essex County Council posted a survey to gather public comments ahead of expected cuts to library funds. As to be expected of a public library survey, it was embellished with hokey stock pictures and cartoons that looked like they were borrowed from a high school WordArt collection.
At the end of the survey, respondents were asked to identify themselves. On the gender section, they were given an option between a man, a woman, or a transgender person. While the man and woman were represented by pictures of a man and a woman giving a thumbs-up, the transgender option was portrayed by a man who looked to be wearing makeup and was removing a feminine wig – something like a sad drag queen.
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Cue the outrage.
“A shockingly negative depiction of transgender,” it was lambasted on Twitter.
— Liz (@Liz_Miles) January 29, 2019
The Save Our Libraries Essex campaign, which perhaps ought to have been more concerned with the content of the survey than its presentation, fumed that the cartoon is “looking like institutionalized bigotry.”
“Depicting trans people as men in wigs is really troublesome,” Tabitha Adams, an Essex county resident, told HuffPost UK. “Not only is it totally inaccurate, it also erases the existence of trans men and non-binary people.”
But that’s not all. According to LGBTQ Nation contributor Alex Bollinger, even having a transgender category is transphobic.
“By separating ‘transgender’ from ‘man’ and ‘woman,'” he contended, “the survey appears to imply that trans women are not really women and trans men are not really men.”
One Twitter user agreed, saying: “The depiction is not only awful but ‘man, woman or transgender’ is an extremely ignorant choice of genders.”
(Considering the tension between the plethora of identities once promulgated by the gender-defying gay-rights movement and the stricter dichotomy expected by Bollinger, we have to wonder: Is this commenter advocating for more choices or fewer?)
“It feels to me like Essex County Council is not as safe as it should be, because their own consultations are portraying a negative gender stereotype,” Zoe O’Connell, an equality campaigner and a trans woman herself, told BBC.
She added that while she understands that the Essex library is working on a disappearing budget, she expects the council to invest in proper sensitivity training.
“We all know the problems with funding cuts facing councils but they view expertise in these areas as somehow optional,” she said. “These are the basics and they need to be right.”
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The spokesperson for the Essex council issued a statement of apology, saying that the pictures were not meant to cause offense, but were in fact supposed to make the survey accessible to respondents with learning disabilities.
“This image was specifically chosen to help communicate with people with learning disabilities,” the statement read. “It was supplied by an organization called Inspired Services, who work with people with learning disabilities to produce images for the Government and NHS England for easy read publications.”
“We are sorry for any offense caused,” the council nonetheless said.
Reminder: Anything less than a total and asterisk-less acceptance that people are nothing but what they identify as and that biology is a non sequitur is now considered bigotry in progressive activist circles. That is of course unless you want to adopt blackness or youth or some other oppressive identity marker.