Six national newspapers agree that “sex swap” headlines and inclusion of transgender status were inappropriate in a landmark negotiation with the Press Complaints Commision and Dr Kate Stone.

(Below is the press release we sent out today about the resolution of a number of complaints to the PCC which I’ve been helping Kate Stone with. Kate’s priority and my own has not been to demand meaningless apologies but to try and establish agreement with the newspapers concerned that the Editor’s Code, notably the guidance issued by the PCC on Reporting and researching stories involving transgender individuals, means what it says. All About Trans are already working with two of the papers concerned. We do not expect the culture of unthinking discrimination, which has for so long existed in the UK press, to vanish overnight. Once the issues are understood however we do often find a real will among  journalists and editors to improve representation.)

 

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Dr Kate Stone

On 31st December 2013 Dr Kate Stone, a Cambridge academic, owner of an innovative electronics company and TED speaker, suffered a horrendous freak accident while on holiday in Scotland.

A cornered stag charged the group of people she was with, goring her in the neck and leaving her comatose and fighting for life.

Her family, including her three children, had no idea if she would live or die.

Almost every national newspaper in England and Scotland reported the incident.

When Kate eventually regained consciousness it was to headlines such as: “Deer spears sex-swap Kate”, “Sex swap scientist in fight for life” and “Sex-swap scientist gored by stag”.

Although papers such as The Scotsman saw no relevance in Kate’s transgender status, six nationals - the Daily Record, The Mirror, The Scottish Sun, The Sun, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Mail – all included this detail, some with more prominence than others.

This constituted a direct breach of the ‘Discrimination’ clause in the PCC Editor’s Code which states that details of an individual’s transgender status “must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story”.

For decades journalists have been in the habit of pointing to the transgender status of an individual as being sensationally newsworthy in itself.

As the PCC notes, epithets such as ‘sex swap’, invented by and exclusively promoted by the tabloid press, can trivialize the complex medical processes of gender transition.

It is therefore extremely welcome that the papers, who got it wrong, have acknowledged that Kate’s transgender status was not relevant to the story and agreed that ‘sex-swap’ was a highly inappropriate term to use.

“If Apple CEO, Tim Cook, were involved in a car accident tomorrow, you wouldn’t get headlines: ‘Homosexual CEO in Car Accident’ and you certainly wouldn’t get: “Pansy (or Faggot) CEO in Car Accident,’” says Sarah Lennox, an advisor to All About Trans, a project that encourages greater understanding between media professionals and trans people.

She adds: “We’re living in the 21st century and the press have rightly moved on from that kind of finger-pointing and name-calling. ‘Sex-swap’ headlines are not OK”.

In his report in November 2012, Lord Justice Leveson, expressing hopes for better press representation of trans people, remarked how representation of gay people had improved and wondered whether this reflected “the press’s ability to put its own house in order” or “that society had changed and the press has been forced to keep up.”

We applaud the newspapers concerned for their acknowledgement that they got it wrong and look forward to far better relations in the future between the press and the trans community.

Kate Stone, Paris Lees and Sarah Lennox can be contacted through All About Trans info@onroadmedia.org.uk

 

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Extract from the Leveson Report:

8.32 On the basis of the evidence seen by the Inquiry, it is clear that there is a marked tendency in a section of the press to fail to treat members of the transgender and intersex communities with sufficient dignity and respect… Although the Inquiry heard evidence that parts of the tabloid press had “raised [its] game in terms of transgender reporting”,393 the examples provided by TMW of stories from the last year demonstrate that the game needs to be raised significantly higher…

30 years ago, an Inquiry into the culture practices and ethics of the press was likely to have seen a deluge of complaints relating to the representation of homosexuals in the press.394 The fact that only a very few such complaints were received by this Inquiry may reflect the press’s ability to put its own house in order. Alternatively, it may simply reflect that society had changed and the press has been forced to keep up.

 

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PCC RESOLUTION STATEMENTS 

The Scottish Sun

Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered the use of the term “sex swap” in reference to her transgender status to be pejorative, in breach of Clause 12 (i) of the Code, and, furthermore, that the references to her gender status at all in the articles were irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code. She considered the reference to her former name intruded into her private life in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

 The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the references to the complainant’s transgender status from the online articles, as the newspaper acknowledged that her gender status had not been relevant to the story and that the use of the term “sex swap” in the articles had been inappropriate. (Cl 3 and 12)

The Daily Telegraph

 Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered that the reference to her transgender status in the article was irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the reference to the complainant’s transgender status from the online article, as the newspaper acknowledged that it had not been relevant to the story. (Cl 12)

 

 The Sun

Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered the use of the term “sex swap” in reference to her transgender status to be pejorative, in breach of Clause 12 (i) of the Code, and, furthermore, that the references to her gender status at all in the articles were irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code.

 

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the references to the complainant’s transgender status from the online articles, as the newspaper acknowledged that her gender status had not been relevant to the story and that the use of the term “sex swap” in the articles was inappropriate. (Cl 12)

 

Daily Mail

 Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered that the reference to her transgender status in the article was irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code.

 The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the reference to the complainant’s transgender status from the online article, as the newspaper acknowledged that it had not been relevant to the story. (Cl 12)

 

Daily Record

Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered the use of the term “sex swap” in reference to her transgender status to be pejorative, in breach of Clause 12 (i) of the Code, and, furthermore, that the references to her gender status at all in the articles were irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the references to the complainant’s transgender status from the online articles, as the newspaper acknowledged that her gender status had not been relevant to the story and that the use of the term “sex swap” in the articles was inappropriate. (Cl 12)

 

Daily Mirror

Dr Kate Stone complained to the Press Complaints Commission that the newspaper had breached the terms of Clause 12 (Discrimination) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The complainant considered that the references to her transgender status in the articles were irrelevant to the story, in breach of Clause 12 (ii) of the Code. She also considered the reference to her former name intruded into her private life in breach of Clause 3 (Privacy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

The complaint was resolved when the PCC negotiated the removal of the references to the complainant’s transgender status from the online articles, as the newspaper acknowledged that her gender status had not been relevant to the story. In light of the above, the newspaper also acknowledged that in these circumstances disclosure of the complainant’s previous name without her consent was an unjustified intrusion into her private life.