The trouble with “any other minority”


16th February 2024

It’s a common refrain when a public figure makes a transphobic statement; “They wouldn’t say that about any other minority.” It often comes from a well meaning place, the people are outraged by bigotry and since they could not imagine knowingly engaging in it they assume that somebody engaging in one sort of bigotry would see that it was wrong if they could only see it as bigotry. The reality is somewhat different.

In this post, I’m going to show a number of examples of the “any other minority” argument and demonstrate why the claims made are untrue. Where the examples are from individuals I will be anonymising them.

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The liberal pressure group Stop Funding Hate, who seek to “mak[e] hate unprofitable by persuading advertisers to pull their support from publications that spread hate and division” are a repeat offender on Twitter, with a search finding multiple examples over the last few years.

We are led to suppose, by implication, that scaremongering about “any other minority group” would be remarkable from the Mail On Sunday. A quick glance at the “Migrant Crisis” section on the Mail’s website should be sufficient to show that this is simply not true. The Mail is notorious as a clearing house for the acceptable fringe of all kinds of bigotry.

How the Mail talks about migrants; scare stories and implications of impropriety and incest

Last month Laura Pascal, a Labour candidate in the Cazenove ward council elections, was the subject of controversy after she was found to have liked transphobic posts on Twitter. Pascal was briefly suspended before being reinstated. One trans Labour member took to Twitter to opine that had she expressed bigotry against any other minority group “she would be expelled.”

The first thing that should be made clear is that at least one of the posts liked by Pascal (comparing trans woman Dylan Mulvaney to a blackface performer) is straightforwardly racist. As Gemma Stone says in her piece for Trans Writes on Pascal:

Not only is this obviously and horrifically transphobic — as intended. But its also deeply racist too. Its invoking the spectre of Black people’s suffering and oppression as a tool to attack something they don’t like.

In addition to this, there are multiple examples of clear bigotry from Labour politicians not leading to expulsion or, in fact, any official sanction whatsoever.

In August 2016, Labour MP Sarah Champion published an opinion piece in The Sun tabloid under the headline “British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls … and it’s time we faced up to it.” While Champion claimed that the article had been “stripped of nuance” by The Sun, editors claimed that she had approved the piece. While Champion faced criticism for this racist article, she remains a Labour MP to this day.

In April 2021, the Labour MP Charlotte Nichols handed out local election leaflets promising “dealing with traveller incursions.” Nichols eventually apologised after criticism on social media, claiming to not have been aware of the negative connotations of promising to expel an ethnic minority from the area, and the leaflets were destroyed, but no Labour member was suspended or expelled.

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Most recently, Rishi Sunak has come under fire for transphobic comments made during Prime Minister’s Questions on a day when the mother of murdered trans girl Brianna Ghey was attending as a member of the public, resulting in Brianna’s father calling for Sunak to apologise for his “dehumanising” remark. One cis ally on Twitter with a large following claimed that “if this was any other minority, the PM would be resigning in disgrace.”

Sunak has quite publicly attacked a number of minority groups, including Albanian asylum seekers, travelers and disabled people. It’s simply absurd on the face of it to treat his transphobia, specifically as exceptional.

* * * * *

So why does any of this matter? It might seem churlish or petty to pick on a particular turn of phrase used by people trying to challenge transphobia but the reality of claiming that transphobia is less punished, less socially acceptable than other forms of bigotry like racism, homophobia, misogyny, ableism, etc. is that you are implicitly denying just how common, everyday and officially sanctioned these various forms of oppression are. This denial undermines solidarity and risks pushing trans people who aren’t white and able-bodied out of trans liberation movement spaces. A majority of trans people in the UK are not white British, if you’re a white trans person or cis ally, consider how it would feel to share space with people who continually denied how pervasive and damaging transphobia is.

We cannot build the solidarity we all need to get free by minimising the suffering of other minorities. Transphobia is linked to racism, to ableism, to misogyny, to homophobia, both in their ideological linkage and in the existence of trans people at the intersections. We cannot afford single-issue activism because “we do not live single-issue lives.” ■


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