January 15, 2013

IconA letter to Julie Burchill

As the fall-out from Julie Burchill’s transphobic polemic in The Observer continues, Nathan Gale offers us his personal and heart-wrenching thoughts on the matter.

Julie Burchill's transphobic rant in The Observer was taken down and an apology issued by the editor, but her words have made a lasting impact

Dear Julie,

It’s four o’clock in the morning and I’m awake. And sobbing. As a trans disabled person in a same sex relationship with another disabled guy I’m used to hearing offensive comments. I’m used to the stares, and the prejudice, and being patronised and discriminated against. But the impact of your rant is on a whole other level, this is deeply painful. I’m not usually awake at this time but I woke because I was having an awful dream. In it I was telling the one person in my life who doesn’t know about my trans history, someone I love very much, that I’m trans. And he told me that I was disgusting, and that he hated me. He confirmed my worst fear, that I would never be the father figure that I have been to him for most of his life again. When you’ve not experienced gender dysphoria or the prejudice which comes with being trans, you can’t imagine the self-loathing that it invokes. Or how long it takes to begin to move on from those feelings and believe that you are worthy of happiness.

In case you’re interested, which the evidence would suggest you’re not (but in for a penny in for a pound!), I was getting there. I’ve got a good job and a wonderful husband. I’m lucky to have a family who loves me and an extremely supportive group of friends. But your tirade of hate has set me back.

As I said to begin with, I’ve had to develop a thick skin. Most of the time my partner and I can laugh about the prejudice we encounter. Sometimes we get angry, but even then we can take that anger and do something creative with it. I’ve been the victim of a transphobic physical assault and, in some ways, the hurt that your words have caused me is worse because what feels like an assault has occurred on a national platform, for everyone to see, and there’s nothing I can do about it. And to make matters worse all the majority of the media can say is that I’m being overly sensitive, or that I want to be offended.

I don’t by the way. I’d really just like to get on with my job, fighting for equality and human rights for other trans people. But instead I’ve spent every waking moment since reading your diatribe early on Sunday morning dealing with these feelings. The slurs you used so hurtfully attack my identity. They are the words I always fear that people are secretly thinking about me. They make me feel worthless, and ashamed, and want to hurt myself.

After reading the article my dad, who because you seem to think it adds validity to an argument is from a working class background and not the least political (he’s a photocopier engineer), sent me a text me to tell me that he loved me and that as always, I had his support. I want you to consider how you would feel if you had to send a similar message to your son or daughter because a respected journalist used a national newspaper to hurl hateful comments mocking and ridiculing their very identity.

And now, I’m going to try and get back to work.

8 Responses to A letter to Julie Burchill

  1. A fucking beautiful letter on the very real and very devastating emotional effects of hate speech. You have me on the verge of tears, and it’s not the first time since this article was published. I’m so sorry to hear that this has set you back but many, many of us cis individuals stand in total solidarity with our trans siblings, and our love for you will never waver.

    - Red xxx

  2. Jayne galloway says:

    A beautifully written piece, tinged with sadness and yet with hope. I will stand alongside you and fight back against hatred and bigotry, you are an inspiration.

  3. Cole says:

    You have successfully portrayed the depth to which words can reach, people needlessly throw hate without seeing its consequences, there is enough hate in this world to poison us all. You have handled this with grace and a terrific but emotional reply, another cis standing there with you against this horrible thing that was allowed to be published.

  4. Rosie says:

    Julie Burchill abandoned both her children.. It is unlikely she would send a text like that as she doesn’t possess any normal human emotions like kindness, empathy and compassion. Please don’t think her warped opinions reflect those of the rest of society, they don’t.

  5. Chele howard says:

    Well done, brilliant response

  6. Benjamin Kidd says:

    A beautiful piece, and from me another diabled trans man I thank you for putting into words everything I am feeling right now. She has no idea the hurt she has caused, this is not just about a number of people it is about individuals with real lives often hard lives. Thank you for this.

  7. Angela says:

    Just remember, not everyone is thinking those things. Some of us admire you for the courage you show in living an honest life.

  8. Lucy Jordan says:

    Thank you for this very well written piece. Apart from a few notable exceptions I have had a overwhelmingly positive response to my transition from family, friends, workplace and the general public. With all this support you’d think nothing could shake me, and yet along comes a column like Julie’s and i crumple like a buttercup, all bitter tears and hopelessness that in 2013 people can say such things without any regard for the consequences.

    it was very heartening to read some of the many responses from women quick to point out that Julie Burchill did not speak for them. I hope the support and love you have from the people around you will erase that damage that’s been done

    Hugs from New Zealand, Lucy :-)

    Ake ake, kia kaha – forever, forever, be strong