Times editor defends trans news coverage

With four transphobic articles published, many have slammed UK paper The Times

The editor of The Times has defended the newspaper’s coverage of trans people and rights issues.

John Witherow rejected allegations that this newspaper was biased against trans people or that it has published misleading articles on trans issues.

Witherow made the assertions while giving evidence at an employment tribunal in Edinburgh on Friday (17 May).

The tribunal was brought by trans woman and former night editor of the Scottish edition of The Times, Katherine O’Donnell.

O’Donnell claims that while working at The Times she faced discrimination and was overlooked for promotion because she is trans.

In the past, The Times and The Sunday Times have published several articles which trans rights advocates have labeled transphobic.

Accusations of a culture of transphobia 

O’Donnell, who was made redundant in January 2018, is suing The Times’ publishers, News UK.

She worked at The Times for 14 years, during which she transitioned.

O’Donnell claims her dismissal was unfair and that she faced numerous instances of prejudice and discrimination by her colleagues – including senior members of staff – due to her gender reassignment.

She drew attention to a series of anti-trans news and comment articles printed in the newspaper. She claims the articles are indicative of a wider culture of transphobia in The Times’ newsroom.

During the tribunal, O’Donnell’s barrister, Robin White, accused Witherow of violating the editor’s code.

The editor’s code is a voluntary industry-wide series of guidelines on journalistic standards and ethics. This includes warnings against misleading or prejudiced reporting on peoples’ sex or gender identity.

‘Could easily have been a woman or something in between’

White used the example of a satirical article by columnist Giles Coren published in December 2017.

In his article, titled ‘There came three wise people of non‑binary gender’, Coren wrote about a mother identifying her baby ‘as male without consulting it’. The article also referred to someone ‘who could easily have been a woman or something in between’.

White, a specialist employment lawyer who is also a trans woman, compared this to the controversy over a tweet posted by radio broadcaster Danny Baker, which lead to his sacking from BBC Radio 2.

She asked Witherow why jokes about ethnicity were inappropriate, but mocking gender identity was acceptable.

Witherow said that the two cases were not comparable. However, he admitted that had he reviewed the column he would have removed the ‘something in between’ line as it was ‘not a very good joke’.

Witherow also said he had he seen it before pubication would have rejected a Times Scotland story about an apparent row over allowing trans men and women to share single gender cabins on an overnight sleeper train. The article was based on a tweet and comment from the website Mumsnet, the Guardian reports.

Despite this, Witherow said that such instances were very rare and said the overwhelming majority of The Times’ coverage was of the highest standards. He also denied there was a culture of transphobia at the newspaper.

History of controversy of LGBTI coverage 

The Times has come under fire from trans rights supporters on numerous occasions in recent years. Many trans rights advocates have accused The Times of publishing biased or misleading coverage on trans issues.

This includes an outcry in April after The Times published four articles on trans children. In the issue, one article referred to therapy for trans children as ‘an experiment’. Another article included a quote in which treatments are compared to ‘conversion therapy for gay children’.

Trans rights groups have similarly slammed the newspaper for coverage of NGOs and support networks for the trans community.

This is also not the first time Witherow’s judgment has come under scrutiny with regards to LGBTI issues.

In 2010, the editor defended columnist AA Gill after the latter described openly gay BBC Sports presenter Clair Balding as a ‘dyke on bike’ in television show review. Balding complained to Witherow following the article’s publication, though was ‘appalled’ by his response.

‘In my view some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society,’ Witherow said in a statement. ‘Not having a privileged status means, of course, one must accept occasionally being the butt of jokes. A person’s sexuality should not give them a protected status.’

Balding later took her complaints to the Press Complains Commission (PCC). The PCC upheld Balding’s complaint, saying some of the language used in Gill’s article was used in a ‘demeaning and gratuitous way’.

Author: Calum Stuart

The post Times editor defends trans news coverage appeared first on Gay Star News.

Pastor in court challenge to conduct same-sex weddings in Hong Kong

Reverend Marrz Balaoro wants to conduct same-sex weddings at his church in Hong Kong (Photo: Provided)

A transgender Filipino pastor of a small church in Hong Kong is taking the government to court over the right to conduct same-sex weddings.

In 2017, 62-year-old Marrz Balaoro, was arrested after conducting more than 20 same-sex weddings at the small church he runs for the Filipino community in Hong Kong.

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Hong Kong.

The police investigation led nowhere, but Balaoro is now suing the government to make sure he is not at risk again.

‘I do not want to fail those LGBT couples’ Balaoro, who works as a domestic helper, told Gay Star News.

He is arguing that his right to perform same-sex ceremonies at his Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight (LGBTS) Christian Church is enshrined in religious freedom rights in the city.

He and his lawyers claim his ceremonies do not contradict the city’s marriage law.

‘It is our religious freedom, our right to perform those ceremonies’ he said.

‘It is just a celebration, to get a blessing, I don’t think it should be hampered. They should not be prevented from doing it because it is a religious activity.’

Marriage rights in Hong Kong

Hong Kong does not recognize same-sex marriages.

Chinese society puts a lot of emphasis on heterosexual families and there are no legal anti-discrimination protections.

The city only decriminalized gay sex in 1991.

Many LGBTI citizens do not come out to their family and colleagues.

In July last year, however, Hong Kong’s LGBTI had a reason to celebrate.

The Court of Final Appeal ruled the immigration department must recognize overseas same-sex marriages when issuing spousal visas.

Earlier this year, two gay men won the right to challenge laws banning same-sex marriage.

Balaoro hopes his case will prompt Hong Kong’s government to open up on same-sex unions.

‘If I win this case, this will open more possibilities’ he told Gay Star News.


Author: Rik Glauert

The post Pastor in court challenge to conduct same-sex weddings in Hong Kong appeared first on Gay Star News.

Trans teen’s emotional reaction to finding out she can start hormone treatment

Evie Macdonald finds out she can start hormone treatment and is smiling and crying

A trans teen who has been a vocal advocate for young gender diverse people has just been approved to start taking gender affirming hormone treatment.

Australian teen, Evie Macdonald, will start hormone treatment after being put on puberty blockers at the age of 13. In a video filmed by her mom, Evie bursts into tears when she’s told the good news.

‘It makes me feel better about myself and makes me feel more me,’ Evie told Gay Star News about starting hormone treatment.

Evie, 14, shot to fame after she confronted Prime Minister Scott Morrison. She took him to task over his tweet criticizing a program to train school teachers in how to recognize potential trans students. Evie also made history when she became the first trans child actor to play a trans character in Australia.

Her mom, Meagan, said ‘Evie has waited for this moment for years’.

‘Evie has been seeing a paediatrician and psychiatrists since she was nine years old,’ she said.

‘So the process has been years really. She started blockers on her 13th birthday and that went really well so we’ve just been waiting for her body to be ready.

‘We’ve been waiting for her to grow and be at an age that she is more mature and competent.’

Macdonald explained why not letting Evie take hormones would be like abuse.

‘There was once upon a time when I felt that this would be too much but now it’s seriously just like what’s meant to be,’ she told GSN.

‘To deny her would be abuse. This is a integral part of who she is. We don’t deny other children who need medical treatment so for me it’s just like that.’

Stage 2 hormone treatment

In 2017, it became a lot easier for people under the age of 18 to start hormone treatment in Australia. Previously families had to get permission from the Family Court for a trans teen to start Stage 2 hormone treatment. This process could take years and cost families thousands of dollars.

This was despite going through rigorous medical and psychological assessment and having the permission of their parents. Australia was the only country in the world that required court involvement in Stage 2 decision-making.

Medical experts agree that delaying hormone treatments leads to distress and is a necessary step.

‘Delaying the provision of gender-affirming hormones can cause significant mental distress to a group of young people who are already at high risk for mental health concerns and suicide attempts,’ Penelope Strauss from Telethon Kids Institute told The Conversation in 2017.

‘Young trans people in Australia experience depression and anxiety at a rate about ten-times higher than other young people.

‘Stage two is a necessary therapeutic step for many trans people and for many [it] will have a significant positive impact on their mental health.’



Author: Shannon Power

The post Trans teen’s emotional reaction to finding out she can start hormone treatment appeared first on Gay Star News.