British Transphobia – Alive and Well: Burchill & Moore

Last month, British journalist Suzanne Moore published an article in the New Statesman about female anger. The main point of her article was how, in her opinion, women tend to turn anger in at themselves instead of projecting it outward and targetting the source:

“We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape—that of a Brazilian transsexual.”

While invoking the image of “a Brazilian transsexual” was not her intention (I can only assume), Moore has unleashed a heady storm of controversy. Moore’s seemingly flippant use of the phrase has been seen by the trans community as offensive.

As is the trend, the controversy spilled onto twitter and escalated from there. The following pictures are from storify and show in more detail the tweets that went back and forth between Moore and her critics.

The twitter backlash moved Moore to delete her account and prompted her mate Julie Burchill (another British journalist) to write an article in British newspaper, the Observer.

While the Observer has since deleted it, you can find it reprinted in the Telegraph, here. Bindle’s article defended Moore against increasing criticism and what she felt was bullying by the trans community.

Suzanne Moore

What this reveals to me, is that the UK is way behind in trans rights and even in understanding the appropriate language to describe transgendered people. The recent furor surrounding Caitlin Moran reveals this as well. Even our most feminist journalists have yet to adapt politically correct language when dealing with trans men and women. Unlike Burchill and Moore, Moran has apologised for her use of the word “tranny” and has educated herself about appropriate language in the trans community.

Caitlin Moran

Julie Burchill decided to take the opposite approach to Moran. Burchill used a litany of offensive language, including such gems as “I nevertheless felt indignant that a woman of such style and substance should be driven from her chosen mode of time-wasting by a bunch of dicks in chick’s clothing.” The entire article makes me cringe with shame.

Julie Burchill and Suzanne Moore have apparently taken it upon themselves to define what a woman is. Trans gendered men and women, seem not to be included in the list – with Bindle comparing transexuals to “Black & White Minstrels” and “screaming-mimis.”

Burchill has also attempted to turn this into a class argument, claiming that because she and Moore are of humble beginnings, there is no way they can be accused of white privilege. Or, to quote from her article “And we are damned if we are going to be accused of being privileged by a bunch of bed-wetters in bad wigs.”

Burchill isn’t doing herself, or feminism any big favours here. She ends her article on an almost violent tone, again involving derogatory terms, stating “Shims, shemales, whatever you’re calling yourselves these days – don’t threaten or bully we lowly natural-born women, I warn you.” 

Julie Burchill

Throughout all of this, there is an implicit hierarchy being enforced by Burchill, Moore and co. That “natural born” women, are somehow more woman, than trans women; that those on the lower ranks on the female ladder can just shut it when those higher-ups want to slag them off.

Burchill and Moore are forgetting one very important point. Not all trans people identify as female. There are a wider range of self identifying monikers than ever, and surely if one is going to write about them in a journalistic capacity – perhaps taking the time to seek out the knowledge to write with authority would be appropriate? This is all connected to the lack of the feminist journalists in the UK to fully understand the idea of intersectionality. That’s not to say that all feminist journalists are like this. Roz Kaveney, also writing in the Guardian, explained it so perfectly that it’s hard to see where Moore and Burchill are getting it wrong.

“Moore and Burchill seem to have a weird objection to anything they think of as intellectualising. Intersectionality is not hard to understand – it’s the simple observation that most people having a bad time in this society are getting it in the neck for several things at once, and the way we write about oppression needs to address that. This is not weird PhD fodder discourse; just a new vocabulary of tact.”

The Observer has since withdrawn Burchill’s article saying:

“We have decided to withdraw from publication the Julie Burchill comment piece ‘Transsexuals should cut it out’. The piece was an attempt to explore contentious issues within what had become a highly-charged debate. The Observer is a paper which prides itself on ventilating difficult debates and airing challenging views. On this occasion we got it wrong and in light of the hurt and offence caused I apologise and have made the decision to withdraw the piece. The Observer Readers’ Editor will report on these issues at greater length.”

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It’s been a fairly easy mistake to make… though one little note and this might just be me, but it felt like feminist was being used in a cis-as-default context. There are brilliant trans women who are feminists and brilliant trans-feminists, as Julia Serano, among others, has demonstrated… I know you already knew this, but it does seem to bear mentioning.

Helen McBride

Valerie- thanks so much for the feedback. It certainly is something cis bloggers and journalists need to be more careful of. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

ゆうき けい

Women of the world should already know, that divisiveness hurt ANY movement towards equality. If you have supporters, not matter what their Biology, accept it! Insider attacks only destroy progress. There is more to Sex and Gender than XX and XY chromosomes. There are LOTS of varieties in the world…. such as XXY, XXXY and even XXXXY and XXXXXY sex chromosomes. I know, I have one of those varieties. Its called Intersexed. Neither Male nor Female but BOTH Male and Female. Living Black and white is the way of the Patriarchy. It is obsolete and Oppressive. I am glad there are some that are fighting against their own hate and abusive behavior. The Patriarchy must fall, and Society must evolve because it is going to happen, like it or not.

-Kei Yuuki


I think the problem isn’t class or race or privilege. It’s generational. Especially given that Moore went on a tirade on her twitter about hipster tumblr “girls” and trigger warnings. Apparently any movement associated with anybody under their general age is considered hipster and bullshit. This includes intersectionality which Moore, Moran, and Burchill said they think is bullshit and they don’t believe in. Moore also threw in some racism there with the Brazilian comment in the first place and some religious hatred when she said that transphobia like islamophobia doesn’t even exist. What you have is a lot of older white racist transphobic, sex shaming cis privileged women claiming to be a better alternative than older white racist transphobic sex shaming cis privilege men. I fail to see the difference besides chromosomes. No thank you second wavers. I prefer my revolution actually revolutionary.


There are plenty of dripping cissexists and unidirectional troo believers who are twenty-something. Now their transmisogyny is couched in the language of ‘women and trans’ but it’s no less an attempt to keep the not-so-cis-sisters firmly catgeorized as notquitewomen.

So often a third-waver is just a second-waver who learned to stop saying wh**e and tra**y out loud.


You might be right since I see a lot of othering going on in places like Tumblr but I don’t think it’s done with the maliciousness or callousness it’s done in other people but perception of people is personal so we can disagree on that. I also want to clarify my comment a little. It’s not so much generational gap in age as in ideology. While younger feminists might not really have the self awareness to understand why othering is bad there isn’t this rigid view that they grew up this way and can’t change it. In fact, I’ve seen many a young person say “Hey, I might not be getting this right, and if I’m not, please correct me.” Whereas some people from a different viewpoint have this “well this is what I’ve always known and therefore it doesn’t need to change” attitude. Moore definitely has that. It’s like pride wouldn’t allow her to admit she might need to rethink her views or at least spend some time with trans activists to see a different side. This is just my cis views. I don’t think any of it’s good and I definitely don’t want to play the lesser of two evils game so in short I agree with you there. I’ve seen some of what you say and it’s not good either. I suppose I just have daggers more for women that are spokeswomen for women because they have power where others don’t and they set the standard for better or worse, whether we like it or not, of what is okay and not okay to say about feminism. Moore’s comments and Burchill’s subsequent trans hate speech article gave so much ammunition to transmisogynists because they have the pulpit and the power in a way that some person on a random blog that isn’t well known engaging in it doesn’t. I hope this makes sense. It’s late and I’ve got a paper due I should be working on. haha I appreciate your reply and you’ve given me something to mull over. I might change my mind even.

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