Friday, September 18

A question of style, a question of rights

I've never took a peek at The Telegraph's style guide. I owned a copy of the Times version and wrote to the Guardian one at university but I haven't seen The Telegraph's.

I wonder though. Does it say, like the others I've seen, that when referring to people that you should always use their preferred gender? Is that rule and it's been broken here or haven't they got a shred of humanity at all?

The headline is 'Boy, 12, is having sex change, school announces' the actual story is that the School called an Assembly to tell the students this girl must be treated like a girl.

Or, as the Telegraph would spin it, that this school is forcing kids to be accepting and understanding without first informing the parents. In their own words now:

'the boy...was immediately taunted by classmates who recognised him from primary school.

'As a result, the 1,000-pupil school in south east England decided to call an emergency assembly ordering children to treat him as a girl and use his new name' [emphasis mine]

Way to go Telegraph. You can't even show the same understanding that we're expecting of twelve year olds.

And let's face it we should be expecting this of them. The question isn't whether these kids are old enough to understand gender identity in the most basic of terms (or, rather, if their parents are) but whether they are old enough to show someone basic common decency.

Whether they are old enough to know that we shouldn't persecute people for not being 100%, certified normal.

To suggest that this girl should put up with - as The Telegraph lightly puts it- taunting because parents think their children might find the concept of her existence a bit difficult is more than a little bigoted. Not to mention completely crap.

So well done to this school and to this girl and her parents and to the kids who, and I'm sure they existed, were more accepting. Screw you Telegraph.

And no, I couldn't bring myself to search for the original Sun coverage. I'm just going to assume that it would anger me.


Mike said...

Clare, you are incorrect in your analysis.

The headline and story must, in necessity of fact, refer to a boy who is to have a sex change. Regardless of any issues of gender identification, this is the fact. A child, currently male, is to (at a future date) undergo operations to change his gender to female.

If the headline stated "Girl, 12, is having sex change, school announces" then the facts of the matter would have changed. It matters not whether you like the reporting, but it must be reported this way: he is currently a boy; to call him a girl would mislead.

Clare said...

I generally don't bother quibbling over headlines. The fact of the matter is that they are often not representative of the story, not written by the same person, and a styled purely to grab attention.

And honestly that isn't what bothers me here.

What bothers me here is the story itself contradicts both best practice and plain decency in it's reference to a boy.

Somebody who lives as a girl should be referred too as a girl. To refuse to denies her the power to define herself.

This isn't about clarity. You can change sentences, mention that she was born male. This is about comfort.

And putting the comfort of the reader above the rights of the subject isn't very nice.

Which, oddly enough, I said in the post.