Mirandagate: why the BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ pulled trans debate


Last night, I was asked to appear on Newsnight in a debate surrounding the decision by Frank Maloney to tell the world that she now wishes to be known as Kellie Maloney. The piece is on the Daily Mirror website.

When I arrived at the studio, the producer advised me that the two other speakers, Fred McConnell and Paris Lees, had elected to boycott the show. Here are their tweets explaining why they decided to do this:

This is what Ian Katz, the editor of the show, had to say:

Or to put it another way:

I feel very sad that the debate was cancelled because Fred (a transman) and Paris (another transwoman) were unwilling to speak with me. This was a great opportunity to show the country (and the world) that there is intelligent debate to be had around trans issues, and communicate some of the complex ideas and issues that exist within our community to a wider audience. And there would have been three trans people having the debate.

I had prepared some notes in the 90 minutes I was home yesterday (and in that time I managed to shower, do a shop, feed and cuddle my cats and actually have some dinner). Here are the notes, which in something rougher than sketch form set out the debate I would have argued, and these are the three points I wished to bring to the table:

  1. Kellie’s choice to do this is her own personal decision. I know from first-hand experience what a hard road it is to go through this process, and I wish her all happiness for the rest of her life: good on her. It is important that people can lead their lives how they want to, allowing them to exercise their own freedoms. It is very progressive that people can do what they want, and I support this.
  2. In the Daily Mirror piece, Kellie speaks of ‘being born in the wrong body’ and says that she has ‘always known I was a woman’. This raises the question, what does it mean to be a woman? Is Kellie saying that she has a ‘woman’s brain’? What are the implications of asserting that one has a ‘female brain’ for women as a class?
  3. Women are socialised as female, and men as male: if men and women were socialised in the same way, we’d all just be humans! This is an idea at the heart of feminism. At what point does someone who has been socialised as a male, which is a violent socialisation, lay claim to womanhood, lay claim to the places society reserves for women, like toilets, changing rooms? The demand for unrestricted access to female spaces, spaces that exist for the dignity, comfort and protection of women, concerns me greatly. I am not saying that all men are violent, being masculine is not innate (just like being feminine is not innate) and so male violence is not innate.

These are just three points for debate about what it means to be trans. It saddens me we are unable to have this discussion, it sends out the message that the trans community is so uncertain of itself that we are unable to analyse ourselves. This has got to be fundamentally wrong.

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