Trans Writers Union share why they are boycotting Irish Times

The newspaper has been the subject of huge backlash due to 'anti-trans platforming' in its content.

A pen lying across an empty writing pad

The Trans Writers Union share why they are boycotting the Irish Times.

We at the Trans Writers Union are boycotting the Irish Times. We will not write for, pay for, nor read the Irish Times until these demands have been met. We as writers will not add prestige or financial support to a paper publishing anti-trans rhetoric, and we urge others to refuse with us.

Our demands include:

  1. The Irish Times withdraw and apologise for their recent conversion therapy article, published August 9, 2021.
  2. The Irish Times take practical, committed steps to adopting a trans-inclusive editorial line.

The decision we made on August 21 to boycott the Irish Times was both easy and difficult. We are a relatively young organisation, many of us emerging writers, employed in the gig economy or not at all, and not established enough to have any real power within Irish literature. For these reasons it was easy to announce the boycott, as we were not writing for the Irish Times, or having work reviewed in their culture pages. Many of us don’t read the Irish Times anymore because of their anti-trans platforming. 

And yet, this paper that we abstain from continues to devalue us. It has moved our existence onto an abstract playing field, one in which we cease to be living breathing people, and instead become fodder for cis people to debate and toy with. It does not matter that many people complain or end their subscription, it does not matter how many people are upset on Twitter. The paper continues to platform those who claim to be speaking on our behalf, to speak over us, about our healthcare which is withheld from us and demonised by the state and the media. All of this made it easy to decide to boycott the paper, as no other methods were working or having an effect. 

Most of all, however, it was easy to boycott the Irish Times because we actively and absolutely condemn any kind of conversion therapy, as writers, as trans people, as gay people. We do not accept a literary landscape where conversion therapy is implictly supported by any writers or readers, and we condemn a literary landscape where these issues are ignored, and propped up by the silence of writers and publishers. 

The boycott was hard to announce because we were taking several risks at once: that we would be blacklisted from the Irish arts, that nobody would sign with us, and that we would be discovered by those who are vehemently anti-trans. When the Trans Writers Union last complained about something publicly (a transphobic review neglecting to mention the pseudoscience and failed methodology of Abigail Shrier’s latest book), we were subject to almost a week of threats and abuse online, and quoted by Shrier to her tens of thousands of right-wing and anti-trans followers. 

It is plain to see the reason trans people do not speak up or ask to be treated well; you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. But as with anything worth doing, the risks were worth taking. 

For the past few years, the Irish Times has been platforming an anti-trans ethos, (articles from 26/01/19, 17/03/2021, 09/08/21; Letters to the editor 13/03/21, 30/06/21). Beyond allies and trans people on Twitter, nobody was talking about it. We watched hateful rhetoric emerge every few weeks, growing more and more unsure of who to trust, as the majority of Irish writers watched and said nothing. 

Trans people live fearful and hypervigilant lives as it is, as we do not know when someone will be violently opposed to us, or disgusted by us. Many of us have been experiencing and trying to understand this for our entire lives, as transphobia can be as dangerous when implicit as when explicit. 

The truth is: trans people have been treated like they are either dangerous, gross, or simply do not fit, for a very long time. We as trans writers have a right to know if our colleagues are opposed to our existence, we have a right to know if those we write and create alongside are happy to watch us be treated as subhuman. We have a right to count on those who do support us, those like the Fringe artists boycotting in solidarity, amounting to almost 50% of the Fringe programme. We have a right to know what editors and presses we can safely work with, as we have a right to a life free of unnecessary violence and bigotry, the same as anyone else. 

A boycott is not a major action, but it has major resonance – from now on, we at least know that fearful silence is not our only option.

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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