Updated 22 April 2017:
ABC’s #QandA producers have done it again, inviting notorious transphobe Germaine Greer to appear – yet again – on next Monday night’s episode.
In fact, Ms Greer’s appearance will be, at least, the third since the below post was written about the International Women’s Day episode in March 2015 (with other appearances in April 2016 and September 2016).
The frequent promotion by our national broadcaster of someone whose repugnant views about transgender people should be ignored rather than indulged is galling.
Importantly, Greer has already been given – and used – the opportunity of appearing on #QandA to ‘clarify’ her views on gender identity, but chose instead to continue her attacks on transgender people.
On the 11 April 2016 episode, Ms Greer deliberately mis-gendered Caitlyn Jenner, commenting that:
“I don’t believe that a man who has lived for 40 years as a man and had children with a woman and enjoyed the services, the unpaid services of a wife, which most women will never know, that he then decides that the whole time he’s been a woman, and at that point I’d like to say, “Hang on a minute, “you believed you were a woman, but you married another woman. “That wasn’t fair, was it?””
Here’s a hint Germaine – because you seem to be a bit slow on the uptake – Caitlyn Jenner is a woman, whether you like it or not (and it certainly appears to be the latter).
She even returned to the subject, later in the conversation, to take on a hypothetical middle-aged trans person, saying:
“If you’re a 50-year-old- truck driver who’s had four children with a wife and you decide that the whole time you’ve been a woman, I think you’re probably wrong.”
Imagine, for a second, that statement being made about another social group, say Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or Jewish people, or Muslim people – that, despite what you say you are, despite your fundamental identity, I will assert that your identity is incorrect. In effect, I will tell you that the person you say you are doesn’t exist.
This erasure wouldn’t be accepted – and it shouldn’t be accepted in relation to transgender and non-binary gender diverse people, either.
It’s time for Ms Greer to be taken off the speed dial list for ABC’s #QandA producers, and for her to be replaced by a feminist who is capable of accepting life in the 21st century. There is absolutely no shortage from which to choose.
Original Post 8 March 2015 (previous title: My Question to Tony Jones, Annabelle Crabb, #QandA Producers, Mark Scott & The ABC):
On Monday March 9th 2015, the ABC’s Q&A program will hold its first ever all-female show, to align with International Women’s Day (which is today, Sunday March 8).
There have actually been Q&A’s with all-female guests before – although they still featured Tony Jones as host, whereas tomorrow night Annabel Crabb will be moderating the conversation.
This is of course a welcome development, especially given the ongoing under-representation of women in political life in Australia, nowhere more than around the federal Cabinet table (with one of the two women currently in Cabinet, the Hon Julie Bishop MP, also a guest tomorrow night).
It’s just such a shame that it is undermined by the inclusion of Germaine Greer as a panellist.
Don’t get me wrong, Ms Greer was one of the most influential Australians of the 20th century, and her academic and public work on feminism, and improving the situation of women around the world, should be, indeed must be, respected.
Unfortunately, her views on gender identity, and in particular surrounding issues of transgender identity, have steadfastly refused to enter the 21st century. She has been, and remains, a vocal and unapologetic transphobe.
And it is this transphobia which, I believe, makes her an unsuitable guest for Q&A. It is my firm view that the ABC more generally, and Q&A specifically, should not be giving a platform to someone whose opinions are so abhorrent.
Now, that might seem like an extreme statement. Until you recognise that her comments about transgender people, and trans-women in particular, are far more extreme.
For example, in her 1999 book, The Whole Woman, Ms Greer wrote:
“Governments that consist of very few women have hurried to recognise as women men who believe that they are women and have had themselves castrated to prove it, because they see women not as another sex but as a non-sex.”
“No so-called sex-change has ever begged for a uterus-and-ovaries transplant; if uterus-and-ovaries transplants were made mandatory for wannabe women they would disappear overnight. The insistence that man-made women be accepted as women is the institutional expression of the mistaken conviction that women are defective males.”
Proving that it is possible to learn nothing about a subject in 10 years, Ms Greer wrote the following for The Guardian in 2009:
“Nowadays we are all likely to meet people who think they are women, have women’s names, and feminine clothes and lots of eyeshadow, who seem to us to be some kind of ghastly parody, though it isn’t polite to say so. We pretend that all the people passing for female really are. Other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusion that he is female.”
In 2015, another six years having passed, and yet Ms Greer still doesn’t seem to be any the wiser about transgender issues. Delivering a public lecture at Cambridge University in January, she returned to her discriminatory ways.
According to the Huffington Post, transphobia itself became a target of her speech:
“Women are 51% of the world’s population and [I’ve been told] I’ve got to worry about transphobia… I didn’t know there was such a thing [as transphobia]. Arachnophobia, yes. Transphobia, no.”
Perhaps in an effort to single-handedly demonstrate that transphobia does exist, Ms Greer also repeated her 2009 view that it was a ‘delusion’ to describe the wish of ‘men to become women’, and “suggested that trans women do not know what it is to “have a big, hairy, smelly vagina.””.
And “[s]he further argued that the surgical procedures and medical treatments associated with transitioning are “unethical” because they “remove healthy tissue and create lifelong dependence on medicine.””.
So there we have (at least) three examples, spread across 16 years, of someone who actively belittles and demeans one group within the community simply because of who they are.
Imagine for a second that she (or indeed any potential Q&A guest) made similar comments about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or Jewish people. That they questioned these groups’ ‘authenticity’, called them ‘delusional’ or ‘ghastly parodies’, at the same time as suggesting that racism, or anti-Semitism, were not in fact all-too-real phenomena.
Would the ABC nevertheless go ahead and book them for this program, effectively providing them with a platform for their bigoted views? I expect (and sincerely hope) that they would not.
Which indicates, or at least strongly implies, that the ABC does not consider transphobia to be as serious an issue as racism, or anti-Semitism, or other forms of discrimination.
What makes the decision to invite Germaine Greer onto the program even worse is that she has already appeared, on multiple occasions (and on one of her previous appearances hardly covered herself in glory, in March 2012 disrespecting then Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard MP, by telling her “Face it Julia, you have a fat arse…”)
Are the producers seriously suggesting that a panel of five guests (plus host Annabel Crabb) could not be filled with intelligent and talented women without having to invite a notorious transphobe back for a repeat performance?
The fact that they have done so is, I believe, a serious failure of judgment.
Of course, writing this as a cisgender gay man I am exposing myself to potential criticism, that somehow I am being anti-feminist (for daring to criticise the ‘right’ of someone like Ms Greer to appear).
But I am comfortable enough to know that a) that’s not true and b) that it is more important to stand up for the rights of all of the members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.
And it is not as if I am alone in making such criticisms. Author Roxane Gay, who is herself appearing on Monday night’s Q&A, had the following to say in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald:
“I think she’s [Germaine Greer’s] bigoted and full of hate. She doesn’t acknowledge transgender women as women. That’s not acceptable. I honestly don’t know why she’s being included. I think it’s going to be uncomfortable.”
I too don’t know why Germaine Greer is being included on tomorrow night’s show. So, in the long tradition of Q&A, I would like to submit the following question:
My question is to Tony Jones, Annabel Crabb, #QandA Producers, Mark Scott and the ABC: Why do you consider it acceptable to provide a public platform for a transphobe like Germaine Greer? Or, in other words, why do you believe transphobia is less offensive than racism or anti-Semitism?
I would love for them (rather than the other guests) to provide a response to this, although I have to say I am not holding my breath.
One final thing. As I noted at the beginning, while this is the first all-female show, it is not the first all-female panel. And there have been other panels looking at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues, and one program looking specifically at HIV (held during AIDS2014 in Melbourne).
Perhaps a future Q&A could be devoted to LGBTI issues. With five guests, that means there could be at least one lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex person each appearing (noting of course individuals can be more than one of these).
Such a show would go some way towards demonstrating that the LGBTI community is about more than just marriage equality, and that there is also an incredible amount of diversity, both in experience and opinions, within our ranks.
There are a large number of opportunities for such a panel during the year, not only during the (just completed) Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, but possibly even later in 2015 to celebrate 40 years of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in South Australia (the first Australian state to do so). So, Q&A, how about it?
Update 22 April 2017: Later in 2015, #QandA producers actually did stage a program focusing on LGBTI issues. Hosted by gay comedian Tom Ballard, it followed a screening of the documentary Between a Frock and a Hard Place, looking back at the success of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
The panel for the ‘#QandGay’ included:
Gay rights activist and author Dennis Altman
Entertainer Paul Capsis
Broadcaster and journalist Julie McCrossin
Christian Democratic Party MP Fred Nile
Transgender woman Julia Doulman and
Student and queer activist Katherine Hudson.
That’s right, not content on including notorious transphobe Germaine Greer on the International Women’s Day episode, #QandA producers apparently believed that a discussion about the progress of LGBTI rights in Australia required the input of notorious homophobe Fred Nile. I guess, based on that logic, the next panel to focus on issues about race will include a neo-Nazi. You know, for balance…