In the media, transphobic discourse has become the norm

If you have turned on your television or opened a newspaper in recent months, from the set of what time of Léa Salamé in the stands of Marianne or Figaro Passing by Karine Le Marchand’s show on M6, there is a subject that comes up tirelessly: that of transidentity. In recent months, and since the controversy surrounding a Planned Parenthood poster showing a pregnant manthe existence of trans people and their rights have become a media topic.

This emergence of a media discourse around trans people has taken place through the transphobic words of personalities such as the activist Marguerite Stern or the influencer and creator of the @Tasjoui account, Dora Moutot. The latter had been invited last October by Léa Salamé on the set of what time in front of Marie Cau, first trans woman elected mayor in France.

“Dora Moutot who goes to Salamé, it gives a rather bitter feeling, sighs Agathe, member of the feminist collective Tous des Femmes, which combines trans and cisgender women in the fight against violence. We see the work we manage to do, the awareness, we try to find allies, and for all that, with certain media, we are only a subject of society. They don’t see the people behind”

Transphobic discourse in the media is not new

For Karine Espineira, sociologist of the media, “the trans question has been approached differently for forty years, often in awkwardness and ignorance of the subject”. She sees a significant evolution at the end of the 2000s, when LGBTQ + associations or trans people are becoming more professional, particularly in the field of health or the claim of rights such as the facilitation of change of civil status for people who are transitioning. “The media have begun to take stock of the claims, the vocabulary and the questions have evolved”.

But for three years, the rise of conservative and reactionary speeches in UK and in the United States is also being felt in France. “The fear of transitions, the focus on detransitions, anti-abortion laws in the United States… There are many Anglo-Saxon moral panics that are happening in France too, explains Rita, who is part of XY Media. Trans people are a vulnerable social group, whose media coverage is very recent: the conservatives fed the most at that time. »

If transphobic discourse in the media is not new, its figureheads, like Dora Moutot, are not new either. “Marguerite Stern or Dora Moutot, they have been saying the same thing for three years,” insists Agathe from Tous des Femmes. She notably evokes the controversies in 2020 around the documentary Little girl by Sebastien Lifshitz, excerpts of which have been picked up by the far right online; or even the Little Mermaid Observatory, a Franco-Belgian lobby that wants to ban any medical transition for minors. “All this discourse comes after those of the Manif pour Tous and the movements against “gender theories” at school. It is one of the many avatars of this reactionary galaxy which is renewing itself and which is finding new angles of attack to advance their ideas,” adds the activist from Tous des Femmes.

Especially since, as Karine Espineira explains, “the people who carry these messages have access to a lot of media which offer them forums without taking the measure of what has been said”. One thinks in particular of the platform of Marguerite Stern and Dora Moutot, published in Marianne on August 22, challenging Elisabeth Borne : “Feminists, we are worried about what becomes of Family Planning” could we read there.

The multiplication of transphobic productions carried by arguments and a reactionary vocabulary

Beyond the stands and sets, transphobia is spreading on social networks, in particular through the proliferation of “independent documentaries”, most of which use the image of trans people without their consent and surf on certain conspiracy theories promoted by the extreme right. Bad gender – a global epidemic on Dragon Bleu TV, was directed by Sophie Robert, and Trans: gender confusion by youtuber Amélie Menu, was recently broadcast on the new media close to Russia, Omerta. Some transidentity experts, including Karine Espineira, were tricked by Amélie Menu, as explained Stop on Images.

According to Agathe from Tous des Femmes, “this production of documentaries would not exist if there were no other networks to support it: all the newspapers that publish these forums provide resources and visibility on these subjects- the “. Of Marianne to Figaro Vox passing by Current Valuestransphobic speech is uninhibited.

Among the arguments mobilized by the anti-trans movements, we find the idea of ​​“great replacement with a transphobic sauce, with the fear that women will be erased” quotes Agathe. This is particularly the one mobilized by Dora Moutot and Marguerite Stern, who aim to exclude trans women from feminist movements.

But above all, the argument that comes up tirelessly is that of child protection, as during the period of the Manif pour Tous or the ABCD of equality carried by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem under the five year term of Francois Hollande. “The arguments around children are easy to use for misinformation, and have been the entry point to create a moral panic, explains Karine Espineira. On the issue of puberty blockers, for example, false information has been disseminated, without verification. »

Excerpts from the documentary Little girl by Sébastien Lifshitz have thus been taken out of context and used to prove a mutilation of children via gender transitions, and this from childhood. Karine Espiniera also denounces the use of a whole vocabulary from reactionary spheres. “All this vocabulary is dramatic, it is not questioned. We talk about the “trans lobby” or “rapid dysphoria”, but what are the sources?” Especially since by making their way through the media space, these ideas put people in danger outside the small screen.

A “misunderstanding of trans lives” that kills

But then, why doesn’t the media invite more trans people to talk about the issues that concern them? For Rita, of XY Media, there are several reasons: “Already, a question of class: when you are trans, it is sometimes more complicated to speak. In addition, there is a very sexualizing aspect and an unhealthy curiosity towards trans people. Finally, quite simply, there is transphobia which dehumanizes the people concerned, as if trans people were separate entities, the existence of which would be in dispute”.

For Karine Espineira, there would be a fear on the part of the media of the word of the concerned. “It would be less credible than that of someone from the outside. We go beyond medical or legal issues: when we talk about political issues, we have the impression that the voices of those concerned are necessarily militant,” she explains. But above all, “we are not invited” adds the sociologist of the media, or else the invitation is made in opposition to openly transphobic people. “There is a real misunderstanding of trans lives,” adds Agathe from Tous des Femmes. However, many associations such as the Association of LGBTI Journalists (AJL) have been warning for several years about this media treatment, even lavishing resources to inform without discrimination.

Especially since these transphobic words relayed in the media have real consequences on the lives of the people concerned. “Personally, by dint of being described as a form of constant threat, it plays a lot on anxiety. There is a whole range of transphobic acts, from embarrassment to verbal or physical abuse. This leads us to block ourselves in what we would have the right to have and to expect from life” testifies Agathe.

These remarks can also play a major role in the accompaniment of the youngest trans people by their families. “It panics the parents, it hits on self-esteem, it prevents good support for children”, recalls Karine Espineira. The trans community, more precarious and isolated, is then more exposed to the risk of suicide. “These words are dangerous and risk leading to this in the medium term” warns the media sociologist.

On November 20, as every year, Trans Remembrance Day commemorated the victims of transphobia. According to the report of Trans Murder Monitoring, between October 2021 and October 2022, at least 327 trans people were killed worldwide, a figure surely underestimated. These commemorations took place the day after the shooting of Colorado Springs, which took away five people and injured ten others. Among the victims, a trans woman, Kelly Loving; and a 28-year-old trans man, Daniel Aston.

In the media, transphobic discourse has become the norm