Cis man makes offensive “joke” then complains about consequent police warning

March 30, 2009

tg_black-on_pink_100x107Via the Daily Telegraph (link here) comes a story of offensive cluelessness on the part of pretty much all concerned – including the journalist.

A Conservative councillor claims he was questioned by police for two hours after making a light hearted comment in response to a question about transexuals.

First display of cluelessness. Why only a single ‘s’ in ‘transexuals’ (sic)?

Jonathan Yardley, 48, was told there had been a complaint about his remark and was asked if he was homophobic or had made a “hate comment”.

He had been chairing a quarterly meeting arranged by West Midlands Police at which members of the public can discuss crime.

It started with a presentation with members of the audience given a handset to allow them to select answers to questions flashed up on a screen.

A police authority worker who was acting as presenter then told them: “Let’s start with an easy question to get us going: Press A if you’re male or B if you’re female.”

Second display of cluelessness.

Why was it necessary to open a public meeting about crime with a question about gender identification? A question which assumes that all present are binary identified?

One member of the audience in Wolverhamtpon responded by asking: “What if you’re transgendered?”

Mr Yardley, a quantity surveyor, who is married with a 13 year old daughter, said: “I quipped that you could press A and B together. There was much laughter.”

Third display of cluelessness. Epic, offensive cluelessness.

Unbeknown to him there was a man dressed as a woman in the audience whose male partner had raised the question.

Fourth display of cluelessness, the second from the journalist – an essentialist assumption passed off as factual reportage. “A man dressed as a woman”? What does that even mean – and how would the journalist know anyway?

Mr Yardley, Wolverhampton city council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and safer communities, said: “Several days later a complaint of homophobia was made. I was asked to go to the local police station, questioned for two hours by a sergeant and an inspector and let off with a warning.

Homophobia, yes. Transphobia, too, it seems.

“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. They explained the legal process and what had happened and how the complaint had been made and they said I could be subject to a civil prosecution.

“There are much more important issues that the police should be spending their time on. I have so much trouble with crime and anti-social behaviour in my ward. I’m not homophobic, I just said it as a joke. It’s a sign of the times we live in, you can’t make jokes any more.”

Fifth display of cluelessness, and a special guest appearance by the “political correctness gone mad” faction. Kai Chang deconstructed that particular meme with style and aplomb a long time ago. Mr Yardley would do well to read it – The Greatest Cliché: The Unexamined Propaganda of “Political Correctness” (link here)

Because, you see, Mr Yardley, you can make jokes. But it helps if they’re (a) not at the expense of an already marginalised minority and, (b) amusing. Unless you actually want people to think of you as an ignorant bigot, of course.

This whole story exemplifies the almost subliminal and systemic transphobia to which trans people are routinely subjected, day in, day out. “Jokes” like Mr Yardley’s are every bit as hurtful and offensive as all the other forms of hate speech spat at us by small-minded bigots everywhere, every time we have the temerity to enter any space predominantly occupied by cis people.

“A joke”, you say, Mr Yardley? Well, I ain’t laughing.

5 Responses to “Cis man makes offensive “joke” then complains about consequent police warning”

  1. Ruth Moss Says:

    What fucking arseholes both Yardley and the journalist who wrote this crap are.

  2. queen emily Says:

    Yeah, I’m willing to bet a million imaginary dollars their “man dressed as a woman” was a trans woman.

    And yes, it’s amazing how journalists almost always mirror transphobia when they report stories. Cos they don’t get transness either, the “natual” inclination is to identify with whatever cis viewpoint is going.

    Bonus points for PC gone bad wankery though.

  3. Aishwarya Says:

    Whenever I read PC-gone-mad stories I have the sinister music from Jaws in my head.

  4. Cedar Says:

    re: the spelling “transexual,” that’s actually a matter where reasonable people disagree. Some people believe that spelling it with one s is a means of reclaiming it from medicalized two-s spelling. Of course, the fact of the matter is that both spellings originated from different medical factions, and one-s was John Money’s faction (I don’t remember who two-s was), so I’m not really believing that it’s helpful. But that doesn’t change the fact that one doesn’t have to be clueless to spell it that way.

    And, yeah, gross. I have to say that I’m not super comfortable with state involvement in the definition of transphobic–in that this article, hell most trans news articles, and that ad campaign w/ the you-don’t-want-to-look-like-THAT-do-you are as or more offensive than his comment, and I doubt there’d be state involvement there…


  5. […] Cis man makes offensive “joke” then complains about consequent police warning "This whole story exemplifies the almost subliminal and systemic transphobia to which trans people are routinely subjected, day in, day out. “Jokes” like Mr Yardley’s are every bit as hurtful and offensive as all the other forms of hate speech spat at us by small-minded bigots everywhere, every time we have the temerity to enter any space predominantly occupied by cis people. […]


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