For a quarter of a century, on and off, Melbourne’s “quality” daily newspaper The Age not only published my words — it was my intellectual home.
About two years ago, my harmonious relationship with the paper began to deteriorate. The tension reached its climax last week when the editor, Patrick Elligett, sacked me as a columnist. The breakdown in trust was down to one issue: gender-identity politics, the trans debate — or severe lack thereof.
While the controversy attracts regular coverage in Australia’s Murdoch-owned press, it remains taboo in the progressive media, where the “no-debate”, “the science is settled” mantras are consistently reinforced by stories of young people blossoming post-transition. The worst offender is the ABC, Australia’s equivalent of the BBC. The public broadcaster has even been rebuked by its own Media Watch programme for failing to report on the closure of the NHS’s scandal-hit gender clinic for children in England and Wales, the Tavistock; and for its partnership with Australia’s Stonewall equivalent, Acon, on the grounds it could lead to “perceptions of bias in coverage, or bias itself”.
In August, I learned that a detransitioner in Sydney — who had had testosterone treatment, as well as a mastectomy and hysterectomy before re-identifying with her birth sex — was suing her psychiatrist for negligence. The Age and stablemate The Sydney Morning Herald were keen on the story. Once again, the editing process was hell.
The following day, the mood in the newsroom was described to me as “edgy”. The day after that, the paper published a letter to the editor accusing me of “transphobic rhetoric.”
The editors were, in part, trying to save me from myself. I was told they didn’t want me to end up “a Suzanne Moore” — a reference to The Guardian columnist martyred after her colleagues waged a campaign against “transphobic” content. And yet, just as The Guardian had done, The Age invited an LGBTQI+ organisation to address the newsroom about avoiding “harm” in their reporting on trans issues.
I went on sulk leave.
On my return, by which time Elligett had taken over as editor, I found the de facto gag order still in force. The state of Queensland was ushering through Parliament a gender self-ID bill similar to Scotland’s Gender Recognition Act, at roughly the same time that a doomed Nicola Sturgeon was tying herself in knots over whether a two-time trans-identified rapist — initially housed in the female prison estate, post-conviction — was “a woman”. (The bill was passed last week to the usual triumphal reporting.)
Similar legislation. Identical propaganda lines. And here, also, violent sex offenders were being sent to female prisons. I was told no. There was no “news trigger”.