Relentlessly conservative, The Herald Sun is the Murdoch newspaper in the Australian state of Victoria, with the largest circulation paper of any daily in the country. On 29 May 2015 it ran an article called The transgender conversation we had to have (paywall, title slightly changed online). Transwoman Marco Fink, it tells us, “used to envy the girls at primary school, their freedom to wear dresses and express their femininity”. It approvingly cites Roz Ward, a co-ordinator of Safe Schools Victoria, who “says transgender adults recall childhood experiences of being forced to wear a dress or of having all their sister’s dolls removed from the house to stop them playing with them. ‘Now if you ask any specialist in the transgender field they would say that is really damaging to a child’s health and wellbeing,’ she says.” So as well as handcuffing femaleness to femininity, the article positions trans specialists as the definitive or only people with something to say on the issue of discontent with sex stereotypes. There is nothing special about this article, and that is the point. It simply exemplifies the outpouring of support for gender ideology in the Australian and British newspapers. Research from Transgender Trend demonstrates that the print media in Britain consistently popularised the idea that children could be born into the wrong body and used this to explain their discontent with sex stereotypes.
What some of these same newspapers object to is transgender activists’ links to the political Left and identity politics, as previously discussed on this blog. While the Murdoch Herald Sun cited Roz Ward’s authority to promote gender identity, Murdoch’s national flagship, The Australian, later campaigned for her to be sacked from Safe Schools, essentially because she was in a far Left group. Another Murdoch paper made an explicit if half-hearted attempts to separate gender ideology from identity politics, highlighting the attack on queer theory by a prominent conservative transwoman, Catherine McGregor.
This approach is too stiff-necked for most of the capitalist class which treats identity politics as minor irritant, or something that can be entirely incorporated via stories around same-sex celebrities and “confronting” fashion shows.