Two news organisations that described a self-confessed transgender woman as a transgender woman have been found to be in breach of Australian Press Council standards for doing so.

After years of fighting for recognition, it appears the use of “transgender” as a descriptor is only allowed in certain circumstances – and certainly not in the accurate reporting of criminal activity.

The Press Council has deemed it “could contribute to substantial prejudice against transgender people”.  That’s like suggesting that describing a suspect as a “man” is prejudicial against all men? Or describing someone as a “mother” casts a slur on all mothers?

In a move that clearly advocates self-censorship by the media, the Press Council found that both The Daily Mail and were in breach of their standards when reporting on a news story on the alleged manslaughter of her boyfriend by Jade Walker, a transgender woman.

The Australian reports:

“Both publications argued Ms Walker had publicly described herself as transgender and that the references were not used extensively or in a demeaning manner. They said the description was factually accurate and helped to establish her identity for readers.

In two similar rulings, the council accepted she had publicly stated on social media she was transgender, but “considered that it was not relevant to the alleged criminal acts”. “Although it provided some further identification of the woman, it was not necessary to do so,” the rulings said. 

While the council found the articles were reasonably fair and balanced, it said identifying her as transgender “could contribute to substantial prejudice against transgender people”. It said both publications breached General Principle 6 which require publications to avoid causing substantial offence, distress or prejudice unless it is in the public interest.”

It seems that, just in the same way some police departments have self-censored the physical description of suspects that could be identified on the basis of race, now the use of the term transgender is not allowed in the reporting of criminal activity.

This is clearly an attempt to force restrictions on the use of legitimate descriptors by the press. editor-in-chief Kate de Brito described it as a form of censorship:

"She said her news site had three active Press Council complaints regarding its use of the word. It had received numerous complaints over its description of convicted 7-Eleven axe attacker Evie Amati as transgender, even though this fact played a “significant part in court proceedings”.

She said her organisation had educated its reporters to be sensitive to these concerns.

De Brito said she took “exception to the idea” publications were censored from using the word transgender, “knowing that doing so will bring down the judgment of the Press Council and the lengthy, time-consuming process involved in representing ourselves in these adjudications”. 

This is clearly a deliberate move to censor the press in order to ensure that “unfavourable” stories are not allowed to intrude on the positive narrative of identity politics (even if they are accurate). 

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