The editor of the Kentish Gazette newspaper and a reporter on the 300-year-old newspaper could face the sack after being suspended over a column which the paper said got transgender issues “badly wrong”.
The Harry Bell column, which uses a pseudonym to cover topics in a more informal way, singled out a “very obvious transperson” in Canterbury in an apparent attempt to tackle trans issues.
Editor Bob Bounds and reporter Alex Claridge are understood to be facing disciplinary proceedings as a result of the piece, which could lead to their compulsory dismissals.
The column ran in the 5 October edition of the weekly title, which is owned by the Kent Messenger (KM) Group – itself bought out by Iliffe Media earlier this year.
The piece began by claiming a convicted male rapist who now self-identified as a woman had begun “making sexual advances towards women” after being moved to a woman’s prison.
It went on to say: “One argument advanced by such people is that they have women’s brains, but are in men’s bodies.
“In Canterbury there’s a very obvious transperson. Well, I say transperson, but it’s just a bloke with a feminine haircut who wears women’s clothing.
“With that in mind I conducted a little experiment. I showed a picture of this person – I happen to know his name – to five women aged between 23 and 71 and asked them what they thought.
“Each correctly said they were looking at a man. Four out of five said something even more telling: that he has no idea of how to dress as a woman.
“In other words, to their minds, he does not possess what could be recognisably called a feminine brain.”
The column (reported in full below) was shared on the Canterbury Pride group Facebook page. The group, which represents the LGBT+ community, said it was “shocked and saddened” to see it in their local newspaper.
It said it would be writing in to complain about the piece and encouraged others to do the same.
In the following week’s edition the Gazette issued an apology and devoted its letters page to responses to the column. It said: “The Gazette has come in for heavy criticism over the publication of last week’s Harry Bell column, which included an item about transgender issues.
“When you get things wrong, the best course of action is to hold your hands up and say sorry. Last week’s column did get it wrong – badly wrong.
“We feel it is appropriate to dedicate our letters pages to the many messages we have had criticising the comments contained in the article.
“Harry Bell has never purported to be the Voice of the Gazette, nor to represent the views of anyone other than the author. However, we must take responsibility for providing the platform for such opinions to be aired.
“Over the course of its long history, the Gazette has prided itself on fighting for the community it serves. That includes all those who help make the Canterbury area such a diverse and wonderful place to live.
“Over the coming weeks we will be attempting to rebuild links with those upset by last week’s column and will ensure we learn from our mistake.”
The Harry Bell column in full (5 October 2017):
The dismal world of identity politics has been all about trans rights this year – essentially the right of people, despite their biology, to identify as another gender.
This is turns out, means that political parties driven made by their obsessions for sex quotas need no longer have all-women shortlists since all a man need do to get on one is identify as a woman.
And why not? After all, in America a female boxer was battered by a male boxer who identifies as a woman. So no problems there, then.
Over here, meanwhile, we have been able to go one madder. A 50-year-old rapist, Martin Pointing, decided he was a her called Jessica Winfield and asked to be moved to a women’s prison.
The authorities complied, natch, so afraid are they of upsetting the noisy trans lobby. They moved him to HMP Bronzefield, the female prison in Surrey, where he promptly began making sexual advances towards women. Again, nil problemo, clearly.
One argument advanced by such people is that they have women’s brains, but are in men’s bodies.
In Canterbury there’s a very obvious transperson. Well, I say transperson, but it’s just a bloke with a feminine haircut who wears women’s clothing.
With that in mind I conducted a little experiment. I showed a picture of this person – I happen to know his name – to five women aged between 23 and 71 and asked them what they thought.
Each correctly said they were looking at a man. Four out of five said something even more telling: that he has no idea of how to dress as a woman. In other words, to their minds, he does not possess what could be recognisably called a feminine brain.
It’s here, therefore, that it seems impossible to disagree with Germaine Greer when she says that dressing up as a woman and calling yourself one does not actually make you one.