A student petition, protesting an allegedly “transphobic” and “dehumanising” article published by The Sun, has gathered more than 24,000 signatures in five days.
Wadham student Rowan Davis, a Trans Rep at the University’s LGBTQ Society, launched the petition calling on David Dinsmore, editor of The Sun, to apologise for publishing comments made by columnist Rod Liddle, in which he asked how blind and transgender parliamentary candidate Emily Brothers “knew she was the wrong sex”.
The petition states: “By reducing [Emily Brothers] down to her blindness and transness, Liddle has contributed to the dehumanisation and oppression of trans people and those with disabilities, and has helped to uphold ableist and transphobic norms in politics.”
Brothers is standing as a Labour candidate for the Sutton and Cheam constituency in 2015, and is hoping to become Britain’s first openly transgender MP.
Commenting on the petition, Rowan Davis remarked: “With every growing movement there is backlash. As people like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock gain more and more positive media attention, it is unsurprising that reactionary newspapers such as The Sun respond with hatred.”
Davis, a second-year Biology student, continued: “Good journalism requires editors to be responsible for the actions of their staff and the petition was made to reflect that. However, transphobia won’t be eradicated through petitions alone, and as such we must combat this systemic oppression across the board.”
Rod Liddle, the Sun journalist who wrote the article, apologised in a statement on Friday for his “poor joke”, stating: “I wish Emily the very best and I would definitely vote for her if I lived in Sutton and Cheam.”
Liddle has previously faced allegations of misogyny by Tanya Gold in The Guardian after writing in an August 2009 Spectator article: “Harriet Harman – would you?”
He has also been accused of racism by MPs and anti-racism campaigners after attributing the “overwhelming majority of violent street crime” to “young men from the African Caribbean community” in another Spectator article.
Student attention was initially brought to the article published by The Sun after a post on the NoHeterox Facebook group by Wadham student Tim Cannon.
Cannon commented: “Regardless of whether his views represent those of the publication in which the comments appeared, the airing of such vile transphobic and ableist slurs is utterly unacceptable, and the numbers who have signed the petition attest to the vast feeling that a national newspaper needs to seriously reconsider its stance on disassociation from ‘controversial’ columnists.”
Referring to the thousands of signatures gathered by the petition, Davis was told by a commenter: “Expect a call from Newsnight I reckon.”
The Sun did not respond to our request for comment.