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Rosemary McLeod incites protest with transphobic column

Rosemary McLeod incites protest with transphobic column in the Dominion Post

by Anne Russell
February 24, 2012

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Protesters picket Fairfax Media headquarters in Wellington.

Columnist Rosemary McLeod has sparked anger among pro-transgender activists for her opinion piece titled 'Why I feel for the kids of ego trippers'. The piece discusses transgender men who have given birth, and refers to being transgender as an “extreme trend” that would hurt the children. “It would be all very well if their mother/father had kept his/her unusual situation private, but he/she has boasted about it publicly, and that stands a good chance of rebounding against the kids, which hardly seems fair,” she wrote.

This is in line with another article recently published by called Gender Non-Conformity Linked to Abuse. Both views imply that those who don’t conform to traditional gender roles are responsible for the abuse they receive. A more appropriate focus might have been “Gender Intolerance Linked to Abuse”.

In response to McLeod’s column, Wellington-based activist group the Queer Avengers called a protest outside the Dominion Post office. After speeches from both trans- and cisgendered people, the group marched into the Dominion Post office to deliver a letter to management. A tense standoff ensued with HR manager Tim Nunan, who asked the protesters to leave. The group eventually elected to discuss matters elsewhere, leaving a few people to speak to Bernadette Courtney, editor of the Dominion Post.

Courtney maintained that publishing McLeod's piece was acceptable because it fell under the comment section. "The piece represents Ms McLeod's opinion...I believe that when balanced against the principle of free expression, it would have been going a step too far to have banned it." However, a private corporation can choose not to publish material that may be offensive and/or incite discrimination—or even material that is just poorly written with shoddy research (McLeod has a habit of using tenuous segues to switch between largely unrelated topics mid-column, e.g. sex work and the Kim Dotcom case). Scoop generally doesn’t publish articles sent to us claiming that Obama has a secret Mars programme!!!1!!1!, but this is not equivalent to us banning the material.

There are plenty of available platforms for rhetoric like McLeod’s; anti-transgender people are hardly an oppressed minority. It’s hard enough for most transgender people to gain unconditional acceptance in a society with two highly codified gender norms, without McLeod using a national newspaper to add fuel to that fire. Moreover, despite Courtney’s claims about everyone being allowed to express an opinion--no matter how ill-informed and offensive, it seems--McLeod’s column violates the terms and conditions of's comments section, which reads:

"You will not post any material in the comments areas which racially or religiously vilifies, incites violence or hatred, or is likely to offend, insult or humiliate others based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation or any physical or mental disability."

For consistency, such standards should be rigorously applied to Fairfax's own columnists.

Videos and photos of the protest can be found below. WARNING: All videos contain explicit language.

Transgender activist Brooklyne Kennedy spoke about the rights of transgender people to have children like anyone else. She was shocked that McLeod’s rhetoric was still alive in New Zealand, a supposedly liberal haven, unlike her native America. “Rosemary, how dare you judge my ability to be a mother based on my genitalia?” she asked.

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The Queer Avengers’ variation on an old chant goes “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re fabulous, don’t f**k with us”. It effectively disrupted work inside Fairfax headquarters.

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Shelley (right) does not ascribe to any particular gender, and has raised three adult sons, none of whom are delinquents.

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HR manager Tim Nunan came out to address the crowd, telling the protesters that they had made their point and asking them to leave. He refused to comment on whether any action would be taken against McLeod, but said that their staff would put together an article about the protest.

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