An Open Letter to Julie Burchill

By Jeanne-Claire Morley

This letter is addressed to journalist Julie Burchill concerning an article she recently wrote for the Observer, telling transexuals to “cut it out”. The article has since been taken down following a huge number of complaints made to The Guardian. A resume of the article can be found here.

Dear Julie,

I have chosen to speak to you through the world’s most irritating medium: the open letter. The open letter is a letter written by a person (in this instance, me) who believes that someone else (in this case, you) has misbehaved in some way and needs a good talking to, and therefore has written them a letter that everyone on earth can read.

In some cases, an open letter could potentially be to a politician, protesting anything from consistent lack of action in civil wars in Africa to the presence of Michael Gove within 100 miles of Westminster. 

In some cases, the perceived misbehaviour is just a matter of opinion. For example - 

Dear So and so,

I, arbitrary person with a bootlegged copy of Microsoft Word and a wireless connection, think that your boyfriend is a dick. Here are a list of reasons I think he is a dick:

a) He owns too many pairs of trainers

b) He actually bought that Chanel cologne that Brad Pitt ruined his career advertising

c) He said once that he doesn’t get the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Break up with him immediately or face my daily scorn.


Arbitrary person with a bootlegged copy of Microsoft World and a wireless connection.

The whole reason that the aforementioned letter is open is because the aforementioned writer wants everyone to know just how clever and righteous they are. Lady Gaga recently did this when she employed this very medium to tell Kelly Osbourne that she’s a prick and that her and her mum should just shut the fuck up, but did it with the tone of someone who’s just taken a ton of lithium and then gone on a 3 day yoga retreat. 

I’m assuming you feel fairly patronised by now. Good. That’s the intent. Open letters are patronising because they are written by people who believe that they just bloody well know better than the person they’re addressing. and they want everyone to know it. The “open letter” is basically just a sermon. In this case, it’s a sermon concerning why it’s JUST NOT OKAY TO BE SO FUCKING HORRIBLE TO A WHOLE DENOMINATION OF PEOPLE.

I don’t feel bad about being so patronising here because NOT BEING SO FUCKING HORRIBLE TO A WHOLE DENOMINATION OF PEOPLE is a pretty regular rule in life. For someone who has declared themselves a militant feminist on many occasions you make a good show of acting like a total misogynist. 

Your article in The Observer was meant to be a defense piece for your friend Suzanne Moore, who had recently come under a lot of fire from a few transexuals on Twitter for writing that women were expected to look like a “Brazilian transexual”. You’re not someone who has ever shied away from controversy, of course, having once described Irish nationalism to be as “radical as Islam”.  This is a particularly weird example as you’re presumably referring to fundamentalist Islam rather than just Islam, but therein, dear Julie, lies the fucking problem. 

Being rude to a person is one thing. We all do it. We bump into people on the tube and don’t apologise, jump queues, occasionally snap at our friends when they insist on always being so bloody cheery when we’re so ruefully hungover. It’s part of normal awkward social interactions, like being British and forgetting birthdays. 

Being horrible to entire denominations is a different matter entirely. You can’t call the entire transexual community “bed-wetters in bad wigs”, “shims”, and “screaming mimis”. I know you don’t care about upsetting people, so let me put this to you in terms you might understand.

You can’t do it because on top of being horrifically offensive, it stands as a big FUCK YOU to every movement ever that has fought against marginalisation. As a feminist, surely you have had the same arguments as so many of us have when someone has turned around and said something stupid like “ALL WOMEN LIKE ROM-COMS” or “REAL WOMEN WEAR HIGH HEELS”, and surely you have rallied against division in gender as hard as you’ve rallied against inequality in gender, because you know that the two are mutually inclusive. 

Now, this is the really obvious bit. I hope you’re rapt in attention now. You know how a lot of your feminist shtick has been about individualism and a “fuck you, I’m going to say what I want and do what I want to do, regardless of how you expect me, as a woman, to behave.” attitude? Yeah, that’s how most marginalised people feel. Most people who have been discriminated against due to their gender, sexual orientation, or skin colour, have a big FUCK YOU impulse against anyone who has made them feel less like an individual and more like an arbitrary member of a denomination. You, Julie, are not the only one.

This is not a fucking competition as to who has had it the hardest, or who faces the greatest discrimination on a day-to-day, this is a simple matter of treating others as you want to be treated. And even if you don’t believe in that kind of dynamic, on a practical level by acting like such an utter bigot you’ve given every arsehole out there an excuse to act like a prick “cos that feminist woman did it”. Fan-fucking-tastic.

So yeah, congratulations. Not only on your “bravery” for being so disgusting rude to the transexuals you so terribly insulted, but also your arrogance and hypocrisy in effectively shitting on the rights to individualism that you’ve spent so much of your career celebrating and fighting for.

I don’t really believe that any of the shitstorm currently surrounding you will cause you to change your ways at all, but can you please stop being such a dick to other people? Seriously. It’s just bad fucking chi.

Yours sincerely,

Arbitrary person with a bootlegged copy of Microsoft Word and a wireless connection

Image via Notion'sCapital's Flickr

Wed, 16 Jan 2013 16:30 (GMT+00)
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