13 October 2018
A statement from Helen Belcher regarding the Comment Awards 2018:
“I was asked to be one of the judges at this year’s Comment Awards. I was appalled to see, out of those nominated for the Society and Diversity category, four had written pieces positioning trans people as threats or a mob. None had written any counter views. One of them, Janice Turner, had been nominated for Commentator of the Year.
“During the judging, Turner was praised by many specifically for ‘changing the debate’. By this they meant her articles raising fears over Government’s review of the Gender Recognition Act, continually positioning trans people as dangerous sex offenders, and incorrectly alleging that women’s spaces would be at risk when the Act has no bearing on this.
“Since The Times started printing such pieces, starting with one by Turner in September 2017, I have heard of more trans suicides than at any point since 2012. These have mainly been of trans teenagers. I pointed this out. Despite this, Turner was still shortlisted for Commentator of the Year.
“As soon as the shortlists were published, I asked for my name to be removed as a judge. The Comment Awards have refused to do this. The values I thought underpinned the Society and Diversity award were inclusion and diversity. Instead the only values that seem to have mattered are controversy and ‘changing the debate’.
“I refuse to be associated with either awards or organisations that values ‘changing the debate’ over the lives of vulnerable people, be they trans, Muslim or anyone else.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Helen is a co-founder of Trans Media Watch, a charity dedicated to improving the reporting of stories about trans and intersex people and issues. She gave the charity’s evidence to the Leveson Inquiry in 2012, as well as a House of Commons Inquiry into trans issues in 2015 and a Parliamentary Inquiry into no-platforming in 2017.
Helen was one of the judges for the Comment Awards 2017, when she was pleased to make the award to Nesrine Malik, and was asked to be one of the judges for the Comment Awards 2018. On both occasions she was asked to be one of the specialist judges in the Society and Diversity award.
Gary Younge and Nesrine Malik, both of whom were shortlisted for the Society and Diversity award this year, issued a statement on 12 October 2018 withdrawing from the awards on the basis that Melanie Phillips, who was written a number of articles critical of Muslims and trans people, was also on the shortlist.