Transgender community condemns Essex County Council's 'wig' image

Donna Whitbread Image copyright Donna Whitbread
Image caption Donna Whitbread said she thought society was "completely past" the use of such images

A leading equality campaign group has condemned a council's use of a picture of a person removing a wig to represent transgender people.

Stonewall said the image published by Essex County Council in an online document was "extremely offensive and should not be used in future".

The image, used in a consultation about library services, has now been removed and the authority has apologised.

Stonewall's Bex Stinson said it showed "how much work is left to do".

The head of trans inclusion added that more needed to be done "to combat the discrimination trans people face every day".

The council said the image in the online questionnaire had been provided by a company which produces "easy read" versions of documents.

'Real people'

Donna Whitbread, 32, from Norwich, has made films about the issues of being a transgender woman and said she felt the image was "awful".

"The male and female are pictures of real people and the transgender box has a picture of a cartoon caricature," she said.

"I thought we were completely past this.

"Would they ask for someone's ethnicity and have a picture of a minstrel or a golliwog?

"I don't think gender is important, but if they insist I would go with the 'other' category… leave a blank space after gender and everyone can fill it in as they see fit."

Image copyright Tina Cross
Image caption Tina Cross said she felt it was unnecessary for people to answer questions about their gender in a library survey

Tina Cross, who took part in a Channel 4 series about trans communities, said: "What has gender got to do with a library?"

Ms Cross, 69, from Pitsea in Essex, added: "If I'm reading does it matter if I'm male, female or transgender. Why put labels on people? We are all part of the human race.

"People want to be identified fully whether they are transitioning or it's a release for them.

"If they are dressed as a female then they want to be that; if they are dressed as a male then they want to be male."

Image copyright Essex County Council
Image caption The image appeared on the Essex County Council public consultation on library cuts

Mermaids, a group that supports transgender young people and their families, said the image was "hugely problematic".

Chief executive Susie Green said: "Mermaids appreciates that the team that created this imagery are unlikely to have meant to cause offence, but need support to gain a better understanding of the trans community, including the huge diversity of expression, rather than trotting out stereotypical and damaging memes that cause real distress."

A spokeswoman for Essex County Council said on Wednesday: "This image was specifically chosen to help communicate with people with learning disabilities.

"It was supplied by an organisation called Inspired Services, who work with people with learning disabilities to produce images for the Government and NHS England for easy read publications.

"We are sorry for any offence caused."

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