It looks like whoever runs the ABC News webpage just wasn’t paying attention when they watched Sesame Street on the ABC as a four-year-old. Otherwise, they would’ve picked up that one of these things just doesn’t belong: 

Can you guess which six of these seven articles belong together? Can you guess which six are kind of the same?

For a start six of them are written by ABC journos. As distinct from the one written by a personal friend of a bloke who likewise isn’t an ABC journo but somehow got a gig as producer for a single episode of Earshot on Radio National.

And then six of these articles are actually news, ie they’re about things that have just happened. Not something that happened a decade ago.  

If you guessed it’s ‘When Max affirmed …’  that is not like the others, then you’re absolutely … right!

Unique insights?

Ah, but the ABC’s online news page publishes analysis as well as news, I hear somebody say. So is ‘When Max affirmed …’ an analysis piece? The article promises to offer us ‘unique insights’ which Max has gained, Tiresias-like, from living first as a female and now ‘as a male’. But mostly all it offers are fairly ho-hum sociological observations on Australian life under patriarchy. Handshake protocol differs for men and women. Women get interrupted when they speak in professional settings more than men. Women’s opinions and ideas get scrutinised more heavily than men’s. At work, men aren’t expected to organise gifts for farewells or morning teas, book meeting rooms, or take on extra admin tasks. 

‘Women know all this stuff anyway,’ snapped more than one woman acquaintance of mine who read the article. Doubt was also thrown on how much of it came from Max’s lived experience, given that Max transitioned at the age of 17, and had never once been an adult woman in a public space. ‘Most of her “comparisons” are straight out of feminist texts,’ was another comment. 

Analysis from the shallow end

Max misses various opportunities for going deeper. Like on men’s and women’s bathrooms. ‘There’s a social custom for men to stop speaking on entering’ a men’s bathroom, Max tells us, ‘even if you’re with your dad, brother or best mate … You get in, stop conversing, only look at the ground, piss and get out of there.’ Whereas women’s public bathrooms, Max reckons, ‘can feel like stepping into a feminist support group’ with its ‘chatter, the laughter, the occasional tears and waves of support for those crying’. But does Max take this further? For example, by delving into the reasons why men go silent in public bathrooms? Could it be because public toilets can be a very uncomfortable experience for many males? And could that be because they’ve experienced violence, abuse or harassment there from violent and abusive men? Does Max, perhaps, make a case for keeping women’s toilets women-only, to keep such opportunistic males out and retain the ‘heartening sense of camaraderie and solidarity’ that supposedly characterise such spaces? No way. Not a peep.

Likewise with walking late at night. Max relates: ‘A few years back, I was walking late at night and there was a woman in front of me. She looked over her shoulder and suddenly appeared fearful. A man must have been following us, I thought. Intuitively, I looked over my shoulder too. I was terrified because I couldn’t see him. My instinct was to approach the woman, to cluster in the relative security of female solidarity. She looked back again; I looked back again – and then it clicked: I was the man she feared.’ I recall Diamond Jim McClelland musing about this decades ago in a column in the Sydney Morning Herald after finding himself in that same situation: Should he call out to reassure her, or would that alarm her more? From memory, I think what he did was simply to cross over to the other side of the street. Any such musings, any hints or advice, from Max’s ‘unique’ viewpoint? Not a skerrick! Instead, Max’s take from the experience is: ‘I can now be out alone at night, without fear.’ Well, bully for you, Max! Plus a bit of a whinge about being ‘perceived as a potential perpetrator based on appearances alone’. Aw gee, Max, commiserations! That woman who was walking in front of you: whatta bigot!

Is it news?

This self-centred, trite pile of guff isn’t ABC-worthy in any of the realms it proliferated into:

But it’s especially annoying on the News page. It isn’t news, and it isn’t professional journalism, so why is it there? Well, it uses the term ‘assigned female at birth’ (when what is meant is ‘observed to be female at birth’) and endorses the delusional notion that medical transition from female to male or vice versa is something people can do. So my guess is that it’s been published to help the ABC keep the gold star on its forehead that ACON/AWEI gives it. Why the ABC keeps wanting to get that star on its forehead is a mystery to me. It’d get more kudos, in the end, by doing more proper investigative journalism and accurate reporting. Which is – just by the way – what its Charter says it should be doing. 

Is this the only gender story worth reporting on?

If the ABC was on the lookout for a gender-identity news story in early December, they would have needed to go no further than the concerns being raised by ‘gender-affirming’ GPs about whether their insurer Avanti will cover them for the practice of ‘GP-led’ hormone prescribing for minors without the precaution of input from a multi-disciplinary team of specialists; or Senator Claire Chandler’s call for investigation into the practice of transgender-identifying girls and young women being given taxpayer-funded testosterone as if they suffer from a ‘testicular disorder’. Instead, the ABC ignored both developments. 

The ABC’s practice of considering it beneath their dignity to take any notice of opposition to gender-identity ideology is increasingly coming back to bite them on the bum, as Patricia Karvelas discovered on RN Breakfast when a Gaza Dad ran rings round her in an interview that strayed into the nature of the Canadian education system. And the ABC’s practice of running puff pieces like ‘When Max affirmed …’ just makes them look silly and lacking in the discernment skills to be expected of a four-year-old.

Shoulda paid attention to Sesame Street.