History is repeating itself as right wing press once again unearthed old social media posts from the model – this time using homophobic slurs
Model and activist Munroe Bergdorf has stepped down from the Labour advisory panel for LGBT+ issues due to “endless attacks” and “character assassination” from right wing press. This is the second high-profile, supposedly progressive post she has been forced out of following a smear campaign from the likes of The Daily Mail and The Times, who also caused L’Oréal to fire her from their “diversity” campaign in 2017.
Labour’s shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler nominated Bergdorf, who is transgender, for the unpaid position for the organisation. Even though it is not managed by the Labour party, the panel was created to act as a mouthpiece for marginalised voices, and to influence Labour’s stance on issues within the community. A spokeswoman for Ms Butler at the time said: “Dawn is proud to stand with those challenging discrimination. Dawn will consult with the LGBT+ advisory group on a wide-range of LGBT+ issues.”
However, this week the Daily Mail ignited a Conservative backlash against Bergdorf's new role by unearthing tweets she sent several years ago. The posts used slurs such as “poof” and “dyke” and one that The Times found made fun of a “hairy lesbian” friend’s “barren womb”. Another tweet simply read: “Gay male Tories are a special kind of dickhead.”
At the time Bergdorf published the offensive tweets, she had not yet transitioned, and was outwardly presenting as a gay man. On Twitter, she wrote that the “Tweets were juvenile jokes made with friends who also identify as LGBT+ regarding a website called ‘Lesbians who look like Justin Bieber’”. “Who I was at 23 years old, is not who I am at 31,” she said. “I’m not going to try and excuse them, as there really is no excuse.”
Conservative politician Nigel Evans called for Bergdorf to resign from her advisory role, telling the Labour party: “I’m absolutely shocked. I don’t know which community she’s representing but it is certainly not mine.” This led to a wave of sensationalist articles in publications like The Daily Mail, which claimed Bergdorf was an example of a “Trans Taliban” and practiced witchcraft.
The torrent of abuse she faced in the media and online has meant that she can no longer fulfill the role as she does not wish to derail Labour’s initiatives. “I won't let this continue to be a distraction or stand in the way of the LGBT+ panel's success,” she claimed.
If this all feels weirdly familiar, that's because it is. The Daily Mail also delighted in tearing Bergdorf down when she first hit headlines as L’Oréal Paris’ first ever transgender model in 2017. The right wing paper quickly pulled her up on an anti-racism post she had written after the Charlottesville attacks. It is frequently reported that she wrote “all white people are racist” in this post, however this isn’t entirely true. She wrote that all white people benefit from racism. “Come see me when you realise that racism isn’t learned, it’s inherited and consciously or unconsciously passed down through privilege,” she explained in the now-viral post.
Although the comments Bergdorf made on Twitter in 2010 are hurtful and inappropriate, one has to question why obsessively prejudicial publications like The Daily Mail are repeatedly taking aim at a trans woman of colour and forcing her out of high profile roles.
Munroe Bergdorf is an advisor to the Labour Party on equality. With what qualifications? What knowledge of politics and history? It's embarrassing that someone can be given such platform and influence when they make these basic, basic mistakes.— Sarah Ditum (@sarahditum) February 27, 2018
While some people have been supportive online, a quick search of her name returns more results of abuse. One thing is abundantly clear: being hounded out of public-facing opportunities to represent and improve the lives of queer and trans people of colour (QTPoC) by cisgender white males doesn’t do much to rebuff Bergdorf's comments on structural inequality. In fact, the tabloids and trolls are effectively proving her point.
Structural inequality looks like this:— S H O N (@shonfaye) March 6, 2018
"Munroe Bergdorf has decided to step down from advising Labour on trans issues because of a media campaign against her. A shame but they can ask one of the other trans women of colour in public life, who is more game for politics - oh wait"
We are so appreciative of the work @MunroeBergdorf has done to draw attention to and enable the discussion of important issues, especially those affecting trans folk & communities of colour. We stand by her during the constant media attack she has been facing over the last year. pic.twitter.com/IcNNyYCqVc— Sisters Uncut (@SistersUncut) March 6, 2018