Two stories that have been heavily reported by the British press this week demonstrate the strange obsessions that are increasingly dominating the mainstream media. In one, Jahed Choudhury and Sean Rogan got married in what is believed to be the first gay marriage in the UK that involves a Muslim person. The second story involved Transport for London changing announcements on the Underground from “ladies and gentlemen” to “hello everyone” in an effort to be gender neutral. The disproportionate reporting of these two stories and the neglect of others – the first anniversary of the terrorist attack in Nice for example – shows that the media continues to be fixated on issues that can be most generously described as “niche.”Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people who are transgender, gay or Muslim. Each to their own I say. As far as sex goes, I am an extreme libertarian – if everyone involved is over 18 and no animals are harmed then as far as I’m concerned, you can do what you like with whomever you please. I have a similar view regarding marriage; marry a television set for all I care. And when it comes to the Bruce Jenners of this world, call yourself what you like. Stand in a plant pot and call yourself a cactus if you want to; doesn’t make it true though. All I am saying is that there are many, many more important issues than gay Muslims and transgender pronouns.
The attention played to transgender issues is completely out of proportion to their numbers in the population. It is estimated that between 300,000 and 500,000 people are transgender, well under 1% of a population in excess of 65million. By contrast, anxiety and depression affect nearly 1 in 5 people in the UK – almost 13million. This is 26 times higher than the most generous estimate for the number of transgender people in the UK. Which of these issues gets more coverage in the mainstream media? The UK spent about £12billion on mental health in the year 2014-15, less than £1,000 per person. By contrast, a sex change operation – available free on the NHS since 1999 – costs a basic £10,000.
The media love-in over the Muslim wedding of Jahed Choudhury and Sean Rogan is, again, complete disproportionate to the attention it has received. There are an estimated 2.8million Muslims in the UK – 4.3% of the population. As Muslims are the same as everyone else – whatever racists or Islamist supremacists would assert – then 1.5% of these people (42,000) would be gay. This is an incredibly small number of people, barely a tenth of the highest possible estimate of the number of transgender folks in the UK. So why all the media coverage? And the reaction from some Muslims has, shall we say, less than celebratory about the Choudhury-Rogan union. The couple have received death threats over social media and the following tweets are perhaps more indicative of mainstream Islamic views of homosexuality than this wedding…
“Just putting asian costumes doesn’t make it a Muslim marriage, there is no concept of gay marriage in Islam.”
“It isn’t a MUSLIM marriage. No Nikkah, no Dua, no Imaam to make it official. Just two gays playing dress up. You can’t be gay and Muslim, it’s like being a vegetarian but eating meat“
Again, I have nothing again gays, Muslims or transgenders. Be, do, call yourself what you want. You can call yourself a gay Muslim if you want to but the evidence suggests that most of your co-religionists would disagree. Putting on a dress, taking some female hormones, sitting down to pee and calling yourself a woman doesn’t make you one. Sorry. The people in these two stories are a vanishing small percentage of the population of the UK. One might think the media have a vested interest in these stories, especially the one about the Choudhury-Rogan marriage. Trying to reconcile their two favoured “victim” groups perhaps? Heaven forfend.