Jersey's government defends cervical-screening tweet following backlash online

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THE government has defended its cervical screening campaign after a tweet promoting the service to transgender men and gender-non-conforming people – which has been viewed on Twitter over three million times – received criticism.

By yesterday afternoon, the post had received almost 5,000 comments, many of which hit out at the terminology used to describe those eligible.

Olympic swimming medallist Sharron Davies and controversial former UK politician George Galloway were among those who took to the social-media platform to express an opinion about the tweet, which explained that free cervical screening was available to everyone ‘assigned female at birth and with a cervix’.

Much of the criticism focused on the fact that the tweet – which formed part of a larger government campaign promoting the service to the different eligible groups – did not include the word ‘women’ when listing those who qualified for the screenings.

Jersey’s director of public health Professor Peter Bradley said the post was part of a campaign ‘which includes targeted messaging and spokespeople to maximise the reach to Islanders eligible for cervical screening’.

He said: ‘I am thankful to the Islanders who have fronted our cervical screening campaign, which includes targeted messaging and spokespeople to maximise the reach to Islanders eligible for cervical screening.

‘[On Monday] we shared a post featuring Vic Tanner Davy, honorary chief executive of Liberate, the Channels Islands’ equality and diversity charity, a transgender man who was born with a cervix. This post has been met with criticism regarding the terminology used to describe those who are eligible for screening.

‘This specific post was aimed at the transgender community, gender-non-conforming people and those assigned female at birth who may not identify as such, who are at risk of cervical cancer too.’

Professor Bradley added: ‘The inclusive campaign, which features four local spokespeople, three women and one transgender man, invites all eligible Islanders to attend their cervical screening appointments.

‘This includes all women, transgender men, people assigned female at birth but no longer identifying as such, and gender-non-conforming people, who are aged between 25 and 64.

‘Cervical screenings are important in identifying abnormalities that may cause cancer. I encourage everyone who is eligible for their screening to opt in by contacting their GP or Le Bas Centre on 01534 443781.’

Dr Fiona Nelson, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, admitted that she was surprised by the reaction to the tweet but said she was delighted it had raised awareness of the importance of the screenings for anyone with a cervix.

She said: ‘We shouldn’t be judgmental. We are here to provide that service to anyone who needs it.’

Responding to online comments from some transgender men and gender-non-conforming people who said that the negativity on Twitter had further discouraged them from attending cervical screenings, Dr Nelson said: ‘Please don’t be put off. Healthcare professionals will not be judgmental.

‘If you are feeling afraid or embarrassed, you can call up and explain that before your appointment.’

The face of the tweet, Vic Tanner Davy explained that many of the transgender and non-binary population find it extremely difficult to go for testing due to gender dysphoria and can therefore be more at risk of developing cervical cancer.
He said: ‘Liberate was invited to be part of the cervical screening campaign by the Government of Jersey and we were pleased to be involved in promoting a message specifically targeted at the 1% of the population who are transgender and non-binary, many of whom find it extremely difficult to go for testing because of the medical condition known as gender dysphoria.
‘Gender dysphoria means that for many transgender men and non-binary people who were born with a biologically female body, even acknowledging you have those female body parts is really difficult. This is why many people from this community who should get tested do not take up that offer, and run the risk of developing cervical cancer.’
Mr Tanner Davy, who was named in Queen’s Birthday Honours list last year for his work as a tireless campaigner for equality, diversity and inclusion in the Channel Islands, added: ‘We understood that the message we were asked to promote was part of a wider campaign that was designed by women, fronted by women and addressed to women, and that it was this larger part of the campaign that would have prominence.
‘As a charity, Liberate supports all groups that face inequalities including women, transgender, and non-binary people. It is really important in any communication that is specifically addressed to these groups that the language is right for that audience. Where women’s issues are being discussed it is right that the words ‘woman’ or ‘women’ should be used. Where transgender and other gender identities’ issues are being discussed it is right that language that includes everyone from this community is used.
‘Both women and the trans community are facing unprecedented levels of trolling, hate and abuse on social media at the moment. Sadly, this is something that both groups have in common. Liberate will continue to work hard to promote understanding of the issues faced by all minority groups in order to reduce the levels of online and in-person discrimination and prejudice that people are exposed to.’
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