Members of the GULGBTQ+ society discuss how the BBC’s actions towards the trans community promote the growing transphobia that is prevalent throughout the UK.
Transphobia is ubiquitous and it is intensifying. It pervades our parliament, our National Health Service and increasingly our media, too. Our public service broadcaster, the BBC, is furthering an orchestrated moral panic against the basic human rights of one of the most marginalised groups in society. And it hurts.
The media is meant to represent the fourth pillar of democracy. It should be underpinned by freedom of expression, allowing abuses of power to be exposed and providing a voice for the otherwise voiceless. For the disaffected and the disenfranchised, having this platform is a means of dissent against oppression.
This isn’t the case for trans people right now. Shon Faye, in her book The Transgender Issue, describes the media as facilitating “hate fuelled propaganda that describes the trans community as a cult”. This was displayed starkly in a recent BBC News article titled: “We’re [lesbians] being pressured into sex by some trans women.” The immediate connotation here is predatory, and it is striking that the same trope used to vilify gay men during the 1980s now reappears to attack trans people.
The piece had to be amended recently, removing the contribution of Lily Cade after she incited violence against trans women on her website. The article is still publicly available though, and rigorous journalism seems to have been sidelined in order to promote an anti-trans agenda. There is only one statistic, extracted from a self-selecting survey conducted, distributed and published by an organisation that “supports the separation from any kind of queer politics and transgenderism”. It is not made clear in the article that the sample is not representative.
“Rigorous journalism seems to have been sidelined in order to promote an anti-trans agenda.”
Poor journalism also manifests itself in “debates” held on trans rights that don’t actually include the voices of any trans people. This was the case just recently on the BBC’s Politics Live programme, in which Rosie Duffield MP said, unchallenged, that “trans groups have plenty of representation”, on a panel where trans people quite literally had no representation.
This faux impartiality has become a particular problem at the BBC. Its withdrawal from the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme, done in the name of impartiality, is anything but. The scheme runs to promote equality within the workplace, not to influence the content that the BBC produces. To publicly disengage with the programme is to suggest that efforts to create a descriptively representative workforce breach impartiality simply because they are undertaken by an agency, or person, that believes in equality. It is a nonsensical argument and the withdrawal will only make the BBC’s reporting on trans issues even more dangerous for those most affected by it.
Some LGBTQ+ staff are already leaving the BBC. To see transphobia entrenched in our most accessible news source is frightening, because its agenda setting powers can so heavily determine the success of any dissenting social movement. Attitudinal change is difficult to foster when those promoting it are not only denied a platform to do so, but are physically stopped from being seen.
Shutting the blinds on trans people protesting their rights shows us that our national broadcaster simply does not want to engage with their voices. The BBC are utterly complicit in this dehumanising moral panic. Their reporting is irresponsible and it is dangerous. They should be ashamed.