Yesterday afternoon BBC Radio 4’s PM program ran a short segment on trans kids. It is available on iPlayer, and the trans coverage is about 22 minutes in.
Once again the program seems fairly positive on the surface, but is let down by careless (or possibly deliberate) framing. Helen Belcher’s son is utterly charming in his brief interview on life as the child of a trans parent, and the head teacher of the school interviewed is clearly trying hard to do the right thing. The young trans girl they are talking about appears to have had a positive experience of transitioning at school (at least thus far).
But look at this tweet from the journalist who did the interview.
My exclusive access to a school dealing with a 6-year-old boy who wants to be a girl – about 20 mins into programme http://t.co/VwCBqx21UK
— Helena Lee (@Helena_J_Lee) April 7, 2015
The key phrase there is “boy who wants to be a girl”. As with Victoria Derbyshire’s show, this is framing the narrative as someone who is “really” a boy and who is making some sort of lifestyle choice to live a fantasy.
Things go pear-shaped at the end of the segment as well when Helena Lee talks about government guidance. I guess she’s probably just quoting the Department of Education, but if you use the term “sexuality” in the context of trans kids you are either pushing the idea that being trans is somehow a sexual preference (and therefore not an appropriate matter for pre-pubescent children to learn about), or you are saying that your LGBT policy is in fact an LGB policy and nothing will actually be done for trans people. In the case of the Department of Education it probably means both.
I know I’m harping on a lot about this, but it is really important. It is great that trans folk and their allies are getting to speak for themselves rather the being judged by experts, but if the presenters of this programs insist on always putting forward an anti-trans line, either for “balance” or “controversy” then most cis listeners will still come away thinking that the anti-trans line is correct.
And that whole thing about trans people being “really” their assigned-at-birth gender, and therefore people who are living a lie; we know what that leads to, don’t we. It leads to murder.