Thanks to the work of Trans Activism UK, the complaint against the BBC article originally headlined “We are being pressured into sex by some trans women”, has reached the endpoint of the BBC complaints procedure.
This means that we can now complain to Ofcom and begin an independent review of the complaints.
If you’d like to complain to Ofcom you don’t need to have complained all the way through the procedure to the BBC yourself. You can just refer to the final decision made by the BBC’s ECU recently. I would highly recommend you read this letter and the responses made by Trans Activism UK before drafting your own complaint.
I am writing to complain about the article originally headlined; “We are being pressured into sex by some trans women”. In this letter I intend to set out what my issues with the piece were and how the ‘solutions’ offered by the BBC’s ECU have not at all addressed that problem. The outcome I am searching for is a full retraction and apology for the piece. In my opinion this article does not meet journalistic standards and serves only to elevate gossip of known anti-trans agitators to a position it simply does not belong.
I won’t force you through yet another point by point break down of everything that is wrong with this article. You can refer to work by Trans Activism UK who have done a tremendous job in putting that together and keeping the community informed on the progression of this complaint.
The piece sets out a premise; “some trans women are putting pressure on cisgender lesbians to have sex with them”, but then completely fails to justify that premise in any substantial way across its roughly 4,000 word exposé. First referring to anonymised comments given to the BBC – which we now know were sourced from anonymous Twitter accounts. One of which felt “pressured by some trans women” because her cisgender partner said she was transphobic, allegedly, for not wanting to have a threesome with a trans woman.
Further there is a poll which the BBC has since admitted they did not clearly mark as not having any real statistical significance or value in supporting the premise of the piece. The BBC report that the group responsible for this poll, Get The L Out, demonstrated at multiple Pride marches.
What they don’t include is that this group invaded London Pride march in 2018 with signs specifically designed to make others feel unsafe and unwelcome; such as “trans activism erases lesbians” and others which dogwhistled their exclusionary politics. The BBC had previously reported on this event, however failed to include the fact that this protest action by Get The L Out was widely panned and unwelcome by LGBTQIA+ communities.
Then there are comments from other known anti-trans agitators including anti-trans groups like LGB Alliance and individuals like YouTuber Rose of Dawn and Debbie Hayton; who has written multiple anti-trans pieces for the mainstream media, including Russia Today. None of this information was included in the piece.
The piece by the BBC continues its platforming of transphobic conspiracy theories with its take on ‘the cotton ceiling’. Where the BBC assert things like “cotton is a reference to women’s underwear” however that is not true. This is a misrepresentation by anti-trans activists specifically to characterise transgender women as predatory men. The cotton does refer to underwear, yes, but the cotton ceiling as a concept is not exclusive to transgender lesbians and is instead an umbrella term referring to all of the ways in which our prejudices and biases can impact our sexual relationships. Such as sexual racism, for example.
The BBC then, instead of platforming a trans voice to talk about the cotton ceiling as a concept which would have debunked their earlier assertions about it, platforms Lily Cade. Lily cade has been accused of a string of sexual assaults and, immediately after the BBC piece went live and said accusations resurfaced, went to her blog to rant about how she would like to do and see violence happen to transgender women. Including naming certain famous transgender women as people she thinks should be lynched. The BBC have not taken responsibility for this despite it being clearly avoidable.
The BBC article at this point claims transgender people didn’t want to be involved with the piece and instead Caroline Lowbridge was forced to dig up a deleted video from Riley J Dennis to talk about instead. However this is not true. Not only do we have Chelsea Poe claiming to have actually given an interview to the BBC about this and specifically mentioned the Lily Cade sexual assault accusations; but multiple other trans people have also come forward to say they were willing to talk to Lowbridge about this story. Myself included, as evidenced in this tweet directed at Caroline Lowbridge, a tweet which is a year older than the article itself.
Changes made to the article since people began complaining about it include; changing the title slightly, adding a small paragraph about Get The L Out’s study not being statistically significant, adding some extra comments by trans people who oppose the narrative being manufactured and removing the section on Lily Cade. This quite simply does not cover the fact that this article exists solely to launder the views of anti-trans activists and make them appear justifiable.
In summary the original article does not sufficiently meet journalistic standards of any kind, in my opinion. It amounts to the platforming of conspiracy theories and narratives concoted by those who specifically want to undermine the equality and acceptance of transgender people. It relies on platforming the very well established anti-trans trope of “trans women are predatory men”. It does not give any real ‘right of reply’ to those it is essentially accusing of sex crimes. It even lies by omission when it refuses to include pertinent information that would make the narrative they manufactured a lot harder to sell.
This wasn’t journalism. At best this was hate-fueled gossip. Hate-fueled gossip which, coming from our state broadcaster no less, has the power to do untold damage to the health and safety of the marginalised community I belong to.
The BBC must take responsibility for this rather than repeatedly attempting to justify the piece. It is my view that nothing short of a full retraction and public apology for the harm they engaged in will suffice. I hope that Ofcom will investigate this carefully and thoroughly in order to hold the BBC to a standard they seem to refuse to hold themselves to when it comes to reporting on trans issues.
Thank you for your time,
Gemma Stone – transgender writer and Co-founder of TransWrites.World