Woman’s Hour accused of ‘manufacturing debate’ over trans children

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The BBC Radio 4 programme has been accused of forcing a debate on whether trans children should receive medical care.

Trans and non-binary campaigner and musician CN Lester was contacted by the programme, who said they were organising a debate on trans children, and asked them argue on the “trans vs non-binary” perspective. When it became clear that they would not argue against trans children receiving medical care, CN was told they would no longer be needed.

In a blog post, CN said: “Over the phone, two facts became apparent. The producer had very little knowledge of the subject – not the language (children are not treated by doctors “for transgender”), not the research, not the organisations – and that I was specifically being invited onto the programme to argue against children receiving age-appropriate care.

“After a few more messages we spoke again – they specifically told me that they were rescinding their invitation because they already had a “pro” side, and they wanted someone to argue against that. For that role they had picked someone who is not trans, who is known for her anti-trans views, and who has no experience in the field. When I raised questions about the impact of such a framing on trans young people I was told that it was ‘good to have a debate’.”

In a statement, Helen Belcher from Trans Media Watch said: “I am disappointed that Woman’s Hour has yet again positioned trans identities as something that should be up for discussion, instead claiming that free speech is more important than the damage that such academic debates do to real people.

“This is not about offence. Misinformation like this, which contradicts the medical consensus, causes harm, especially when you consider the majority of trans teenagers report self-harming.”

Trans Media Watch have contacted Woman’s Hour with their concerns and report that the producers said they “may be in touch should we return to this in the future”.

In a statement to PinkNews, a Woman’s Hour spokesman said: “Woman’s Hour regularly features discussions about gender, aimed at an adult audience. Thursday’s programme featured the contrasting views of a psychotherapist who works in the field of gender identity and a feminist who believes that the definition of gender and gender norms is too narrow. We will continue to cover gender issues from a range of perspectives in the future.”



Susie Green of Mermaids, a charity that supports trans young people and their families, pointed out some of the particular failings of the programme: “The interviewer had clearly done no research and referred to young children being given drugs on several occasions. In the light of the prejudice and discrimination that our children face daily, to have a presenter from the BBC so ill-informed and determined to misrepresent and play to people’s fears was disgraceful.

“The ‘other side’ of the argument, presented by Finn Mckay seemed to suggest that the fault lies with parents panicking when their children don’t fit into gender roles as expected. The inference was that parents are getting a referral when their son wants to wear girl shoes or a pink dress. Ludicrous, and totally disrespectful of the pain and anxiety that these children and their families suffer from.”

CN Lester added: “I believe it goes against broadcasting standards and journalistic integrity to purposefully orchestrate an argument about a topic the producer is ignorant of. This is the opposite of free and informed discussion – it’s choreographed outrage and opposition at the expense of some of the most vulnerable in society.”

The programme was a result of a recent BBC 2 programme which explored the issues faced by trans children in the UK.

A recent Louis Theroux documentary explored trans children in the US and was positively received.