Genderquake: Channel 4’s gender debate slammed as a ‘transphobic shouting match’

Channel 4’s controversial debate on gender has been heavily criticised after the trans panelists were heckled throughout by the audience.

On Tuesday, Channel 4 hosted Genderquake: The Debate as part of Genderquake, a series of programmes by Channel 4 exploring the changes in how gender is seen in modern society.

The debate featured trans activists Caitlyn Jenner and Munroe Bergdorf, as well as author Germaine Greer and journalist Sarah Ditum.

The programme was originally described as an opportunity to explore what gender identity is and whether it should be easier to change gender, as well as debating whether gender still matters in modern society.

(Channel 4)

Instead, much of the debate focused on proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act, as well as discussing the rise in children and young people who are coming out as trans and how trans people should access bathrooms.

After the live debate aired, many people began to criticise Channel 4 for the content of the debate and for including a live studio audience, who often heckled the panellists.

Bergdorf spoke out after the debate, detailing the heckling she had experienced during the show, some of which was not audible to the audience at home.

(@MunroeBergdorf / Twitter)

“[Bergdorf and Jenner] were both subjected to transphobic heckling from TERF feminists in the audience of the debate, calling us men, comparing trans women to sexual predators and shouting ‘penis’ at us over and over again for one hour on live national television.”

At one point during the debate, Bergdorf asked host Cathy Newman to have one particularly vocal member of the audience removed.

“We agreed to be part of a panel discussion, not be subjected to transphobic abuse,” she said.

The audience member in question was not removed during the programme, prompting harsh criticism of Channel 4.

(@megansmaccarthy / Twitter)

One viewer wrote: “Absolutely appalled that a panelist has asked for a transphobic abusive heckler to be removed and that no action has been taken. Poor management with little respect to the panelists.”

Many people have also accused the show of enabling transphobia by including the audience, with one viewer describing the show as a “transphobic shouting match that Channel 4 billed as ‘debate.'”

Others have criticised some of the viewpoints expressed on the programme.

During the debate, author Germaine Greer stated that undergoing gender confirmation surgery “doesn’t make you a woman, it makes you a man without a cock.”

(@diddlymush / Twitter)

“Watching Genderquake The Debate, I feel like I’m watching history and in 10-20 years time people will watch this and be shocked at the views and behaviour of some people,” One viewer wrote in response.

Actor and trans advocate Jake Graf, who acted as a consultant on an earlier part of the Genderquake series, declined to appear on the debate.

Taking to Twitter after the broadcast, Graf said that he had ‘dodged a bullet.’

(@JakeGraf / Twitter)

“Bloody hell. C4 Genderquake panel: BULLET DODGED,” he wrote.

LGBT charity Stonewall stated on Wednesday that they would be making a formal complaint to the communications regulator Ofcom regarding the programme.

Mermaids, the largest charity for trans children and young people, also criticised the debate.

“Entertainment based upon legitimising hate,” Mermaids said.

“This has to stop, transgender discrimination is the last bastion of acceptable prejudice.”

Prior to the broadcast, several prominent trans activists confirmed they were approached by Channel 4 but declined to take part, including broadcaster India Willoughby and writer Shon Faye.

In an open letter to Channel 4, other campaigners including Fox Fisher, Owl, Susie Green, Travis Alabanza, and Jack Monroe criticised Channel 4 for hosting the debate, calling the programme “counterproductive.”

Journalist Cathy Newman, who chaired the debate, acknowledged that multiple people had declined to be involved at the beginning of the programme.

A Channel 4 spokesperson told PinkNews: “Channel 4 takes the duty of care to contributors very seriously and will not tolerate abuse of any type. This was a live programme on a subject that many people on all sides have strong views about.

“The audience was carefully selected to ensure a balanced and broad mix of views and briefed in advance to be respectful at all times. Shortly before the live debate was drawing to a close a small number of audience members made some comments that members of the panel found offensive.

“As the show was live they were reprimanded on air by our presenter and reminded that such behaviour was disrespectful and offensive.”

After the debate, Owl condemned the debate once more, calling the anti-trans audience members “desperate and awful.”

(@UglaStefania / Twitter)

“After that Genderquake ‘debate’ no one can deny how absolutely desperate and awful these anti-trans crusaders are,” they said.

“The constant heckling and aggressive behavior was appalling, and anyone condoning or supporting that should be ashamed of themselves.”

Before the debate, Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor Shaminder Nahal stated the importance of the debate and wider discussions about gender.

(Creative Commons)

In a statement, Nahal said: “This debate will stimulate important and insightful discussion with a wide variety of views from the panel and audience.

“Issues around gender now have a prominent position in the national conversation, with strong feeling on all sides.

“Channel 4 is well known for exploring challenging and emotive issues in a fair and balanced way and with this programme we want to help audiences understand and engage in these multi-faceted issues.”