Metro newspaper runs full-page ad attacking transgender rights reforms

The Advertising Standards Authority is to investigate whether a full-page ad in UK newspaper Metro opposing transgender rights reforms has broken advertising standards.

Wednesday’s London edition of the free-sheet newspaper carried a full-page ad from the group Fair Play for Women referencing the government’s consultation on gender recognition reforms.

The ad questions whether “someone with a penis is a woman” and refers to transgender women as “male-bodied people.”

The ad’s publication comes in the final days of a government consultation on proposed changes to the 2004 Gender Recognition Act that would streamline the process for trans people to gain legal recognition as their chosen gender. The public consultation ends on October 19.

The ad in the Metro (Nick Duffy)

Critics have accused the newspaper of taking money from the group to publish “anti-trans propaganda.”

Metro‘s advertising pack lists the cost of a full-page print advert in the London edition at £40,000.

Fair Play for Women’s website claims it relies “completely on donations made by our supporters.” Two recent public crowdfunding campaigns to cover the group’s campaigning activities raised a combined total of £33,715.

A transgender Metro reader, Katie, told PinkNews of her shock at seeing the ad when picking up the newspaper on Wednesday.

She said: “When I opened my copy of Metro this morning on the way to work, I was shocked and dismayed to find they’d published a full-page ad by an extremist, transphobic political group, which was full of misinformation and scaremongering about trans women like me.”

Katie added: “This has left me wondering how a fringe minority of paranoid bigots who fixate on people like me simply because we happen to be trans have so much money to waste on advertising their own hang-ups to the rest of us.

“With so many other women’s causes and services underfunded, what an awful waste of charitable donations.”

The ad in the Metro (Nick Duffy)

She continued: “If a mainstream UK news publication is prepared to accept cash from a transphobic group to publish such blatantly absurd lies and hate about the trans community, this sets a dangerous precedent.”

The Advertising Standards Authority told PinkNews it will investigate whether the ad falls afoul of advertising standards. A spokesperson for the ASA said that adverts should not “contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence.”

“Particular care should be taken on the grounds of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age. Ads should also be prepared in a socially responsible way,” they said.

The ASA spokesperson added: “We have received a small number of complaints about the Fair Play for Women ad which we will assess carefully to establish if there are any grounds for further action.

“In judging whether those rules have been broken, the ASA takes into account the context and medium in which an ad appears, the audience that’s likely to see it and prevailing standards in society.

“Ads may contain opinions, views or ideologies that may be distasteful to some without necessarily breaking the rules.”


Trans Media Watch’s Jennie Kermode told PinkNews that the group is “disappointed” by Metro‘s decision to publish the advert.

“Would it do the same for one that implied gay people or Muslims were a danger?” said Kermode. “Fair Play for Women has said again and again that it wants to discuss issues around the Gender Recognition Act and trans people have engaged with that on numerous occasions but this is not debate, this is propaganda.”

Kermode added: “Gender is not something that anyone can choose. If it were, very few people would choose to be trans and to endure all the discrimination and abuse that goes with that.

“It then touches on a number of hot button issues that are easily misunderstood because they have been addressed in a misleading way in recent press coverage.”

The ad in the Metro (Nick Duffy)

Helen Belcher, a member of Stonewall’s Trans Advisory Group and a Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate, added: “This kind of talk is reductive and aimed to ensure that trans women are not seen as women, despite existing law.

“The GRA does not insist on surgery, so from a legal and parliamentary context, this question was settled in 2004. To continually position trans women as a threat to women is divisive, inaccurate and harmful, probably intentionally so.

“To continually raise this issue shows that the real aim of their campaign is to remove existing rights from trans people.”

A spokesperson for Metro told PinkNews that it worked closely with Fair Play for Women on the content of the advert.

“When Fair Play for Women originally approached us about this advertisement, our commercial team did consult with them carefully on its content and language before agreeing to the final creative in today’s Metro,” said a spokesperson for the newspaper.

“We believe the purpose of this ad is to raise awareness of the government consultation, not to be transphobic.

“We pride ourselves at Metro on taking a balanced political approach, editorially and commercially, serving readers all the information available to us without taking sides.”

Fair Play for Women did not respond to a request for comment.