Viewers slam Newsnight for using ‘anti-trans’ professor during healthcare debate
The BBC’s flagship news and current affairs programme Newsnight is facing heavy criticism on Twitter for airing a segment about transgender children and puberty blockers that featured a professor labelled ‘anti-trans’.
Michael Biggs, who is an assistant sociology professor at Oxford University, was said to be linked in October 2018 to an anti-trans Twitter account that said “transphobia is a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”
On July 23’s Newsnight, Biggs discussed “red flags” about the research behind puberty blockers being given to trans children.
Come back when you have spoken to actual experts instead of spouting one sided propaganda of transphobic extremists & helping to radicalise people against the trans community. A ridiculous news story with no balance from experts in the field. BBC wake up you are drunk #Newsnight https://t.co/Ja1gCHQ9Mu
— Tara Hewitt (@Tara_Hewitt) July 22, 2019
Puberty blockers, described by the Newsnight voiceover as a “controversial medical treatment,” can temporarily prevent the development of secondary sexual characteristics (like an Adam’s apple or facial hair).
This means that trans teenagers can potentially avoid some gender-affirming surgeries later in life.
Biggs, who Newsnight acknowledges has “attracted criticism from some in the transgender community for his views,” told the programme that he used Freedom of Information laws to obtain information about a scientific study that partially formed a basis for lowering the age at which trans kids can be given puberty blockers from 16 to 11 in 2011.
But Biggs’ involvement in the programme is being blasted online by both trans and cis (not trans) commentators.
A BBC spokesperson said in a statement to PinkNews: “This was an impartial piece of journalism exploring the subject of puberty blockers after England’s only NHS youth gender clinic lowered the age at which they are offered to children.”
man sexually harasses women online, gets invited by the BBC to discuss medical care for children. great, fucking great.— ?she/her? (@2damntrans) July 22, 2019
The Newsnight show presented data suggesting puberty blockers can increase the risk of self-harm for trans kids.
However, this has been criticised for failing to acknowledge the risk of self-harm or suicide attempts for trans kids who are not given the puberty blockers.
Things extremely important to consider when trans youth report higher SH/suicidality after starting blockers:
– this would need to be compared to similar kids denied blockers (overall, blockers reduce distress in trans kids enormously)— Ellen Murray (@ellenfromnowon) July 22, 2019
Dear @BBCNewsnight , how do you feel about your 'expert witness' in tonight's feature about trans kids being a serially abusive transphobic Twitter troll? Care to comment?https://t.co/c0DzjRaTMy@BBCNews @itvnews @Channel4News @PinkNews @stonewalluk @UniofOxford— Annie Wallace (@anniewallace) July 22, 2019
Because either 1) @BBCNewsnight knew and didn't care or 2) They didn't know because they are incompetent.
It wasn't journalism, it was an anti-trans editorial, and it's amateur-hour psychology and projected 'concerns' were completely one-sided
— Annie Wallace (@anniewallace) July 22, 2019
Other criticism focused on the apparently negative spin the segment took on data that shows trans children remain trans into adulthood – with critics suggesting the programme was presenting trans identity as something that children should be encouraged out of.
The programme referenced a Dutch study, which showed that “all participants on puberty blockers went on to take hormones.”
It boils my piss that @BBCNewsnight seem to be saying that being trans (and remaining trans) is the WORST CASE SCENARIO and that GIDS should be trying to “cure” trans youth.— Juno Dawson (@junodawson) July 23, 2019
If you saw #Newsnight & are worried about well being of trans youth on blockers they are the lucky few who access care. There is a 2 year waiting list which some young trans people do not survive. Blockers & timely access to hormones are proven effective & safe. CW suicide: https://t.co/FYMQHvqeWe— Growing-up-trans ??♂️ (@DadTrans) July 22, 2019
It says everything about endemic transphobia in the BBC that Newsnight focussed on anti trans campaigners 'concerned' about rise in reported depression from group of 44 youth who received blockers via NHS rather than the 4+ youth on the waiting list who died before they got them.— Growing-up-trans ??♂️ (@DadTrans) July 22, 2019
Susan Bewley, a professor of women’s health at King’s College London, told Newsnight, “We don’t know why children taking puberty blockers tend to go on to actually transition.”
Bewley and Biggs as well as both Newsnight journalists are cisgender.
The only trans involvement in the show is a trans teenager, Hannah Philipps, who says she thinks there should be more research into trans healthcare.
Alright, I'll bite. Wanna know the TRUTH about transgender healthcare, and supposed treatments for trans gender non-conforming children? Strap in… #newsnight— Ruth Pearce (@NotRightRuth) July 22, 2019
The programme also said that puberty blockers are harmful to bone growth, a claim that has been questioned online by trans healthcare provider GenderGP.
— GenderGP (@GenderGP) July 22, 2019
What research there is shows that acceptance and established treatment plans combine to make the most effective results – happy, stable, functional and effective people.— Helen Belcher ? (@HelenCBelcher) July 22, 2019
PinkNews has reached out to Oxford University but had not received a response by time of publication.
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