UK’s biggest LGBT+ groups condemn BBC for ‘breaching impartiality’ after it quietly cut ties with trans charities

LGBT groups unite to defend trans charities after removal by BBC

The heads of Britain’s biggest LGBT+ groups have united to demand the BBC reinstate trans-support charities onto its Action Line website and explain why they were removed.

All trans-specific charities for England, Scotland and Wales have been removed from the BBC’s Action Line page, which the leading LGBT+ groups slammed as “deeply troubling”.

The ten LGBT+ organisations also accuse the BBC of breaching its “duty of impartiality, as set out in the Royal Charter”.

The BBC quietly dropped three trans-specific charities – Mermaids, GIRES and the Gender Trust – from its Action Line help pages during changes to its “LGBT Issues” and “Gender Identity: Support and Information” pages this month.

This move, which members of the BBC’s internal LGBT+ Pride network were told this week was because of “audience complaints”, has already seen the public-service broadcaster condemned for “bowing down to deliberate and orchestrated hate campaigns” against trans people.

The bosses of leading equalities charities Stonewall, Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline, LGBT+ Consortium, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, The Rainbow Project and the LGBT Foundation have all signed today’s far-reaching letter, which demands the BBC give the affected organisations the opportunity to see and respond to the complaints levelled against them.

This is a deeply concerning decision, particularly in light of increased misinformation and debate around trans people’s lives, which is being reflected in our national media,” reads the letter, which is also signed by the heads of major transgender charities Gendered Intelligence, Mermaids, GIRES and Sail NI.  

“We are seeing continued efforts from a small but motivated group of people to discredit legitimate organisations working in the field of supporting trans people.”

The letter – in which the LGBT+ organisations say they “speak in one voice” in defence of the trans community – was sent this afternoon to the BBC Editorial Policy Department.

The removal of the charities, according to letter, “signals a deliberate removal of authority and approval [of the trans charities] as well as the support they could provide to trans people in need of help”.

The letter adds that trans-support charities “are facing an increasingly toxic and hostile public dialogue around trans lives. They work to support their service users through this toxicity and hostility every day.

“It has been suggested that this dialogue has made the listing of the charities a complex matter. We cannot see the complexity.

“All the charities are dedicated to upholding the rights of this vulnerable population who are currently facing public humiliation and deliberate misinformation more than ever. That population make up a proportion of your readership and viewers.”

None of the charities were alerted by the BBC before being taken down from Action Line or were given the opportunity to respond.

The BBC’s Pride network said on 15 July that it had spent a week trying to discover the “rationale” for removing the trans charities but admitted it still did not know.

We are troubled that trans people are the only ones whose access to support has been reduced. Even more so that the action has taken place within an opaque process,” the letter says.

“If the organisations are not reinstated, then the opaque decision-making process is simply inadequate and highly damaging to the BBC’s reputation for impartiality and considered decision-making.”

Last month, senior MPs and LGBT+ activists were among 150 people who branded BBC News “institutionally transphobic” and expressed “serious concerns” about its coverage of trans issues in a letter to BBC News director Kamal Ahmed.

Today, the letter from the UK’s biggest LGBT+ groups added that “opposition to transphobia is a fundamental democratic principle”.

“It is, after all, trans people’s democratic right not to be discriminated against,” the letter says. “It is also the BBC’s imperative not to merely arbitrate between complaints and the fundamental rights of those affected are engaged.”

A BBC spokesperson previously said: “We understand this issue is hugely important for some audiences so our Action Line LBGT Issues page links to gender identity information on the NHS website, which also links through to additional relevant resources.”

PinkNews has contacted the BBC for comment.

Full list of signatories on letter to BBC Editorial Policy Department regarding removal of trans-support charities.

Nancy Kelley, CEO, Stonewall 

Natasha Walker, co-chair, Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline

Peter Zacaroli, co-chair, Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline

Paul Roberts, chief executive, LGBT+ Consortium 

Hugh Fell, chair of trustees, Family and Friends of Lesbian and Gays

John O’Doherty, director, The Rainbow Project

Paul Martin, chief executive, LGBT Foundation

Susie Green, CEO, Mermaids

Dr Jay Stewart, CEO, Gendered Intelligence

Shaan Surat R Knan, chair, GIRES

Nicola Doran, director, Sail NI