Poignant vigil held outside ‘disgusting’ BBC to remember trans lives lost to hate and violence

A vigil was held to mark Trans Day of Remembrance outside the BBC's London headquarters.

Trans people and their allies held a vigil outside the BBC’s London headquarters to mark Trans Day of Remembrance on Saturday (20 November) – and to protest against the broadcaster’s coverage of trans issues.

Around 150 people gathered outside the BBC Television Centre to draw attention to the 375 trans people killed across the world over the last year. The vigil was held outside the BBC’s headquarters to show that the BBC’s “careless transphobia” is “almost inevitably contributing to that loss of life”, according to Trans Media Watch.

The vigil was also held in response to the BBC publishing an inflammatory article in October which suggested trans women are pressuring cis lesbians into sex. The article relied on a survey of just 80 people, which was conducted by a member of anti-trans pressure group Get The L Out.

Natacha Kennedy, one of the organisers of the demonstration, told PinkNews that she felt compelled to hold a Trans Day of Remembrance vigil outside the BBC’s headquarters after it translated that article into Brazilian Portuguese and re-published it in the region. Brazil is the deadliest place in the world for trans people – at least 175 trans women were murdered in the country last year alone.

“As far as I know, they haven’t pushed this article out anywhere else,” Kennedy said. “They translated it into Brazilian Portuguese and pushed it out to their Brazilian contacts, and the only explanation I can find for doing that is that they want to actually harm trans people – the BBC does – and that is outrageous.

“I personally think Tim Davie and Fran Unsworth should be sacked, because they have allowed an atmosphere to develop in the BBC that means somebody, or some people, thought this would be OK. But it’s not.”

BBC’s anti-trans article is ‘epistemological violence’, says academic behind vigil

As an academic, Kennedy was shocked by the BBC’s original article too, which she says deliberately interpreted the data from a very limited study to paint trans women in a negative light.

“When you look at the material that that writer had in that article, it could actually have just as easily been interpreted to say ‘trans women generally do not push themselves onto cis lesbians – that is very, very rare’. The data could just as easily be interpreted in that way. As an academic, we’ve got a word for that – it’s called epistemological violence, when the data is interpreted in a way to harm a marginalised group and to misrepresent the data.”

The vigil was supported by jane fae of Trans Media Watch, a charity that works to improve the coverage of trans and intersex people in the media.

fae, who does not capitalise either her first name or surname, told PinkNews that since 2017 she has watched with “increasing dismay” as the BBC repeatedly platformed “gender critical” views in the name of balance.

She was horrified by recent reports suggesting BBC head of news Fran Unsworth told LGBT+ staff they would have to “get used to hearing views” they don’t like.

“The ‘trans people putting pressure on lesbians’ [article] was bad journalism – it was appalling journalism,” fae said. “The fact that the one translation they undertook meant that it was going out to Brazil, which is as we all know, in absolute terms, one of the worst countries in the world for violence against trans people, speaks of sadism.”

She continued: “It’s worse than irresponsible, it is sadistic from BBC management.

“It isn’t some intellectual pastime – in Brazil, it is life and death, and that’s where the BBC took their story. It’s beyond disgusting.”

The vigil is the latest chapter in the ongoing controversy surrounding the BBC’s handling of trans issues. The broadcaster has repeatedly faced criticism from trans people for platforming anti-trans pressure groups such as the LGB Alliance in its reporting.

The row intensified further in October when the BBC published the much reviled article titled “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women.” The BBC was inundated with complaints over the article, with many people signing an open letter condemning the broadcaster for running the story.

There was uproar among LGBT+ staff at the BBC shortly afterwards when management announced that they were bowing out of Stonewall’s workplace diversity scheme. Bosses said they had quit the programme because of the need to be impartial on LGBT+ issues.

A leaked recording of a meeting with LGBT+ staff at the BBC, which was obtained by Vice, revealed that queer employees are quitting the broadcaster over its handling of LGBT+ related stories.

PinkNews has contacted the BBC for comment.