ITV defends ‘irresponsible’ This Morning gender debate that included zero trans people

ITV has defended hosting two anti-trans commentators on This Morning to discuss the recent blocking of Scotland’s gender recognition legislation.

ITV has defended a This Morning segment on the UK government blocking Scottish gender recognition reform that featured zero trans people, and a lot of inaccurate rhetoric.

On Tuesday (17 January), the ITV show hosted a debate on the Scottish reform, which would have allowed trans people to have their gender recorded on their birth, marriage, civil partnership and death certificates without the need for a medical diagnosis.

This Morning presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield chatted with Observer columnist Sonia Sodha, who described the Scottish bill as a “very, very poorly conceived legislation”.

She used the common “gender-critical” argument that de-medicalising gender recognition would see men abusing the system in order to attack women – something that has not been recorded in any of the countries that have done so.

“The reason women have concerns about them is not about trans people who want to get legal recognition of a different gender. It’s about men who abuse women,” Sodha said.

“If you’re a man [who] wants to commit voyeurism or exposure – flashing – it’s much harder for you to be challenged if you’re going into spaces where women are getting undressed, women and teenage girls are getting undressed, if you are able to change your legal sex in the eyes of the law.”

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The show did not point out that access to single-sex spaces is not dependent on having obtained a gender recognition certificate (GRC).

ITV defends This Morning

A clip of the segment was shared to Twitter, sparking widespread criticism. Many questioned why no trans people were included in the discussion on trans rights – Sodha was joined only by LBC radio presenter Nick Ferrari, who once said live on air that being gay is “a choice of lifestyle”.

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jane fae, chair of Trans Media Watch, called the segment “disgraceful, but not remotely surprising”.

“From work that Trans Media Watch did almost four years ago now, it became clear that there is a structural bias in the press and broadcasting in favour of negative stories about trans people,” fae explained.

“Not only is there such a structural bias, but we also found that within those negative stories, even where there was pro-trans comment only one in 10 such comments came from trans people themselves.

“Therefore what’s happened with is not the least surprising – it is simply journalism as it is done in the UK.”

Twitter users called the segment “dangerous”, with one pointing out: “Pretty much the most consistent feature of the mainstream conversation about trans rights in the UK is that trans people aren’t involved in it.” 

A spokesperson for ITV told PinkNews that Sodha and Ferrari are part of This Morning’s “regular team of news review contributors”.

“News review contributors are invited on for their opinions on a variety of topics each morning and this topic was one of many that was discussed, and also followed wider conversations on the story across ITV daytime programming earlier that morning,” they said.

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This Morning plans to cover and discuss this issue again in more detail soon.” 

While ITV insists the discussion was part of “wider conversations” around the topic, it was published on its social media without any further context and captioned with a direct quote from Sodha.

After the segment was aired, Sodha was further criticised after she appeared to link the discussion to the serial rapist and police officer David Carrick.

Carrick carried out a series of serious offences, including 49 rapes, across two decades while serving as a Metropolitan Police officer. 

“One of familiar lessons of awful David Carrick case is that sex offenders often seek the statuses, positions and professions that open doors to abusing women and children more easily. 

“Why those who argue ‘rapists don’t need to pretend to be something they’re not to rape’ are wrong.” 

As one person, activist Thomas Willett, replied: “Conflating trans people with a serial rapist who was in fact a police officer (not pretending to be anything) is disgusting. Projecting abusive cis men as trans people does nothing but camouflage the real perpetrators: predatory cis men.”

The Scottish reforms – which passed in a December vote by 86 to 39 – would have amended the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) in Scotland to obtain a GRC.

Trans people without a GRC can already use single-sex spaces, such as toilets and changing rooms, which align with their gender under the 2010 Equality Act. 

The changes involved the removal of medical requirements, lowering the age limit from 18 to 16, and cutting the period that an applicant must live as their affirmed gender from two years to a few months.

But the UK government announced on Monday (16 January) that it would block the reforms. Following that decision, protests have been held across the UK. 

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