Newsnight and Woman's Hour, two BBC stalwart programmes have, in the last seven days, let down trans people badly. Their idea of 'balance' appears to be to let someone who is transphobic, to the extent that they oppose trans people's right to exist, debate with someone who is transgender. This seems to be such a simplistic concept of "balance" that it is almost one for Toytown.
Perhaps, if we put it in context; would they invite a homophobe onto Newnight to debate with a gay man, or a lesbophobe onto Women's Hour to debate with a lesbian? If Michael Cashman or Seb Dance were interviewed would they invite the Westboro Baptist Church along for "balance"? Would they suggest that every time a black or Asian person gets into the news, any feature about them should include a member of the BNP?
The format used by Women's Hour is now familiar fare for the BBC; fanatical transphobe Sheila Jeffreys was effectively allowed to ambush a trans woman, to set the agenda, get all her points across with no intervention from the presenter. A similar thing happened when Julie Burchill ambushed Paris Lees, whose calm and reasoned defence, in this instance, resulted in Burchill throwing her toys out of the pram and hanging up the phone. This isn't "balanced" reporting it is the modern equivalent of throwing Christians to the lions in ancient Rome.
Most of what we know we have never learned from personal experience. We only know what we know from books, the internet or the media. In a recent survey only 13% of the UK population said they were acquainted, in any way, with a trans person. as such it is important that trans people are fairly represented in the media; the media is the only way most people will ever get to learn about trans people. That is why the games Newsnight and Woman's Hour are playing are dangerous and that is why it is important that they are taken to task about them.
The desire, on the part of editors to set up a dramatic clashing argument with fur flying may make for a gripping few minutes of entertainment but it fails to educate anyone about the issues. It is as if these programmes now consider themselves to be entertainment like dramas or soap operas, rather than current affairs programmes. Well I'm not prepared to allow my life to be treated as entertainment by programmes that are supposed to educate and inform. Trans people are people, not your entertainment, not your performing seals. We are not here to be some relief from "serious" news articles about Iraq.
Trans people have to live with abuse from trans haters like Jeffreys all the time. Dealing with the abuse, harassment and emotional violence transphobes cause to us is difficult at the best of times, having to do it live on radio or TV can only be described as torture. Putting people through that sort of mental stress is both unfair and unacceptable. The BBC needs to start taking its responsibilities to trans people seriously firstly by properly training all its staff in trans diversity issues and then not giving the equivalents of the Westboro Baptists Church or the BNP the right to argue with us about our right to exist.