The BBC has come under fire for broadcasting a medical documentary on transgender children which dared to treat the trend with scepticism.
Critics rounded on the broadcaster for airing Transgender Kids, Who Knows Best? on Thursday night, despite the producers’ clear efforts to treat both sides fairly.
The most controversial interviewee was Dr Ken Zucker, who was fired from a prestigious research position for taking the view that kids who question their gender should not be automatically believed and encouraged.
One comment in particular, briefed to the UK press before the show aired, inflamed opinion. Zucker said:
Just because kids are saying something doesn’t necessarily mean you accept it, or that it’s true, or that it could be in the best interests of the child.
A four-year-old might say that he’s a dog – do you go out and buy dog food?
Opponents erupted in outrage, and some commented that the programme put forward a “dangerous narrative” by a “discredited clinician”.
— elliott (@elliottmutlow) January 12, 2017
— Andrew White (@AndrewGwyn) January 12, 2017
— BipolarBun♿️🏳️🌈✡️ (@thebipolarbunny) January 12, 2017
The documentary overall put forward various viewpoints: both the now-mainstream “trans affirmative” view, and the opinions of sceptics who stood up for traditional gender identities.
A woman who had started to transition discussed how she had regretted her decision, and described how she was led to think her options were “transition or die”.
absolutely appalled at the BBC for showing such an awful and ignorant portrayal of trans people. who allowed this?! #transgenderkids
— Nat ❄ (@luridesque) January 12, 2017
It also included parents whose children were treated by Dr Zucker, and ultimately decided not to transition.
Some, however, did approach the programme with an open mind – by pointing out that a range of viewpoints is useful when approaching such a complex issue
BBC screens doc with range of views on a complex issue. Everyone on Twitter angry their own view not showcased exclusively #transgenderkids
— KateMaltby (@KateMaltby) January 12, 2017
Using the threat of child suicide to make sure nobody questions you is shameful #TransgenderKids
— Daniel Clark (@DanielClark132) January 12, 2017
It was claimed that the woman, Lou, who said that she regretted her transition,
received death threats for her involvement.
Lou received death threats online..how do we know how many detransitioners there are when they are abused for speaking out? #TransgenderKids
— StephanieDavies-Arai (@cwknews) January 12, 2017
The show explored the link between gender identity, stereotypes and dysphoria – something that Zucker explored with his patients.
The controversy surrounding it arose primarily from Zucker’s involvement. Despite decades of frontline involvement, and hefty academic expertise, he has been subject to huge opposition from man trans people.
He spoke out against the politicisation of trans issues. During the show it was claimed that many are appalled by the way he was unceremoniously fired, but are terrified to say so in public.
Cheri DiNovo, a politician in Ontario, took an opposing view – that “children know best” – and insisted that parents trying to intervene in their children’s transition is akin to abuse.
As the show detailed – and responses online reaffirmed – it is difficult to get a sceptical point about transgender issues across without being howled down. And, despite the BBC’s attempts, this doesn’t look likely to change any time soon.