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Senior MPs and LGBT+ activists brand BBC News ‘institutionally transphobic’ in scathing letter to its editorial director

Vic Parsons June 22, 2020
LGBT groups unite to defend trans charities after removal by BBC

The BBC Editorial Policy Department was today sent a letter by the UK's 10 biggest LGBT+ groups who have united in support of the transgender community. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty)

Senior MPs have branded the BBC News “institutionally transphobic” for a news article about cross-party opposition to alleged Tory plans to take away trans rights.

Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, deputy leader of the SNP in Westminster Kirsty Blackman and Stewart McDonald MP are among 150 people who have signed a letter to the BBC expressing “serious concerns” about its coverage of trans issues.

Last Friday, the BBC’s LGBT+ correspondent, Ben Hunte, wrote an article about an unprecedented show of support for trans equality that saw the LGBT+ groups of seven major political parties in the UK join forces to condemn Tory equalities chief Liz Truss for her statements on trans rights.

Hunte’s article includes a comment from feminist author Joan Smith, who regularly shares content from groups labelled “transphobic hate groups” by the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights, who said that cross-party concern about trans equality was “a very emotional species of speculation”.

“It was unusual in the extreme to add comments from an individual (Joan Smith) not directly connected” to the issue, states the open letter, which was coordinated by the Trans Media Watch charity.

Lisa Power MBE, founding member of charity Stonewall; Christine Burns MBE, author; and Linda Riley, publisher of lesbian magazine Diva, were also among the signatures on the letter sent today to BBC News editor director Kamal Ahmed.

The letter continues: “The correct ‘balance’ in such a piece would be comment from Liz Truss, the target of their remarks, or the GEO, the department for which, in her capacity as minister for equalities, she is responsible.

“It seems very clear that the BBC is dealing with trans issues in a way it should never contemplate dealing with issues relating to any protected characteristic under the Equality Act.

“You are treating the lives and existence of a significant minority not as a matter of dignity or human rights, but as a culture war within which your anti-trans journalists – and we are well aware that such exist at the BBC – are given free rein to take potshots at trans people.

“Along the way, you are applying a new and different standard to the writing of stories with a trans angle.

“This is the very definition of institutional discrimination and hatred and it is time it stopped.”

As well as senior MPs, the letter has also been signed by Alison Camps, the co-chair of Pride in London; Jane Carnall of the Edinburgh Abortion Rights Group; and the poet Roz Kaveney.

Other political signees include Benali Hamdache, co-chair of the LGBTIQA+ Greens; Heather Herbert, the trans officer for LGBT+ Labour Scotland; Colm Howard-Lloyd, the chair of LGBT+ Conservatives; and Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett, the former chair and vice president of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats.

The letter goes on to remind Ahmed that Trans Media Watch complained about BBC News’ coverage of trans issues three months ago and is yet to receive a reply.

“We are puzzled as to why in three months you have been unable to do more than acknowledge that complaint, while in response to complaints from anti-trans ideologues, you have amended a story within 24 hours.

“This adds weight to the contention that the BBC is institutionally transphobic.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC is committed to telling stories from the LGBTQ+ community and has a specialist correspondent dedicated to bringing these stories to a wider audience.

“Our reporting of the consultation of the Gender Recognition Act and JK Rowling’s transgender comments both contain opposing viewpoints, as would be expected in stories where there is a public debate.

“The BBC approaches every story with the same rigorous impartiality.”

More: BBC News, kamal ahmed, liz truss, trans equality, trans media watch, trans rights

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