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Photography Santiago Franco Schicke

The BBC has been called out for transphobia by a human rights group

Advocacy group ILGA-Europe highlighted the ‘serious damage’ caused by anti-trans rhetoric in the UK

In a report released today, a leading European LGBTQ+ rights organisation has called out the BBC for its transphobic reporting. The review, published by the advocacy group ILGA-Europe, states that “anti-trans rhetoric continued to cause serious damage in the UK again this year.” It goes on to report that “mainstream newspapers ran one or more anti-trans articles every day” while highlighting instances of transphobia at the BBC.

It notes the November 2021 protests outside the BBC’s office in London, following the publication of a transphobic article by Caroline Lowbridge which claimed that cisgender lesbian women were being “pressured” into having sex with trans women. The article was widely derided as transphobic – which the BBC vehemently denied.

The report also highlights the fact that “a number of LGBTQ employees quit the BBC due to concerns over its transphobic reporting” and also draws attention to the corporation’s “smear podcast series on Stonewall.”

Writing for Vice News, former BBC LGBT correspondent Ben Hunte reported that employees voiced their concerns during a Zoom meeting between BBC company secretary Phil Harrold and LGTBQ+ BBC staff. “People are getting to the point where they're asking – am I working for the bad guys?” Hunte reported one staffer as saying. Another said: “We really need to start looking internally at ourselves as the BBC, and ask a very simple question - what the fuck are we doing?”

The BBC has always maintained that its transphobic articles are permissible given the broadcaster’s dedication to ‘impartiality’. Responding to criticism about Lowbridge’s article, the corporation said: “We have a strong commitment to impartiality, which means we constantly consider and evaluate which stories to cover and how. Impartiality is fundamental, and includes covering stories on any point of the spectrum of debate. And stories should be seen not just individually, but in the broader context of our wider coverage.”

This response and the implication that the lived experience of trans people is up for “debate” shows clearly that transphobia is systemically ingrained in the BBC. Thankfully, ILGA-Europe has rightly called out the corporation in their latest annual review.

Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, Evelyne Paradis said in a statement: “The spread of anti-LGBTI and trans exclusionary rhetoric outlined in this report has a very real negative impact on people's lives.”

“In country after country, we see how it negatively impacts people's mental health and their sense of safety, their access to employment and the overall ability to progress much needed legal protection,” she continued. “At this moment in time, it is essential we remind politicians, media, academics – and sadly even some civil society actors – that real people's lives are at stake in every country across the region, because of the political scapegoating of LGBTI people.”