Monday, October 19, 2009

Channel 4 Bodyshock Documentary - Inciting Transphobia?

I have just finished watching the Channel 4 Bodyshock documentary - “Age 8 and Wanting a Sex Change” and like many of the people who have commented on the Channel 4 web site, I am both shocked and angry by their presentation. (Please follow the links above to see the documentary and the comments.)

Throughout the programme the parents described their children with appropriate pronouns, even making comment about how upsetting and offensive they and their children found it when incorrect pronouns were used. Yet despite this the narrator constantly used birth sex pronouns even when to do so was cringingly and obviously wrong. This is not the first time that this production company has acted so irresponsibly in the presentation of children with gender dysphoria.

But the effect was not just to make the narrator and Channel 4 appear silly, it had far more serious undertones of inciting transphobia. Just three weeks ago the Sun and then the Daily Mail and others reported on children born male bodied in the UK and who had started back to school as girls. The reporting of those stories encouraged such transphobic comment that the police have become involved.

Clearly the use of incorrect pronouns was a conscious policy. As a support organisation for trans people we devote much of our time to helping repair the damage done by a society that treats trans people as “freaks”. Far from helping, this programme has encouraged transphobia by presenting the actions of the supportive parents as questionable and refusing to accept these children, and an adult trans man, in their acquired gender. The way this programme was presented will encourage people to question a parent’s decision in allowing their child to grow up in their preferred gender.

What concerns me is that there was that the decisions of the parents were constantly being questioned and there appeared to be an inference throughout that allowing a child to start the process of gender change before puberty was wrong. Interestingly what was not addressed by the programme was the fact that in the UK hormone blockers are not available for children although on the Channel 4 web site comment is made regarding the current debate about this issue. I therefore suspect that this programme has a far darker objective of positioning public opinion against those who are campaigning for change in line with the current practice in the US, Netherlands and Germany.

Currently parents in the UK have to take their children to Boston in the US where Dr Norman Spack will provide treatment. Many of the trans children who go to him have self harmed or attempted suicide. Not allowing a child to express themselves in the gender they feel themselves to be is known to contribute to significant mental health issues.

I am disappointed that Channel 4 have decided to take what could have been a hugely empowering documentary and used it to present an outdated transphobic message that will probably now do more harm than good.

No comments: