The BBC is facing mounting pressure to apologize for a controversial online news story about transgender women and lesbians, after more than 16,000 people signed an open letter calling on the British broadcaster to do so.
The article, published on October 26, interviewed several lesbians who felt “pressured into sex by some trans women.”
In the article, the author, Caroline Lowbridge, acknowledged that the subject would be “hugely divisive,” but she said she “wanted to find out how widespread the issue was.” Lowbridge also recognized that it’s difficult to research the true scale of the problem because there has only been one survey into the issue.
Campaign group TransActivism published the open letter later that day, saying that the article “dangerously frames this as a widespread issue.”
The letter noted that the article is based on a single study of 80 individuals sourced from Get The L Out, a group it said espouses “anti-trans views.”
The letter said that the article implies that transgender women aren’t women, and “uncritically” quoted people who call transgender women men.
“The implications proposed by this article suggest that transgender women generally pose a risk to cisgender lesbians in great enough numbers that it is newsworthy, and something the general public should consider as a common occurrence rather than a matter of incredibly rare, isolated experiences,” the letter says.
“It is vital that the BBC, which is a government-endorsed public service that claims to be committed to achieving impartiality with the output of its content, rectifies this act with a sincere apology, amendment of the article to clarify the falsehoods and damage within, and commits to realigning with their original mission statement.”
Difficult Issue to Assess
In response, a BBC spokesperson said: “The article looks at a complex subject from different perspectives and acknowledges it is difficult to assess the extent of the issue.
“It includes testimony from a range of different sources and provides appropriate context. It went through our rigorous editorial processes.
“It is important that journalism looks at issues – even where there are strongly held positions. The BBC is here to ensure debate and to make sure a wide a range of voices are heard.”
The article was also widely criticized on social media.
“The BBC has published one of the most insidious, disgusting and toxic anti-trans pieces yet,” Pink News journalist Ryan John Butcher said.
Novara Media contributor Ash Sarkar said: “This article is based on a ‘survey’ of 80 people, conducted by an explicitly anti-trans organisation using that organisation’s social media network. Shameful and disreputable misuse of data by the BBC here.”
Jo Maugham, director of the non-profit Good Law Project, tweeted: “Running ugly stories – and suggesting they are representative of how a minority behaves – is the very essence of bigoted hate speech. But that is just how the institutionally transphobic BBC is these days.”
Newsweek has contacted the BBC for further comment.
Controversy at Netflix
The calls for the BBC to apologize come a week after about 100 people protested outside of Netflix‘s headquarters over the airing of a comedy special by Dave Chapelle, which they say was transphobic.
Netflix employees and transgender activists staged a walkout outside the streaming giant’s Los Angeles offices. A string of celebrities —including trans actor Elliott Page, The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil, Schitts Creek’s Dan Levy and Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness — expressed their support for the walkout.
In Chapelle’s The Closer Netflix special, the comedian says “gender is a fact” and that LGBTQ people are “too sensitive.”
Chapelle said in a video posted to his Instagram page on October 25 that he was open to meeting Netflix’s transgender staff, but he would not be “bending to anyone’s demands.”