Tag Archives: BBC Three

So What Is A ‘Mental Health Patient’ Costume Exactly?

mental patient costume

The chances are that if you have ever been to your GP surgery and been diagnosed with a chest infection it was a very mundane affair. Of course, as with anything medical there is always the risk of complicating factors and underlying issues being discovered. However, in most cases your GP will listen to your chest and if they find an infection, taking into account your clinical presentation you will be sent on your way with some bacteria killing broad-spectrum antibiotics.

For the patient presenting with mental health problems though, the journey is a harder one. Unlike those with physical problems, patients with mental health problems present with fewer definable symptoms which are suggestive of certain diagnoses.

There are no rashes, no physical pain and no real visual or sensory clues.

What an effective diagnosis of a mental health problem relies upon is a positive professional relationship between doctor and patient, consisting of a willingness to listen, and from the patient perspective, a feeling that their concerns have been heard and understood, they can trust the medical professional, and lastly that they feel empathy has been extended towards them.

Even medical professionals though are not beyond reproach and are not above learning more. Clinical training for the best of doctors should not end when they leave medical school. They should have an appetite to learn something new every day, to be scholars and make a difference to people. In the real world outside of the tutorial or the lecture hall, or even a clinical rotation it is arguably patients themselves who make the best teachers.

Too often in mental health though interactions between doctors and patients fall short of this ideal. My main objective in liaising with clinicians about my own mental health has always been to be heard and understood. But I am lucky. I am articulate, and I can converse well. Mental health patients are often hampered by archaic anachronisms embedded within the clinical system. Here’s a paradox for you. Those working with anorexic patients will always tell them that their disorder is not about food and weight and this is true. Yet simultaneously patients get caught in the imbroglio of the Body Mass Index. After being told that eating disorders are not about food and weight, with the aforementioned acting as a cipher for other issues, people are told that they have to be under a certain weight in order to receive treatment in the first instance. This seems to be counter intuitive at best and dangerous at worst, encouraging a dangerous game of eating disorder Russian roulette. It makes people feel that they’re not sick enough,and furthermore that they are wasting people’s time.

Of course none of this is true, but that is of little comfort to someone in the iron -like grip of an eating disorder. The greatest injustice of all is that this is perpetuated by the very system which people rely on to help them and that is wrong. Without getting past the gatekeepers, treatment from specialists in mental health conditions is just not an option let alone a pipe dream. This too can leave people feeling that they are a fraud.

What I hope I’ve demonstrated so far is that seeking help for a physical health problem is far less daunting than seeking help for its mental counterpart. Outside of the clinical setting, there are also the attitudes of your family, your friends and the wider public to consider. One of the most heart breaking realisations I have come to is that people are far more sympathetic to physical health problems than they are to mental health problems. With a physical problem, say a broken leg people receive sympathy and empathy because it is tangible; people can see it, touch it and relate to it perhaps.

When it comes to mental health problems, people’s first reaction is often to lean out instead of leaning in. Instead of showing sympathy or empathy, they are often nowhere to be seen. There is much stigma surrounding mental health. It is that stigma upon which the remainder of my argument focuses.

Halloween can be a challenging time for people with mental health problems. When I was a child we made pumpkin soup and made funny faces out of the pumpkin skin. But now it seems Halloween has taken on a much more sinister, visceral disguise.

I looked on Twitter the other night and happened upon a retweet from Dr Rory Conn a Specialist Paediatric Registrar in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Great Ormond Street hospital in London, and a Lord Darzi Fellow.

Dr Conn was drawing attention to this vile poster pictured at the top of this piece. The article from the Bournemouth Daily Echo can be found here and a Storify, containing Twitter’s reaction (credit:SectionedUK) can be found here.

Let us take a closer look firstly at the language and tenor of that poster. Even a layperson who is not a linguistic specialist would know that this disgusting advertisement is going to end in tears for Greene King as a responsible company and provider of leisure facilities.

The Broadway ‘Mental Asylum’ promises free shots for participants. The kind of fancy dress they are looking for is for people to dress as ‘deranged doctors and nurses’ and ‘mental patient’ (sic).

According to the Science Museum the last asylums closed in the 1970’s and 80’s. This harks back then to a time when mental health was less understood, and where people with mental health problems were treated as lepers, people to be feared and hidden from society. What is abundantly clear from the actual poster itself is that some of these attitudes still have some currency today and that is highly poignant. Moreover, it is demoralising for those with mental health problems, as well as those who work in the field of mental health either clinically, or in other capacities. It becomes almost an evangelistic obsession; to break down taboos and stigma so that people do not have to suffer in society.

But promotions like the Halloween event The Broadway pub attempted to run are counter-intuitive and reinforce the very stereotypes which clinicians, campaigners and others try to break down. First of all, doctors are not deranged and the word belongs to a bygone lexicon. I don’t doubt the fact that there are clinicians and other people in mental health whose own experiences have driven them to enter the profession. Unlike The Broadway clinicians and counsellors are there to make a difference.

Secondly, where these mental patient costumes you speak of? Do people wear a big flashing neon sign on their head saying mental patient? If so, please send me evidence for it is news to me.

As one tweeter Katie Hodgie enquired, should she come dressed as herself because she has mental health problems? She didn’t realise that she was scary enough for Halloween. I joked frostily that they should offer free shots to all people in ordinary clothes.

That is the crux of the argument upon which this case rests. Aside from prehistoric retrogressive mythmaking by shameful retailers, there is no stereotypical mental patient. Mental illness transcends barriers of sex and sexuality, race, age and disability to name just a few social categories.

A mental health patient could be anyone. It could be me, your best friend, your parent or sibling. It could be your bank manager, your GP, or the person at the checkout when you went to do your shopping. There are no visible signs of mental health problems so therefore anybody you meet today or tomorrow could have one. It is disgusting to cash in on people suffering, verging on the ghoulish and vulgar.

Are The Broadway genuinely so naive as to assume that nobody with a mental health problem visits their establishment? Are they really that stupid?

The fact that the night was withdrawn is a testament to the power of social media, and everybody who took part in the campaign as recorded in the Storify should feel justly proud. The Broadway however, were most unspooktacular in thinking that this cheap gimmick balanced on the backs of those who suffer as a result of mental health problems who have to endure such stigma was in any way a good idea.

The manager of The Broadway, Jay Cutler, quoted in the Bournemouth Daily Echo’s article seemed like a man who had just stepped off a rather scary ghost train, and I quote:

As of 8am this morning all the posters were taken down, we are sorry if these posters upset anybody, it was just a Halloween theme that all of the staff came up with.

The posters have been up for a week, this is the first we’ve heard of any problems and we acted straight away. We took all of them down and will now come up with a new theme.”

Oh the hubble, bubble toil and trouble they must have gone to taking those posters down at 8: 00 a.m. I can’t help but smile a little really. But the response worries me. As somebody who suffered with mental health problems for a substantive part of my life, the response does not elicit feelings of hope from me. The apology seems perfunctory rather than heartfelt. It’s not a matter of simply upsetting people. Furthermore, such a characterisation only serves to trivialise the matter, and implicitly suggest that Dr Conn et al were making something out of nothing.

Secondly I find it troubling that had been up for a week prior to any complaints. What signal does this send about the attitude of society towards mental health? A society high on cognitive dissonance, jet propelled by the rise of the individual; essentially that as long as one is okay in their own skin they do not need to worry about anybody else. Also Cutler claims that this was the first time that been aware of any problems. The theme was problematic from the outset and any good customer facing business should be able to deduce that at the very least. Why did no light bulb come on in Cutler’s own head when the theme was agreed to between himself and his staff? Notably though approval was not sought from Greene King, the brewery who operate the business. I suspect strongly that if they had been aware the theme would never have made it on to the poster.

But even they don’t get away scot free from admonishment. Whilst I’m aware that diversity is an important and noble cause, and one I actively encourage and support both as a woman with a disability, and a trans woman I feel it is irrelevant here. This does not fall under the banner of diversity but insensitivity. Those with mental health problems are not some diverse separate group with their own needs which need addressed. That is not to say that those with mental health problems do not have needs, rather than those needs should be addressed within mainstream society rather than categorised as something separate and other. This only adds to the stereotype of those with mental health problems as something freakish and beyond everyday understanding.

Staff should not be coming up with themes without approval centrally. Marketing specialists know the kind of ideas to sanction and ideas which are best left in the waste paper bin.

I also  blame the retailers, because if retailers did not produce and market these items themes like this would be impossible to conceive. To think that retailers are cashing in implicitly in people’s suffering beggar’s belief in a modern society.

Now, the UK’s parliament can be and ought to be an adversarial bear pit at times. But one of the most edifying and non-adversarial House of Commons debates I can remember is one where MPs met to discuss mental health. There were many distinguished contributions, with some MPs disclosing mental health problems for the first time. Now, if the UK Parliament can be grown up about it, and if the Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn can appoint a Shadow Minister for Mental Health in Luciana Berger MP, who by the way is already making a sterling mark in the brief then why can’t the rest of society follow suit?

We can feel somewhat naïvely I think that huge progress has been made in the field of mental health. Every time we see a new documentary, a new symposium or a new initiative, such as the new campaign launched by Care Minister Alistair Burt MP and the charity Time to Change, we often lull ourselves into a false sense of security. We think that this means people get it. But the truth is these initiatives are preaching to the choir. We get it, because we’ve always got it. But there is still a sizeable chunk of the population which to put it quite bluntly does not. It is these people such initiatives need to cut through to. If mental health was truly understood, then BBC Three would never need to devote a whole slate of programs to mental health,  and people would not be waiting for huge pieces of time for treatment as highlighted by Liam Fox MP on the Victoria Derbyshire programme this week. Most germane to this essay though, is that reducing mental health patients to a mere caricature, something to be laughed at mocked and traduced would never have entered The Broadway’s theme no brain storming.

As Dr Conn makes plain in his remarks to the Echo such callous ambivalence to mental health problems has direct and tangible consequences. In the worst-case scenarios it leads to suicide, resulting from mistakes and errors sometimes by mental health professionals, but more often the problems begin with society. All people with mental health problems want is a friend, someone to talk not to be solution focused but just to listen and understand. Most often what people with mental health problems want is to be not just understood but to be truly heard. There is a remarkable difference between listening, active listening and truly hearing. I sat and listened to a friend for three hours once. I supported that friend, and I would do it again for anybody. I don’t want to hear endless accounts of people jumping in front of trains or off bridges. That is not because I am dissonant to them. Congruently I’m a highly sensitive and emotional person. But, it is because I want to stop people getting to that stage. I want people to be encouraged by peers to seek appropriate help and to augment their help with love empathy and understanding.

One thing I do know is that we must do better. But the stakes are too high to frame that as some lofty abstract ambition. We must do better, and friends we must do better now. Right now this minute. I wrote a blog in 2013 excoriating the supermarkets for cashing in with mental health problems, after hearing a discussion led by LBC presenter Cristo Foufas on the subject of mental patient costumes. I am furious and embarrassed to find myself in the same position a couple of years later. It proves that nothing has changed. We need to stop preaching to the choir and cut through to those who don’t understand because the stakes are too high and the need is too urgent. Let’s get to work. I have spent enough time with Rogers and Jung to know the benefits of therapeutic support under core counselling conditions. But just because after 16 years I’m antidepressant free doesn’t mean I stop caring. I don’t walk by on the other side. I am also not foolish enough to think that the scrappage of one idea in one pub in Britain means mental health stigma is over. What is saddening and maddening is that there are probably thousands of promotions which are predicated on similar tired boring disgusting tropes. To those who don’t get it, to those who don’t understand I say examine your conscience and walk a mile in the shoes of those with mental health problems. I don’t check my privilege here, I use my way with words to help people who feel voiceless and disempowered in the struggle with mental health problems. This blog is for you. I hope it shows that at least one person cares. When I had mental health problems I needed somebody to care too. I know what it is like to be on the phone to the Samaritans in the small hours. I know what it is like to be bullied at school and emotionally abused by someone who should take care of you. What I also know is that mental health patients are not a costume. So this and every Halloween I implore you to treat them as people, not as your spooktacular theme. You want your zinger marketing idea. I bet you wouldn’t want the mental health problem it mocks now would you idiots? Do better and do better now. We are not your marketing devices; we are human beings. Give us dignity and do better. I hope I never have to write such a blog again. Such blogs fall into the category of stating the bloody obvious. From a writer’s perspective they are the kind of blogs you never want to write, because they remind you that ghoulish voyeurism is still a persistent force in society and as we head towards Halloween I find that depressing, icy and chilling. Think and reflect. What is most chilling is that if Dr Rory Conn’s friend had not photographed the poster the event would have gone ahead and checked and free of scrutiny from Greene King. If that does not stir you from cognitive dissonance nothing will. It really is time to change.

Oh and the costume? You’re wearing it already.

 

Advertisements

Don’t Call Me Crazy 3

TW: Mentions suicide, self harm, anorexia, and voices inside the head. PLEASE DO NOT READ IF IN AN UNSAFE PLACE EMOTIONALLY.

The final episode of Don’t Call Me Crazy throws a spotlight on to males with mental health problems. I think mental illness can be particularly difficult for men given the myriad of social expectations and stereotypes around them. Bullshit like men don’t cry or men bottle things up. These stereotypes also have a negative effect on men as they are so ingrained into our culture. If men are trained not to talk or speak about something bothering them then places like the McGuinness unit may be a last resort after a build up of problems.

Firstly we meet Matty, who was brought to the McGuinness unit after his lecturer found him at college writing suicidal thoughts on the Internet. He has a fear of being killed on his 18th birthday and has plotted out in great detail his own solution to the problem. Chillingly he has worked out the cost of a gun, and intends to use one to kill himself.

In an art therapy group where patients are using pictures taken from magazines to illustrate their problems Matty chooses the emboldened word ‘THOUGHTS’ and a picture of red boxes all close together. He is able to articulate to the art therapist that the word represents his thoughts and the boxes close together represent the voices all shouting at him at once..

I think the visual aids helped him to consolidate initially his own problem. They can come upon him at any time as is shown when he has to leave the room abruptly when the voices begin. Voices from my impression of Matty seem to be really crippling things. Imagine trying to move with a heavy weight on your back. You would probably move slowly and slightly fearfully due to the pain. It seems that this is how it is for Matty. He cannot predict when the voices will strike so has a constant crippling fear gnawing at him and in many ways it becomes easy to understand why faced with this scenario he would want to kill himself.

I am not saying anyone should; nothing of the kind but it is easy to understand why somebody in the grip of depression thoughts of suicide and psychosis would want to. It seems like a temptation, and a way of escaping the problem. But that said also there are healthier ways of achieving this.

After having home leave cancelled Matty begins to open up to Mental Health Nurse Pete about his regret over not talking to somebody before he felt the urge to self harm the previous night.

Mental health is not about perfection straightaway, it is about as Pete says learning lessons for the future. The two then bond over a shared love of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers song ‘It’s My Aeroplane’ and the tattoos of the lead singer Anthony Kiedis.

Such bonding is important as it helps to build up trust and rapport. I share Matty’s love for music and it is definitely one of my techniques for de-stressing too.

Later in the programme we see Matty with occupational therapist Vicky. The group are talking about support and are asked to name five people who support them. Matty is initially unable to think of anyone and writes that down. However by the end of the session there is progress as he has managed to name five people and the voices have not emotionally crippled him this time.

For Dr Andy Rogers, Head of Psychological Therapies at the McGuinness Unit, hearing voices is nothing more dramatic than a common response to stress when the mind races. I think that the lack of sensationalism around mental health has been a real strength of this series. Practitioners such as those in the McGuinness unit deal with situations as they are rather than how they would like them to be. Understanding the story around the voice helps a lot according to Dr Rogers both for the patient and medical professional alike. I think I know that nothing mental health wise ever happens in a vacuum. There is always a trigger and as I said previously it is about walking alongside people while they figure out what that trigger is.

After Matty is restrained he meets with case manager Maureen to discuss his anger. He tells us that he attended anger management. This failed him though and only served to make him more angry. This is not unusual. In my own experience when I feel pissed off I tend to feel anxious first. Anger is a visceral strong emotion and does not appear generally as a first response. Rather the anger is precipitated by other events. Matty actually getting to grips with what he is dealing with is a powerful moment for him and a powerful moment for me as a viewer.

In this episode too, we also meet George, a gifted rugby player who won a prestigious rugby scholarship to a top boarding school. Far from home though he became depressed and began to hear a man’s voice telling him he was worthless and should quit rugby.

As psychiatrist Dr Ihenacho suggests any kind of competitive pressure can cause depression and anxiety . Competing against people who are equally talented as you are can break you as you are always comparing and contrasting your abilities with those of others. He shares time with his father reminiscing about happier times on the rugby field. He speaks tenderly about a card he has received from the boys in his House at boarding school.

For George the McGuinness unit is a safety blanket. He feels safer than he did before and he knows he is with people who understand. His mental health assessment helps him to understand his problems better. Matty too echoes these thoughts. So then, the act of listening is so simple but rarely practised to any great effect. We must listen more, much more and be there for people when they need us most.

George confides in Gill about a wall he punched and how he was given diazepam. Gill is not shocked, nor does she condemn him. What we need to do is to harness such attitudes and to spread them out into the wider world. A better more compassionate humanity is what is really needed here. We need greater empathy too. Empathy is not the same as sympathy. People say I am very understanding and very empathetic and I listen. Yet it saddens me that this should be something so wonderful and remarkable. Why can’t more people do it?

An attraction developed this week too between George and Beth. They have a good laugh but wind each other up as well. A funny moment occurs when Beth throws George’s slippers out the window. To say sorry she makes a pancake. At least she cared even if George didn’t fancy touching the pancake!

For Beth the overriding narrative of this week is one of progress. She is eating more, being weighed and for the first time is allowed to eat on her own. Ultimately, she is speaking more positively than ever before. This is heart warming to see and gives you a kind of happy feeling. However such transformation is not without its problems. A difficulty comes for Beth when the review team makes a decision to stop her Zopiclone and replace it with melatonin. We see her in distress at this development, begging a nurse to reverse the decision with one of the doctors.

In institutional settings, any change in routine can be destabilising. Its significance can also be increased. Beth feels the staff are against her and are letting her down. The reality is she’s sleeping effectively without the medication and no longer requires it. But when decisions are made for you and not by you it can be hard to see that they are in your best interest.

We see this later too, when home leave is cancelled due to Beth self harming close to discharge. For Dr Rogers though, blips are not unusual. Think about it if you have been in an enclosed space for several months, going back to familiar spaces may not feel so familiar at all. It is natural to resort to a way of coping when we are scared often the way of coping we fall back on most, even if it is not the healthiest.

But the best thing is Beth herself realises that self harming may not be the best way of coping as in no longer has the same effect for her and in her words “doesn’t even hurt, [and] was just annoying when it wouldn’t stop bleeding.”

Beth was then happily discharged soon after and according to narration had not self harmed since leaving the McGuinness unit. Matty was discharged into the care of an adult mental health unit after turning 18 and is now back at college.

George made the decision not to return to his boarding school and to study for the same scholarship locally to his family in Essex. For me this is no way a retrograde step. Sometimes we can all feel a huge amount of guilt over our decision-making since it can have an impact on others too.

However we are all built differently, and whilst one decision may suit one person it may not suit another. I am glad wholeheartedly that George did the right thing for him – well not only for him but also for his mental health. People say you only get one body, and there is a plethora of health and safety advice about looking after your back, for example. You only get one mind too, and that needs looking after also.

In closing let me just say a few words on the series and mental health in general. You may be wondering why I decided to dedicate three blogs to this series. Why mental health matters to me so much. As regular readers will know and new readers may not up until 2012 I was in counselling every year of my life for various things. The bulk of it was due to depression around my disability and my stepfather’s abuse. I have devoted enough time to transsexuality elsewhere in the blog’s are not going to discuss it here.

But you see, when I was first sent for counselling all those years ago, I felt crazy. I knew it was something everyone did. It’s not like an after-school club that everyone goes to. I would shoot off in my school uniform to the offices of my local Social Services Department. Nobody ever knew where I was going. But talking helped, talking to a stranger who did not judge who did not think badly of me who would just listen and allow me to talk, not sharing preconceptions even if they had them. Talking and being heard was vitally important.

Latterly I went to college, and things were pretty bleak. I was boarding away from home and just felt really lonely. I was having counselling and had managed one session with my new counsellor, when she said to me;

“I can’t work with you till the fog clears. I want you to go and see the doctor about antidepressants.”

Antidepressants, I thought. What the fuck! I’m only 18! I later told the deputy care manager that I was scared people would think I was a nutter.

But it turned out I wasn’t alone. There was a special set of appointments after the main general medical ones for students with mental health problems. You see, we reflect our own stigma. My attitude of choice towards mental health problems is informed by my own depression. Nutter is a value judgement. Yet instead of being kinder to ourselves it is these value judgements which we are most afraid of. Having a mental health problem is scary and isolating. But it is far easier to go through it with kindred spirits than alone. Mental illness is not having to walk on eggshells. Mental illness is not feeling pissed off we all feel pissed off. But imagine if that’s the only feeling you feel.

That is mental illness. The worst thing you can do it to tell somebody to cheer up or to snap out of it. This may be something you do to ease your conscience, and maybe your way of wishing that the person’s suffering would go away. But the best thing you can do is to listen and hear.

For I tell you people can understand my disability in a heartbeat. They can see my wheelchair. They can see I can’t walk. But depression is less well understood.

Eating disorders and self harm too present their own unique challenges. A friend at uni told me they had an eating disorder. They were shocked by my understanding. Their explanation of it from their world and their perspective made perfect sense. I don’t judge that perspective nor think about it for when somebody is disclosing something it is their voice and theirs alone which is important. My task then is to shut up and listen as counsellors did for me. Empathy is very important.

It saddens me that many do not understand even belittle or make fun of mental health problems. They are not fun and not a joke..

People with mental health problems deserve our respect our love and our care. Even if you can’t directly empathise with a problem, learn about it read and listen.

I’m so proud of all the participants in Don’t Call Me Crazy. I think it has achieved its objective of showing other young viewers they are not alone. Places like the McGuinness unit are a much needed safety blanket of love and support, sometimes tough love but love all the same.

The thing that saddens me though is the act of listening is not rocket science. We can all do it, yet sometimes I think we choose not to. Let us make better choices and not ascribe pariah status to those with mental health problems, especially the young.

Let us open ears, silence preconceptions and opinions and listen. Many of the young people sounded as though the McGuinness unit was the only place they had felt truly listened to. Does that not disturb you? It smacks of a huge deficit in society and it is not a financial one either. It is a deficit of humankind and only humankind can solve it.

Asking for help should never be the wrong choice. It is not a weak choice either. Sometimes it may be the only choice, the best choice and the strongest choice you ever make.

And for others, make the choice to say this:

“Yes okay. I may not understand everything but I am willing to listen. For the person with mental health problems, those may be the best words they ever hear.

The irony of this show for me, and the irony of mental health from the bottom of my heart is that people with mental health problems often make the most sense.

Don’t Call Me Crazy: BBC Three (Part 1)

TRIGGER WARNING  Mentions anorexia, mental health, and the misunderstandings around it. Do not read if in an unsafe place emotionally. A link to the first episode ishere, and available for download.

 

 

 

 

 

Let me ask you a question. Out of the two following people who would you feel most sympathy for? A person learning to walk again after an accident and taking 10 steps in 20 minutes, or a girl who managed two sips of a food supplement drink in 20 minutes?

I would bet that there would be some people who would say the former. They would say the first person had an accident, the second one did it to themselves.

This is exactly the kind of attitude and being frank prejudice which “Don’t Call Me Crazy” has been commissioned by BBC Three to address.

We are introduced to 3 of the McGuinness Adolescent Mental Health Unit in Manchester.

We meet Beth who, at the time of filming  has anorexia and self harms. We also meet Gill who is an extreme self harmer, is described as volatile and as we see over the course of the first episode of Don’t Call Me Crazy needs to be restrained by several members of staff at regular intervals.

Lastly we meet Emma, who charts her struggles with OCD in the course of filming.

You can see here too that the staff are walking  a fine line between exercising compassion and understanding the reasons that have brought them to a psychiatric unit, and a desire to maintain the physical health and ultimately help them recover.

In fact the values of the McGuinness unit embody those sadly lacking in society. The patients provide mutual support to one another, as can be seen when they play a game tying each other together with bandages. In this game they have to depend on each other in order that they can move at the right time. We can see that they trust each other and this is heartwarming when you think society has probably rejected them due to their mental health problems.

As Claire one of the senior staff nurses on night duty puts it;

“I often get asked, do you lock them in their bedrooms? No we’re a hospital; we’re nurses. These are just young people going through adolescence which I think is a form of madness at the best of times with a few extra problems on top.”

Educational opportunities and therapy within the unit also provide opportunities for self reflection. To me, the young people at the McGuinness unit seem very clued up about their own mental health, in fact more clued up than the average member of society.

This inside knowledge also means that young people are acutely aware of the stigma surrounding mental health. They talk of how people appropriate their experiences by saying things like “I like things clean, I’ve got OCD!”

However well-meaning such a strategy is misguided. Liking cleanliness is natural. Cleanliness and compulsions mutating into obsessions is not.

For these young people mental illness is debilitating and a hard road. They also talk of the pain they feel at having to justify their mental illness to people which I believe to be and abhorrent thing to have to do. As Emma puts it so eloquently “you wouldn’t ask somebody why they have a cold [and suggest] there’s no reason for them to have it. Nobody should have to do justify their mental illness to anybody. Everyone with a mental illness should be treated with compassion, love and understanding. Yet, I am also acutely aware that the world does not work on the bases of this credo tragically.

Emma contends also that the staff interfering with the belongings in a bedroom will result in something bad happening to her mother. This is how debilitating mental illness can be. It is almost rationalised irrationality.

We then see Beth battling with her body. She could not at the time of filming see that there was something wrong. She resisted intervention even sneaking a Diet Coke into the unit to supplement meals. Saying “just eat!” Is simply not appropriate here. It won’t work and will most likely fall on deaf ears.

Eating disorders are not about food and weight but instead about the feelings food engenders. If your life feels out of control, or going through a period of intense emotional upheaval then food may feel like the only thing you can control. Some people call anorexia ‘the ED voice.’

It’s one of the worst things in the world. It will teach you that everything is always right but the world is in fact wrong. When in the grip of anorexia people believe that not eating will solve problems. Real feelings are endlessly substituted for the word ‘fat’ because real feelings at times feel too painful to face.

When I asked you at the opening of this article which person you felt more sorry for, Beth was the girl I had in mind. The reality of course is that both should be felt sorry for. For it is just as hard for somebody with an eating disorder or recovering to take the first few sips of a meal supplement drink as it is for someone to learn to walk after an accident.

She is matter of fact, showing her lack of food intake as a positive, after remarking that (paraphrasing) a combination of methods are needed to achieve weight loss. This intellectual discourse is a way of distancing from emotional pain.

We should promote greater sensitivity around mental health problems. It pisses me off that in 2013 so many people still don’t get it. That’s why I for one am glad the McGuinness unit opened its doors to television cameras in order to allow fiction and fact to be separated out.

If support and understanding is lacking in mainstream society, it is definitely not lacking in the McGuinness unit. You can see plainly that the place despite the pain is full of love. Patients support each other, transcending the boundaries of their own illnesses to offer unselfish and unconditional support.

You can see this in evidence from the time Gill absconded, through to the collective sadness when somebody leaves. When something happens to one person, it has a domino effect on everybody causing ripples of upset.

There is true community here. It is not the real world but a microcosm of it and when you are segregated from society for your own safety it is all you have. Having lived in communal environments I can appreciate this myself.

What happens there matters. It is keenly felt by all patients. They cannot go anywhere else if they want to get better. There are professionals who care who understand and who want to help.

I don’t think any of the people featured in the first episode or any of the show I am sure are mad or crazy. They are human. If you think otherwise the I put it to you that maybe it is you who needs your head examined.

I’d just like to finish with an anecdote of my own. I was at university I had just been diagnosed with depression, and I was walking home from my GPs surgery in my wheelchair.

I lived opposite a psychiatric hospital. The weather was very cold and there was snow on the ground. I saw three girls walking out of the hospital, probably patients.

“Merry Christmas”, they called. Now it wasn’t even Christmas but I needed a smile so laughed at the absurdity of the situation. They asked me if I was okay and gave me a hug each of them. A long one.

A mental health hug as I like to call it. They are longer than average and seemed warmer and more sincere than the polite social gesture. Fruit loops, my carer muttered. I argued with them when we got back. Those girls did more for me in five minutes after a tough doctor’s appointment that most people do in a lifetime. The irony of mental health problems is that those with them are often the most compassionate in my experience. Maybe we can all learn something from that.


NB I shall be blogging on  the following two episodes also.

A Good Time To Be Trans

Do you know the feeling, when the weather is baking hot outside, and you rush to the fridge to grab an ice cold drink? Alcohol is of course optional. 

Then, you feel the catharsis as the icy cool hits the back of your throat and your thirst is quenched. It has a good effect on your body, and makes you feel good too.

Metaphorically speaking, that is what I feel like about being a trans woman at the moment. I feel  like I have drunk a thousand cold drinks and had my thirst completely quenched.

Of course, this is not to say there is not still work to do. I am, as is every human being, a work in progress. But the fact that my thirst has been quenched for now does not mean that I am becoming complacent. There is work still to do. Therefore, having had my thirst metaphorically quenched, it galvanises me to strive towards my goals.

At the moment, it feels like a good time to be trans.

I think that today, the trans community has much to be optimistic about. 

Lana Wachowski, the director of such iconic films as The Matrix, has today come out as trans. As a sentence in and of itself, learned readers will think, oh well, someone has come out, big  deal. But, let us consider it in context. I would hazard a guess that the majority of people have heard of The Matrix even if they have not necessarily seen it. Therefore, people involved in films in whatever capacity have a massive sphere of influence at their disposal.

The consensus amongst commentators today, appears to be that Lana Wachowski’s coming out will contribute a lot towards trans visibility, that is to say trans people in the public eye just coming out and living life. For my own part, I think it will serve to make the state of being trans and living as trans more acceptable, amongst would be trans people who have been in a state of struggle, and may be contemplating transition, or those of us who are younger and perhaps less able to be our own advocates. It provides hope, and hope can only be a good thing.

Musically, the presence of the trans community is being felt too. This year so far has also borne witness to the coming out as trans of Laura-Jane Grace, lead singer of punk band Against Me!  The fact that it ended her relationship is proof positive, if proof is needed of what being trans is not. It is not fetishistic, nor a choice, nor a phase. It is a life changing, defining, and altogether completely liberating moment in one’s life.

Some people do, but I have not gone between gender roles since my transition in 2005. I am one hundred per cent committed to my life as a woman, as it is the life I yearned and ached for, always.

In the world of broadcasting too, there has been a sea change. The trans predicament seems to be a hot flavour on the tellybox right now. More4, Channel 4’s more longitudinal catch up service, is now re-showing My Transsexual Summer first aired last year. It is capturing the imagination of a whole new audience who missed out on it when it was first aired.

But having the privilege of counting the cast as my friends, I know how much they have all grown and developed in that intervening time. I also know that many others have been touched, encouraged and helped by the sharing of their collective, and individual experiences.

That series was seminal, in making trans acceptable, as well as increasing visibility of us as a part of society, and not some othered fraternity.

A documentary on Ria Cooper too, showed that whilst being trans is not always plain sailing, and people forge their own path based on individual experience, it is possible still to attain and achieve a more authentic life for yourself.

This summer also, BBC Three will break new ground with their slate of programmes focusing on The Body Beautiful unveiled by BBC Three Controller Zai Bennett.

As part of that slate there will be the documentary Jackie Green: Transsexual Beauty Queen charting Jackie’s journey through the Miss England Contest. Now to have a trans woman entering the contest is wonderful. I shall be watching with interest, and would suggest that my readers do so too, of course with an open mind and heart.

Moving away from the wider picture now, I would like to talk about something pretty lovely in my own journey.

As those who know me will know, I am a party girl and do like a drink. I had the lovely happiness of being invited to the 25th birthday of Paris Lees, META magazine editor, trans activist, and lovely person as well.

I had an amazing time, and met some incredible people, and hope to meet them again.  However, I thought about something after I had slept a bit and the hedonistic mist of alcohol had evacuated itself from my brain.

I knew no one else there personally, although I had corresponded with some guests via social media. I began to mull over not only the macro changes in the trans landscape but the micro changes within myself.

One thing I believe in with a passion is writerly integrity. I never bullshit when I blog. If I did my words would have little credibility, meaning and impact.

So why the qualification? I am about to make a bold claim.  This is the sort of thing I would never have done, even with the best coaxing and cajoling available to humankind. When I think about where I could have ended up, possibly in a day centre singing bad karaoke, I shudder I really do.

I used to be ultra scared of going outside. It was a major effort to get me outside and on to the bus to go to Southampton.

A birthday party of strangers would have been unthinkable. I want to say two things here. Firstly, strangers can quickly become friends if you let them. Secondly too, all that was required of me was a change of mindset.

Instead of seeing being trans as a curse, I would rather see it as a blessing and an opportunity. After all, if you squandered it and wasted it, would it not be like flushing a gig ticket down the loo after paying for it? I would also like to see what I can give to people, as well as taking their wonderful support.

So in short, it is a good time to be trans. An opportune time even to bring about everlasting social change. That is to say, trans is for life, not just for Christmas.

We are becoming a visible force, and not only that, a force to be reckoned with too. With views, thoughts and opinions, expressed with eloquence and candour. 

What would I like to see going forward? Mainly less intersectionality I guess. Social movements are at their best, and effect the most change when we speak as one with a united voice.

I would also like more voice and prominence to be given to the thoughts, needs and narratives of those who consider themselves non binary. Their contributions too are valid, and need to be considered too. As a woman with a disability, I understand feelings of isolation only too well, and I think feelings of non binary and intersex isolation do exist.

I am not ending this on a moan. I just think that as the trans community is moulding itself into a really positive animal, the time is right to address these issues, whereas before it may have felt like too big a quantum leap to make.

Furthermore, I would not wish to re-write history or suggest that we in the trans community do not get bullied or victimised any longer. We do. It happens. But I think understanding is slowly beginning to trickle through to the cisgendered population.

In general, we also need to tackle prejudice. I heard a man saying to a woman on the bus this week, that just because he was single, it did not mean he was “queer or nothing”. Now, where did he get the link from and why feel the need to couch queer in a negative way? Sad.

Finally though, I feel society is moving forward. We live in times where trans people are becoming  more visible in the media and in the general social sphere.

So we have a chance to grasp a nettle. The nettle of campaigning, the nettle of greater equality, the nettle of creating, and the nettle of shaping, and bringing greater understanding and empathy of and towards one another.

But above all, do you know what that nettle represents for me? Being yourself, being authentic and being alive.

I long for a time when being trans is no longer tabo0 and pathological. When instead, it is just another facet of the rich and beauty tapestry of life, just like race or disability is. 

It is a good time to be trans, so let us grasp that nettle and grasp it now.

So How Did It Happen?

How did it happen? That is the question on my mind today. How did it come to be whereby we have a situation where trans women are excluded from conferences, where gay people are told that civil partnerships are enough for them, and where telling someone “you look like a transsexual” is just a bit of fun. Yes that’s all. No less, no more. Just a bit of fun.

Being in three minorities, I see myself as part of a larger whole, or a continuum if you like. It gives me three points of difference from the majority, but by the same token, three different levels of understanding, and insight that others do not have.

Frankly, it is that across the piece insight which informs everything I do, everything I think, and everything I am.

As alluded to in yesterday’s piece, it can be tempting at times to view minority positions as a trade off. People have asked me in the past whether one minority group membership affects me more than the other. My answer is always no, because the truth is, they all interconnect and interrelate with one another.

If we imagine, for example that the three minority groups are three faders on a mixing desk, of course, we know it is possible to turn a fader up or down. And so it is with minority group membership. Sometimes one group is more turned up than the other, meaning that it affecting me more.

Being in minorities you also bear witness to the stupidity of the world on a regular basis. Thinking about Rad Fem 2012 again last night, I realised there were two fundamental flaws. I wondered if any of the conference organisers had seen Doctors or Coronation Street recently. Doctors has featured and Coronation Street  is featuring currently a storyline on the taboo subject of domestic violence against men. Therefore, it is an oversimplification of the truth for any minority to claim ownership of an issue, as though it exclusively belongs to them, and for it all to be dismissed as only down to misogyny. A very outdated and inaccurate view as well, a bit 18th century if you like. For in order to make radical misogyny stick, you have to believe that men are all born wife beaters. I want to be abundantly clear that I hate any form of abuse towards anyone. People say that hate is a strong word. I would suggest to them that strong words are required for disgusting things. I am merely suggesting that all sides of an argument ought to be represented.

When I was at University, we had to analyse and discuss the poem Leda and the Swan.

Now in terms of gender, there was a 50/50 split amongst the group. The poem is an allegory of rape. The lecturer, asked us which of us found it erotic and which did not. Please be careful and do not read further if you are triggered. The boys found it erotic, whilst the girls found it disgusting. This would have been a very cut and dry discussion for Dr Tiffany Stern, had it not been for a small spanner in the works, me of course. I was in the disgusting camp. Tiffany managed a feeble, “oh! an enlightened man”. However though, I think it definitely wrongfooted her and took her by surprise.

Looking back though, it does seem a little absurd. Enlightened thinking is not the province of a gender, it is the province of a person, or a group of them. To suggest otherwise is a falsehood.
Just because one group of men on one day found it erotic, does not mean that all men are misogynistic perverts. Let us remember – men suffer abuse too.The second flaw is one about what RadFem as a collective, claim to offer and stand for. They claim to offer;
 
“A revolutionary politics for the liberation of all women from male domination.  Radical feminists neither seek ‘equality’ with men within a fundamentally oppressive system, nor simply to extend women’s range of choices whilst leaving that oppressive system intact.  Radical feminists are engaged in the struggle to end all forms of male violence, and for the liberation of all women from patriarchal oppression.  In short, we are engaged in a struggle for total social transformation.  In Catherine Mackinnon’s phrase, radical feminism is ‘feminism unmodified’. “
 
Well sorry Catherine Mackinnon et al but I think quite a bit of modification is needed. How can politics be revolutionary, or even evolutionary when you exclude people intentionally from that debate, because they were not born women. They are not doing your cause any harm, nor interfering with it in any way. What if this oppression does not resonate with women, ergo, that it is something they do not experience in their daily lives. I agree with adding my voice to the scourge of domestic violence against women, and men for that matter. However, my question to RadFem is this. What is their end goal? How can they claim to be supporting all women when they will not let a trans woman, with a disability attend their conference. Let me ask a more baseline question too. How do they check? Pull down your knickers, French knickers or thong? 
 
Furthermore, let us suppose they did achieve their very fuzzy, vague, fancy lexical objective of total social transformation. What on Earth would they do then? Are they not oppressing women themselves by telling women they are oppressed and only their way is the right way? All points worth considering. Finally, if they achieved these vague objectives, would their movement, as a vehicle not be redundant.
 
I want to turn to the subject of gay, or equal marriage. Nick Herbert, the openly gay Policing and Criminal Justice Minister told the London Evening Standard  that he is rather ‘fed up’ with people suggesting that civil partnerships are enough for gay couples. He said this.
 
“How would they like it if I jabbed a finger into their chests and said they should put up with a civil partnership instead of their marriage? 

In my view it’s not acceptable to say to a group in society, ‘You should put up with something that is a second order institution to something that everybody else is entitled to, because we say so’. I think this is about nothing more or less than a fundamental issue of equality.” 
 
Firstly, I have much respect for Nick Herbert for talking about this so openly. I think some of the problem here is cisgendered ambivalence, amongst some sections of society, who it does not directly affect. So therefore you may get the usual tabloid-esque tropes trotted out. “PC gone mad. It’s all about political correctness you know”.
Secondly, the general public are aware of civil partnerships and perhaps sometimes think well they’ve got that, what’s the fuss about?
 
Constructing battle lines is the worst thing we can do. We should all work together. But this is what the fuss is about.
 
Cisgendered people would not like it if they were forced to put up with civil partnerships.
It is hard, I grant you, if you are not in a minority to understand how demoralising putting up with a seemingly indestructible status quo. But the sands and mood music, I believe are shifting, but more to the point, shifting in an encouraging direction. 
It is about equality and about rebalancing inadequate legal provision. I have two lovely friends Claire and Jess. They want to get married. Jess said to me once;
 
“I want to marry Claire, not civil partnership her”
 
Being trans myself I am a pretty open minded soul. I have to say, I cannot find any reason why they should not get married.
 
I tell you that it is simply not fair for this inequality to persist, and I am saddened that the private lives of the LGBTGQ community have entered the political arena. To the naysayers though, I say this.
 
 
Politics and legislation evolves. This whole debate reminds me of the mechanic of Jane Elliott’s brown eyes, blue eyes experiment. Those who want to get married, like Claire and Jess are the ones whose privileges are being witheld, constrained by a legal system that is not of their making nor design. The heterosexual community continue to enjoy those privileges freely, and it is my firm belief that gay marriage can co-exist alongside them, and will not damage or undermine the institution or value of marriage in general.
 
I dealt with Snog, Marry Avoid and its airing of a transphobic comment in some detail the other day, so forgive me if I do not retrace old ground, and politely ask that you read that entry instead.
 
However, I think that an account of Paris Lees meeting with Jonathan Ross is a telling one. He told her that he did a supposedly comedic item about ladyboys “because he thought he could get away with it”.
 
This is the kind of attitude we need to reverse off a cliff never to be seen again.
 
You see, as a minority, you need to set your boundaries, both as an individual, and a collective, of what is acceptable to you and what is not.
 
Also, in a minority you have to be one jump ahead. When you are trying to replace an old, accepted discourse with a new one, you have to know what the older discourse is. 
 
For the most part, people resist change. This ilk of radical feminists, those who oppose gay marriage, and those who think that bullying someone by using the word transsexual as an insult is okay are resistant to change. But you see, I am resistant to them too. No matter how many conferences Sheila Jeffreys and her mob organise, I will still be here as a thorn in their side forever. No matter how many MP’s oppose it, if Nick Herbert is to be believed, David Cameron is very much in favour of gay marriage. Finally too, no matter how many more episodes of Snog, Marry, Avoid  are transmitted, this will remain as a blotch on the BBC’s copybook.
 
Why did these things happen? Well put simply, the conflict in each scenario arises as a result of new thinking coming along to challenge the old. Historically, slightly before I was born but not much (I am 31) minorities were ambivalent, passive and submissive. You can’t beat the system was a common adage.
 
Well hey presto, now in 2012, people are realising you can. For the first time, people like Sheila Jeffreys, opponents of gay marriage, and blatant transphobia on TV is being challenged as never before. Through the Internet and social media, minorities are mobilising to create a collective force.
 
You may have seen an acquaintance of mine, Louise Hickman on Channel 4 News this week. She was charting the difficulties faced by passengers with disabilities on the London Underground in the run up to the Olympic Games.
 
A key plank of the bid was good accessible public transport links. As it was, Louise was unable to leave the train at many stations due to them having no step free access.
 
Sure, TFL came out with many platitudes, but the prevailing image viewers will have been left with is Louise stuck on the tube train, and how de-personalising that must have been. 
 
Through my experience in three minorities, I not only realise how the world feels about me, I realise how I feel about it. I do not want to live in a world where gay people cannot marry. I do not want to live in a world where Sheila Jeffreys and RadFem 2012 can disguise hate speech as credible theory, or where transsexual is an insult.
 
We have to show wider society than insulting a transsexual is just as bad as calling a disabled person a spastic, or a retard. We have to show them, and show them now.There is no spectrum here, where one insult is worse than another. All are bad.
 
I suspect that the reason Sheila Jeffreys and others are feeling so oppressed is because they are being challenged like never before.
 
My title for this piece was, so how did it happen? How “it” happened is simple. In each of the three scenarios, people thought it was acceptable to talk down to, de-humanise, and patronise and bully the relevant minority groups.
 
In other words, they thought they could get away with it.They did not detect or anticipate the new mood in the trans community, and others. Put simply, we are helping them, without malice, to realise they cannot.  That then, is one of the reasons why I am happier today than I have ever been.

BBC Three: Snog, Marry Or Avoid?

Now, before I begin this post, I would like to make the following points. I am not a stereotypical Angry from Manchester, nor a BBC basher, and finally in no way shape or form, a serial complainer.

Nailing my own colours to the mast and being honest, I have done some work for the BBC in local radio, I love the BBC. It is a bastion of creativity and pushing boundaries. It is also very hot 0n inclusion, and being relevant to oppressed minorities, and this is something that people in the BBC are highly passionate about.

They believe in innovation and highlighting important issues, and along with Radio 1,BBC Three in particular believes in presenting issues of importance to other young people.

To be honest as well, I am glad we have the BBC. I would far rather we have democratic PSB than autocractic, Government led state run television.

I spoke when writing about My Transsexual Summer about Channel 4, and BBC Three’s ability to create compelling, and innovative documentaries.

I do not subscribe to the view that BBC Three is trash television. After all, they have handled such subjects as bipolar disorder and coming out with sensitivity, maturity, and integrity. This is what makes the following clip all the more surprising.

Thanks to my good friend Sarah for uploading this clip. How do you feel when you watch it? What emotions are conjured up?

Upon hearing this, my first emotion is surprise. It is only twelve seconds long, but what a televisual timebomb, and what on Earth are the Exec Producer, the Producer and the Director playing at? How would this stand up to scrutiny under BBC Editorial Guidelines and policy?

I was surprised because of the BBC’s good track record in minority representation in general. I would be delighted to hear the rationale for this part of the script, because transsexuality is not even pertinent to the show.

The BBC’s  Editorial Guidelines state that;

              5.4.38

“We aim to reflect fully and fairly all of the United Kingdom’s people and cultures in our services.  Content may reflect the prejudice and disadvantage which exist in societies worldwide but we should not perpetuate it.  In some instances, references to disability, age, sexual orientation, faith, race, etc.  may be relevant to portrayal.  However, we should avoid careless or offensive stereotypical assumptions and people should only be described in such terms when editorially justified.”

As you will see from the part I have emboldened, the BBC have utterly failed to avoid offensive or stereotypical assumptions in this case.

The BBC’s Editorial Guidelines further state that;

5.4.39

“When it is within audience expectations, we may feature a portrayal or stereotype that has been exaggerated for comic effect, but we must be aware that audiences may find casual or purposeless stereotypes to be offensive.”

Again, I am sure you will agree that the BBC has roundly failed here too.

For them there is nowhere to hide. This was not a little F-Bomb the BBC forgot to bleep out. It was not even live. On live TV anything can happen. So therefore you can apologise, and hope it blows over, as was seen on The Voice UK  in respect of Becky Hill.

But this was not live, or as live. Snog, Marry, Avoid ? is pre-recorded and as such pre scripted. I do not blame the voice of POD. I blame the production team, who failed in their duty to check this script against the Editorial Guidelines. Remarkable really since it took me and Google all of five minutes to find them and reach the relevant section on portrayal.

But the fact that this script was waved through, shows me that the production team were well aware of what they were doing. This escalates it from a simple, naive mistake to complicit bullying. There is no other way to describe it.

With v/o’s there are two simple processes, scripting and directing. The producers will have in mind on any show how they want the script to be delivered. It could be as a straight narration, i.e just normal speech, or with certain emotions or characteristics, i.e exaggeration, sadness or sarcasm. Some narration involves saying the same thing in different ways?

It was clear, from the sneering tone adopted by POD, that the programme meant to cast transsexuals as joke figures, as little more than a bad pastiche or over exaggeration of the female form. This is inexcusable, since no two people, with the  exception of identical twins or triplets look exactly the same.

To reduce a minority group to a singular clone is an insult. To further describe them using an unbalanced crop of bad attributes further adds to that insult. All the attributes could be described as relating to all women. Have you ever heard of the term ‘bad hair day’ BBC? I know I have.

What also confirms the programme makers intentions is the deliberate juxtaposition of the contestant’s name Rachel, with a male name Richard. She too is a victim here, not due to being compared to a transsexual, but because the programme makers have allowed her to be used to make this insult stick. She was a pawn in a programme makers game, and she looked visibly shocked and upset. Yes she chose it, but would she have chosen that narration?

However though, there is a cynical, sinister side of this. Some programme makers, and producers love complaints. They give shows the oxygen of publicity, that bit of  edge, talkability, and notoriety.

Some shows even go through stages like that, where shows become known more for their off screen antics than what happens while the show airs.

POD is well known for satire, and this is within the spirit of the show. However, discriminating against a minority group in a crude, wholesale manner is not. You see, discrimination is a slippery slope. Replace the word transsexual with another oppressed minority and the backlash may be far greater. However, that does not make the impact any less.

The Queen of trans activism, Paris Lees has started a hashtag trending on Twitter, to show BBC Three that transsexuals instead of being singular are quite pluralistic and varied in terms of appearance and characteristics as all human beings are. #WhatTranssexualsLookLike is the hashtag you need, microbloggers!

What also was the Controller of BBC Three playing at? This happened on Zai Bennett’s channel, and he needs to take responsibility.

Minorities have a right to watch television, listen to the radio, or indeed browse the Internet without feeling got at, or victimised. That right was not just ignored here, it was trampled on by BBC Three getting too big for its boots, and not following its own Editorial Guidelines.

As I suggested at the outset, this saddens me. I do love the BBC, and it normally has a fantastic record of minority representation. Why allow it to be tarnished by a needless, unnecessary, irrelevant but highly discriminatory error. It is vile.

Would I snog BBC Three at the moment? Erm no! Would I marry them at the moment? No! But would I avoid them, no because they do produce high quality, gamechanging programming.

However, they need to remember that as part of the wider BBC, they are a public service broadcaster. Their target audience are impressionable, and malleable. Do they want to send out the message that bullying and victimising transsexuals is ok?

I hope BBC Three learns a lesson from this, learns it fast, and well, and further hope they never make such a crass mistake again.