Tag Archives: bullying

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.

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A World Away

You know, I always feel the best writing is inspired by people. Clearly,  as human beings we act and interact with the world and we are social people. Stimuli for writing is not always found from within the writer’s conscience or self, but can result from and occur because of their interactions with others too. Such is the case with this next entry.

This morning I had a good chat with my friend Aeryn Parsons about the previous  blog entries, regarding a different modus operandi for the trans community. To give a bit of background for readers, Aeryn is a young, funky, funny trans lady with a real zest for life.

On the subject of a different modus operandi, for the trans community, here are her thoughts.

“It’s a world away. I doubt many gay people burst into tears when they see an old picture of themselves before they came out, or used to spend hours staring heartbroken into the mirror. A different sexual preference is one thing being at odds with your own body is something else entirely.”

A very powerful, emotional, heartfelt, honest and profound quote I am sure you will agree. Such candidness is surely to be applauded so massive props to Aeryn for sharing that. Permission was sought from her to include it.

But aside from being moved by the quote , massively so in my case, what are its implications for the trans community and its identity, in terms of where we fit in to the world and the LGBT continuum?

Well firstly, to say that the trans community is a world away from its counterparts in  the continuum is a very strong, bold claim by Aeryn, but it is one I support.

The struggle for identity in the trans community is profound. It is twofold really. There is a struggle for the world’s acceptance, plus more profoundly in a way, your own internal struggle for congruence and assimilation, which really begins at birth.

One of my friend Tina Livingstone’s articles is called “Not As We Expected”.

A truthful title indeed because nothing about gender dysphoria is imprinted into social constructs, norms and values. It is indeed the very antithesis of them and blows them clean apart.

Now you see, I am lucky in one sense. I am used to being different. I was born different due to cerebral palsy. 

But for the ordinary, able bodied person with gender dysphoria, you are asking them to do something quite seismic and difficult. You are asking them to surrender a life of sameness and automatic assimilation, and to take up a yoke of difference and othering. But it can also be liberating.

My overriding message – transition is hard, but an immense relief and release too.

But why is this a world away from being gay, lesbian or bi? The latter is about what you are more than who. Yes you may feel a rush of celebration and confidence when you come out, however your family and friends will still see the same individual in front of them, pre and post closet.

This is not the case for trans men and women, who may go through a cycle of acceptance, coupled with periods of rejection before people realise that the person standing in front of them is the same one they knew from birth.

The next key plank of Aeryn’s argument is one of visual aesthetics. She doubts that gay people spend hours crying over pictures from before they came out, or spent hours crying into the mirror.

I agree with Aeryn again. For balance, this is not to say people do not experience anguish, turmoil and bullying before and after they come out, they do, without a shadow of a doubt.

However, they will not experience looking completely different to how they looked before, nor the often used but vile “bloke in a dress” taunt. You have to accept the implications of transition for yourself too. You have to do some things differently, the way you act, the way you dress and even the way you walk!! However, what you end up with is a matching inside and out. A great relief for anyone who is trans.

You also have to accept that people may reject you, having accepted you in your pre transition life. One thing I was told to be prepared for was a loss of power as a woman and I think that this is good advice.

Whilst as well there are style choices for lesbian and gay people, they are just that. Choices of fashion and style, in hair, clothing and overall look for example. Some people may face discrimination based on this for example.

However, for the trans person, and the genderqueer person too, these choices run deeper than how do I have my hair done, or what shall I wear today?

In society, people place a great deal of importance, so after failing to find themselves due to biology’s shortcomings, they must learn to re-find themselves all over again. If you want an analogy, it is a bit like developing a Sim, i.e what sort of woman, man or genderqueer person do I want to be? After having had the wrong gender thrust upon them at birth, this choice can be confusing and heartwarming all in the same breath. It is also about knowing that it is ok to find your true self, and that there is no wrong, only right in doing so.

The last part of Aeryn’s argument deals with sexual preference and being at odds with your own body.

Like Aeryn, I believe the two things are a world away.

People of course are born with sexuality, but they do not really have to do much to indulge it. However, for the transsexual there is a whole mountain of bodily angst to climb before they are even allowed that “luxury”

Preference means you have a choice, but for the transsexual that choice is not inherently there at birth, the choice of sexuality

At odds is a powerful phrase, but a truism. Pre transition, it almost feels like you are living somebody else’s life, ergo, a life that was not meant for you. It is only after you make the choice to other yourself, and take up the yoke of difference that you can make these changes.

I feel like I am a world away from my LGB counterparts sometimes, and I do not think I am alone in this. Our struggles are similar, yet so unique. Furthermore they are  biologically and sociologically, and culturally unique. I felt it important to make this point and stance for the trans community today.