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BBC Election Briefing 1: LGBT guide is flexible with the facts


AS part of its General Election coverage, the BBC is running a ‘what to look out for’ series. It explains: ‘Throughout the 2019 General Election campaign, the BBC wants to answer your questions about the issues that matter most to you.’

One of the first in the series covers LGBT issues. The corporation has chosen to cover three areas: LGBT-inclusive education, hate crime, and reform of the Gender Recognition Act. You can see its full clip here.

The BBC is supposed to be an unbiased national broadcaster and we are in the run-up to an election. So I was keen to see its take. There is enormous concern amongst many people as to the way in which the increasing recognition of trans rights is conflicting with the hard-won rights, safety, and privacy of women and girls.

It is entirely possible to present both sides of the debate in a respectful way. And it’s a great idea to do so during an election period, providing people with material and ideas to challenge election candidates. So has the BBC got the balance right?

Sadly, I’m not even sure it’s getting its facts right. As for balance, that is out of the window.

On LGBT-inclusive education, the BBC says: ‘Primary schools will be teaching relationships education. Yes: Single-sex families, but also mixed-race families, different kinds of friendships … for secondary, it will be gender identity and sexual orientation. All of this will be compulsory across the whole of England from September 2020’. 

Hang on. If the BBC is clear that teaching kids about gender identity won’t happen till secondary school, then why is it producing material that is explicitly targeted at primary schools which teach children that there are 100 genders and that ‘gender is who you are on the inside’? 

Meanwhile, many people and organisations have expressed concerns about the explicit teaching of gender identity, even at secondary school level.

We are worried about its potential to sow confusion amongst thousands of kids, in turn fuelling the sharp increase in the number of teenagers presenting at gender clinics. Where is the BBC’s representation of this concern in this election briefing? It’s not there.

Next, the BBC clip turns to hate crime.  It says: ‘Recorded hate crime, including LGBT hate crime against LGBT people, is on the rise in the UK.  Officials say this is mostly due to better reporting and victims being more likely to come forward. But there has also been a real increase over the past year.’ That last bit is an assertion for which the BBC provides no evidence.

Google the official Government statistics on hate crime and you get a different story – see my italics …

‘In 2018/19, the police recorded 14,491 sexual orientation hate crimes (up 25 per cent compared with the previous year) … and 2,333 transgender identity hate crimes (up 37 per cent). These large percentage increases … are partly due to the smaller number of these crimes.

‘However, they may also suggest that increases are due to the improvements made by the police in their identification and recording of these hate crime offences and more people coming forward to report these crimes rather than a genuine increase. However, genuine increases cannot be ruled out.’  

Notice the discrepancy. There is no evidence for an increase. It is just that, as with many things under the sun (including the existence of aliens), we can’t explicitly rule it out.

How can we trust our national broadcaster if it plays so fast and loose with the facts on such important issues, particularly when the correct information and evidence is so easy to find?

Finally, the Gender Recognition Act. The BBC says: ‘The Gender Recognition Act is how you get the gender you identify with legally recognised. You get a gender recognition certificate; you can change your birth certificate.

‘Currently, this is a medical process. You need to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria to qualify … campaigners want it to be reformed to be a simple administrative process based around self-declaration.’

Hmmm. So what about a mention for the myriad campaigners who are concerned about reform of the GRA? As far as the unbiased BBC is concerned, these do not deserve a mention.

The BBC goes on to say: ‘Reforming the GRA has nothing to do with trans people accessing bathrooms. That’s a right protected under the Equality Act.’ This is so simplistic and misleading as to be beyond belief.

Reforming the GRA has everything to do with trans people accessing bathrooms. Women are concerned that if the GRA is amended to allow a straightforward self-identification process, this will allow fully-intact men into women’s bathrooms, create risks for women and impact their privacy and dignity.  

As for the assertion that ‘trans people accessing bathrooms is a right protected under the Equality Act’, no it isn’t. Sex, not gender identity, is the protected characteristic under the Equality Act – see Schedule 3 sections 26 and 27.  

But, precisely because that wording is now coming under close examination, Parliament’s Women and Equalities Select Committee has asked that the Equality and Human Rights Commission should provide guidance on the matter.  

Why is an issue that is highly contentious asserted as a simple fact by the BBC? Isn’t that highly misleading and irresponsible?

How can the BBC treat issues of such enormous importance to so many people, issues that impact the safety, dignity, privacy of women and girls, in such a cavalier, trivialising, and in parts, plain-out misleading, fashion? It doesn’t make any sense. 

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Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske
Caroline ffiske is a former adviser to the New Zealand Government, served two terms as a Conservative councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham and is currently a full-time mother. She tweets as @carolinefff

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