The Mail on Sunday has sparked a huge backlash with its front page story on a CBBC programme about a transgender child.
The story, headlined “Fury at BBC sex change show for six-year-olds” concerns Just A Girl, which follows a fictional 11-year-old who takes hormones to suppress the onset of puberty.
The description for the 34-minute programme on the CBBC website reads: “Amy has a secret and she’s scared that it will come out at her new school. Follow her as she tries to make sense of the world and not lose her friends forever.”
It also quoted Tory MP Peter Bone as calling the programme “completely inappropriate” and saying he would write to the BBC to demand they remove it.
But there has been a huge backlash against the story, with Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids, a charity which supports children and teenagers with gender identity issues, slamming the headline as “horrific”.
She told The Huffington Post UK: “The writer for this series did a lot of work with Mermaids parents and young people to make sure that he represented the challenges that children and their families face.
“The horrific headline detracts from a wonderful series that has been well received as educational and empathic.
“No parent would choose this path for their child. And teaching children about trans issues is important. Education is key to understanding every aspect of life. It’s not on mainstream television and only accessible through CBBC website, therefore it is not thrust upon those not wishing to see it.
“I would like to see more education around trans issues across the board. Maybe then we will see less hatred and prejudice, and can begin to celebrate the fact that everyone is different.”
Journalist and presenter Paris Lees told HuffPost UK that headline like this were “dangerous” and “playing on people’s prejudices”.
She said: “I quite understand why people who don’t have any first hand experiences of this could look at cases like this from the outside, that they’re not involved in and think ‘you’ve got to be careful because you don’t want over enthusiastic parents forcing kids to change gender.
“I can see that’s quite a plausible assessment to come away with the reality is that that is just not happening. It isn’t. If you speak to any adult trans person, like me, they’ll tell you that they had to battle everybody to be taken seriously as who they are.”
She continued: “There is so much misinformation spread about this. Kids aren’t having sex changes - I wouldn’t even use that term, people aren’t going for genital reconstruction surgery until they’re older, until they’re fully grown adults. If you look at the hormone blocking trials, they are really tightly controlled, and there is robust evidence now that young people who have been through this, results clearly show that they are overwhelmingly happier.
“We also know that nearly half - 48% - of young trans people in the UK have attempted suicide. Not had suicidal thoughts, actually attempted suicide. So what we do know if that young trans people face extreme mental distress because of family rejection, social rejection, stigma, prejudice and discrimination.”
She added: “Headlines like this directly contribute to a culture of ignorance and misinformation which makes parents less likely to support their children.
“This has really dangerous consequences.”
A number of social media users also hit out at the story...
In the Mail on Sunday Comment, the paper said: “Girls who would previously be described as ‘tomboys’, because they enjoy climbing trees or kicking a football, have instead started questioning their gender.
“Parents fear the programme could stimulate demand for medical intervention which, as this paper has previously revealed, is already available for children as young as nine.
“As the nation’s broadcaster, the BBC is right to broach difficult subjects – that is not in question.
“The issue is about age-appropriateness: six year-olds should not have to wrestle with such adult matters.”
The BBC tweeted a statement regarding Mail on Sunday’s story:
The Huffington Post UK has contacted the Mail on Sunday for comment.