There's a new programme on CBBC online called Just A Girl. It's aimed at children aged between 6 and 12. From its title, it sounds like a harmless, simple story of a young child. The kind of programme any parent would be happy to let their daughter watch.
Unfortunately, Just A Girl has recently sparked debate on Mumsnet. Why? It's lead character, Amy, aged 11, is a transgender child going through the process of transitioning into a girl.
According to reports from the Mail On Sunday, parents have taken to Mumsnet to discuss the show. Many parents are unhappy about the storyline, labelling the show 'inappropriate' for their children.
When I read these reports, I immediately recalled Cerrie Burnell. Cerrie Burnell is a presenter on the BBC's CBeebies channel. When she first started this job, parents were worried that she would 'scare' their young children- simply because she was born without an arm.
As a person who has been disabled since birth, the negative reactions to Cerrie Burnell at the time outraged me. As a person who strongly believes that children should be taught about all differences from as early an age as possible, I am all for the BBC showing Just A Girl. If I had a daughter, I would be proud to let her watch the show. In fact, I would highly recommend it to her.
Digital Spy reports that the BBC has responded to the criticisms of the show with a statement saying "Just a Girl is about a fictional transgender character trying to make sense of the world, deal with bullying and work out how to keep her friends, which are universal themes, which children can relate to, and which has had a positive response from our audience.
"CBBC aims to reflect true life to our audience, providing content that mirrors the lives of as many UK children as possible."
I'm pleased to see that the Mumsnet thread is not one-sided. There are also comments praising the show for raising such an important subject. One parent even talks about a child they know who recently came out as transgender in primary school and says they think it is the perfect age to teach children tolerance.
Personally, I strongly agree with that view. I strongly believe that children who are taught about differences in a positive light from an early age grow into sensitive, understanding adults who learn to show empathy, not unnecessary sympathy or pity.
Among CBBC viewers, there may be young children who are considering coming out as transgender. This programme might be showing them that they don't need to be scared to tell anyone about the feelings they are having. Personally, I think that would be a very positive thing. Who knows how different life might have been for Caitlyn Jenner if she had been able to watch a character like Amy on TV as a 12-year-old?
There may also be children watching the programme who have already started living as transgender. They would get the chance to see themselves represented on TV through Amy. I know how positive that would be for them, because I know how much I longed to see disabled characters like myself on CBBC programmes in the 1990s. I don't remember seeing a single one, at least not until I was too old to really be interested.
Personally, I think the debate about differences being shown on children's TV is now an unnecessary, outdated one. If anything, we need more programmes like Just A Girl, not less.