Both newspapers dedicated their front pages today to articles about children and transgender issues, looking at “trans lessons” and transphobic bullying respectively.
But activists have warned that the tone of the coverage could “help fuel the horrific bullying and abuse” that trans people face, while others say the articles have left many in the community “scared and fearful”.
The Sun used its splash to inform readers that “men in women’s clothing are teaching kids as young as two” about gender diversity.
The red-top was referencing classes run by the group Drag Queen Story Time, which attempts to give children a “glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role model” through its reading groups.
“The Skirt On The Drag Queen Goes Swish Swish Swish,” The Sun’s headline read, claiming toddlers are being given “trans classes” where they learn “specially adapted trans songs”.
“Now Kids, It’s Alice In Transgenderland,” a later headline declared next to a photo of one of the drag queens involved in the group.
The Green Party has now reported The Sun to press regulator IPSO, accusing the paper of discriminating against trans people.
Party spokesperson Aimee Challenor said: “The Sun’s coverage of gender fluidity classes is a sad mix of scaremongering, discrimination and inappropriate jokes about drag queens.”
“The rates of suicide and self-harm for young trans people are staggeringly high and it’s simply immoral for The Sun to feed into the prejudice towards them,” Challenor added.
“We should instead be welcoming the move to improve understanding and inclusivity by talking to children about gender fluidity from an early age.”
Meanwhile, the Daily Mail used its front page to focus on new rules issued by the Church of England (C of E) advising that pupils in its schools should be allowed to explore their gender identity “without judgement or derision” when playing dress up.
“For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the fireman’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment,” the advice reads. “Childhood has a sacred space for creative self-imagining.”
The guidance has been welcomed by children’s charity Barnardo’s, who said that those “who identify as LGBTQ to be able to have the same life chances and experiences as everyone else”.
But splashing the headline: “Church: Let Little Boys Wear Tiaras”, the Mail quoted a conservative Christian activist who called the guidance challenging homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying “unkind, unloving and lacking in compassion”.
“We are getting to the point where if you are not careful, the slightest slip from the correct agenda in a Church of England school will get you punished,” Andrea Minichiello Williams told the paper.
“The anti-bullying agenda is aimed against people who step out of line - the anti-bullies are now becoming the bullies.”
The newspaper has faced widespread criticism for the story.
Transgender writer and LGBT+ rights campaigner Jane Fae told HuffPost UK: “The Church of England advice is about preventing bullying - not saying girls or boys should go off and do this or that.
“By the sheer weight of comment, it feels like they [the Daily Mail] are piling in on an already vulnerable community.
“By giving a platform to every last urban myth whilst failing to report on the very real issues facing people in that community, they should not be surprised if that community feels under pressure.”
Comparing recent media coverage of trans issues to “the attack on the gay community in the 1980s”, she added: “I’m getting calls daily from people who are upset, scared and a couple who are even suicidal.”
Fae was joined by trans activist Paris Lees in her criticism of the Daily Mail article.
Posting a photo of the front page story to Twitter, Lees wrote: “ I was bullied violently at school. Like many LGBT kids, home wasn’t always much better.
“But being anti-bullying is apparently now part of some evil trans agenda – according to ‘news’ papers that fail to even report on suicide stats for trans youth. Disgraceful.”
A spokesperson from Stonewall UK added: “Media coverage about trans people and trans equality has been – in the main - unpleasant and painful to read over recent days. It has also been deeply misleading.
“Today’s coverage of the guidance from the Church of England on tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying of pupils in their schools is a case in point.
“We’re concerned the tone of current coverage will only help fuel the horrific bullying and abuse that trans people – both young and old – face,” they added.
The stories in The Sun and the Daily Mail encouraged many members of the public to take to social media to criticise the newspapers’ stance.
“Pretty appalled by some of the front pages this morning,” one woman wrote. “Headlines like The Sun will only harm trans people.”
Meanwhile, other critics took a more comic stance on the stories in the right-wing papers, pointing out the fact that men in the church have been wearing dresses for centuries:
Responding to criticism, a spokesperson for the Daily Mail said: “Our article reported an important news story which was supplied by the Church of England to the Press Association and widely covered across all media, including on the front page of the Telegraph, Metro, the Independent, Radio 4’s Today programme and the first leader article in The Times.
“We hope Huffington Post are not suggesting this story should not have been covered in the Mail.”
When approached by HuffPost UK about these claims, The Sun declined to comment.