Private chat groups between women at the BBC have been full of heated discussion on the role of trans women in the company, Buzzfeed News reports.
Last month, the announcement that BBC pledges to ensure gender equality within onscreen contributors by 2019 was made. WhatsApp groups set up in the wake of last year’s pay gap scandal welcomed this news.
These chat groups were created in part to help senior managers mentor young women staffers. But now, intense discussion over the role of trans women within the gender equality goal is dividing the BBC’s younger and older women.
‘The reason we don’t get on progs and panels is discrimination due to biology and that’s the thing that needs to be addressed,’ wrote a senior BBC producer in the WhatsApp group BBC Sisterhood, which has over 100 members.
Another woman agreed, adding ‘A panel with 2 men and 2 men who identify as women is not 50/50.’
However, many younger members of the group found these comments to be transphobic.
‘Hello, I find this quote offensive… trans women are women and should be included in these discussions?’ one woman wrote.
‘There are TERFs [trans-exclusionary radical feminists] clashing with the millennials and just posting blatantly transphobic things in the chats,’ a BBC staffer told Buzzfeed News. ‘It’s not pretty and you can see younger women leaving the groups every time it comes up.’
Senior women staffers at BBC have also been leaving these big groups due to the sheer volume of messages and out of fear of these conversations being leaked to the press.
Trans women and maternity leave
According to screenshots attained by Buzzfeed News, one recent debate was sparked during discussions of how the company’s maternity policy would apply to trans women.
‘If transwomen self-ID are eligible for maternity pay or leave, it means the sex discrimination claim of being fired or badly treated for pregnancy is erased,’ a senior producer wrote. ‘One loses that resource to a claim for sex discrimination – though of course the discrimination would still happen.’
‘Shouldn’t trans women qualify for maternity leave though?’ a younger employee replied.
‘As TW [trans women] are biologically male, they will, by definition, only be in a co-parenting situation & would therefore eligible for paternity/co parent leave in the same way as lesbian/gay non biol co-parents,’ the producer responded. ‘Or adoption leave, when relevant.’
‘I think womankind is big enough to embrace those on the edges,’ one staffer wrote in the group Chitty Chat, attempting to put an end to the debate.
‘I would agree, if it was just a case of being nice. But it erases the meaning of “woman,” and you can’t define women’s rights if you can’t define women,’ another woman replied.
In the screenshot provided by Buzzfeed, a member of Chitty Chat left the group after the above comment. Another responded saying ‘Bollox.’
BBC and trans people
According to a report released last year, 417 BBC employees identify as transgender out of approximately 21,000.
When Buzzfeed News reached out to the BBC about these WhatsApp controversies, the company declined to comment.