A supportive mother of a transgender child has accused the BBC of lying to her in order to get her to appear in a documentary.
Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?, which will air on Thursday (12 January) at 9pm on BBC Two, is a This World documentary that claims to ask whether parents are ‘right’ to support their children’s gender identity. The BBC has claimed it is more ‘balanced’ than the promotional information appears to show it to be.
The program information gives an interview with Dr Kenneth Zucker, who the documentary filmmakers say ‘lost his job for challenging the new orthodoxy that children know best’.
In fact, Zucker lost his job after being hit with allegations of psychological abuse against minors. His ‘techniques’ were aimed to ‘repair’ the ‘biological’ gender, and told parents to discard of ‘feminine toys’. The Canadian ‘doctor’ was discredited, disgraced and the gender clinic issued an apology to the more than 500 pre-pubescent youth who came into contact with him since he started practicing in the 1970s.
The show will feature the quote: ‘If your child said they were a dog, would you give them dog food?’
No information from the BBC about the documentary gives any indication that a person with any credible expertise on transgender children was spoken to during production.
A petition has been launched to call on the BBC to not show the documentary until it has been seen by experts.
Melissa, from Ottawa, is a mother of four – including one nine-year-old who just happens to be trans – who appears in Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?
‘I’m absolutely disgusted. The producers definitely deceived us,’ she told Gay Star News. ‘The synopsis is obviously one-sided. I can see they baited me.’
She says the documentary filmmakers told her they had seen an influx of gender non-conforming children in Britain and had traveled to Canada and the US to get a ‘completely non-biased’ approach to the ‘issue’.
And while she admits the filmmakers mentioned Zucker in passing, Melissa insists that it was not clear the discredited doctor was going to be a primary focus of the documentary.
‘That synopsis is embarrassing and hurtful to us as a family. It’s shaming us and saying we did the wrong thing,’ she continued. ‘My daughter is very public with her transition, and she recently won a huge award from our governor general for her advocacy.
‘This synopsis for the documentary is like throwing everything back in her face. Did they think we were a joke? Were they laughing at us while we thought we were doing a good thing? It’s very insulting.’
While Melissa says she will make her final conclusion when she watches Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best? this week, she will not show it to her daughter until she has reviewed it first. She claimed she had asked for the name of the documentary before the program information became available, but was ignored.
Melissa also said allowing her daughter to socially transition was the ‘best thing my husband and I have ever done’.
Susanne Green, the CEO of UK trans children charity Mermaids, told GSN she was also contacted by a producer of the documentary but only to see whether she knew of anyone who had detransitioned – an extremely tiny minority of the trans community.
‘[The documentary] is irresponsible,’ she said.
‘The BBC have not thought for a second for how this will damage the lives of trans children, and their fight every day to be authentic. The negative environment will only be increased because it’s being done by a mainstream channel. People respect the BBC, and they believe them.’
A BBC spokesperson said in a statement: ‘With a rise in the number of children being referred to gender clinics, this program sensitively presents different views from experts and parents on gender dysphoria in children.
‘For more than 30 years Dr Kenneth Zucker ran Canada’s biggest child gender clinic and was considered a recognized authority on childhood gender dysphoria until he lost his job. He believes he was fired for challenging the gender affirmative approach.
‘This documentary examines Zucker’s methods and includes significant contributions from his critics and supporters of gender affirmation, including transgender activists in Canada and leading medical experts as well as parents with differing experiences of gender dysphoria and gender reassignment.’
Lucas Johnston set up the petition to call on the documentary to be seen by experts before it is shown, as he says Zucker ‘is no expert’. 10,000 people have signed the petition so far.
He said: ‘In recent years we have made massive strides in transgender rights, social acceptance of transgender people in society, and levels of discrimination and prejudice against transgender people are lowering. But this program endangers some of the progress we have made.
‘I have no issue with Dr. Zucker having an opinion. But I do have an issue when that opinion is being spread on primetime national television to potentially millions of viewers, with no vetting from transgender experts confirming that it does not promote transphobic views.
‘Ultimately, this TV show could spark a trail of prejudice; belittling transgender children, leading to them not being socially accepted by society. To me, that is too big of a risk to take.’