UK CBBC Children’s TV: I Am Leo

Thanks to Newsround Blog for drawing our attention to the above video, My Life: I Am Leo, which airs on CBBC, the BBC channel aimed at children aged 6-12 years old.

The documentary was first shown in November 2014, again in early 2015 and is repeated today. It is part of the Bafta award-winning My Life series produced by Nine Lives Media for CBBC and it has recently been nominated for a Royal Television Society Programme Award in the Children’s category.

Update: I Am Leo won the RTS award.

We don’t want to judge any individual in this documentary, particularly the child at the centre of it; our concern is with the overall message being sent to young children, and the myths which are propagated through the story of Leo. When referencing the story we will refer to Leo as ‘he’ out of respect to this young person, and we will use his story only to make wider points in reference to the general ‘trans narrative’ being pushed here.

First, a look at the BBC’s role as the leading children’s broadcaster in the UK, with CBBC reaching 58% of 6-12 year olds. The Director of BBC Children’s, Alice Webb, says:

In a world of rapidly changing media, the first thing I want to underline is our unwavering commitment to exceptional, distinctive public service UK children’s content.

The BBC is going to keep making and broadcasting incredible content that kids can call their very own – content to inform, educate, entertain and inspire all the UK’s children.

In the broadcasting of I Am Leo, CBBC misinforms children in several key ways, either by omission of facts or false information. Having never commissioned a documentary about gay, lesbian or bi-sexual young people, the most obvious message CBBC sends to children here is that if you feel in any way ‘different’ to other kids of your sex, you are probably trans. The lack of any reference to the far greater probability that a child is actually gay or lesbian is a serious omission which lays CBBC open to the charge of biased broadcasting and homophobia.

In the programme there are no statistics presented at all which would inform and educate children about the wider context within which Leo’s story takes place, not even a list of facts at the end, such as information that the overwhelming majority of children, by adolescence, have grown to accept the sex they were born.

There is also no explanation of the distinction between ‘sex’ and ‘gender.’ Although it is mostly a child speaking throughout, terms like “opposite gender” go unchecked and the concept of being “born in the wrong body” itself is presented as an accepted fact rather than an individual feeling with no scientific basis in reality. It is not possible to be “a boy in a girl’s body” as this video gaily asserts.

The animated graphics in the video go further: we are told “Some hormones are for boys and other hormones are for girls,” a fiction which is illustrated by a row of figures being sprayed pink and another row being sprayed blue on a kind of conveyor belt of production of girls and boys. The pink girls then have pink brains added, and the blue boys get blue ones, as we are informed “Most people’s hormones, brains and bodies all match so they know if they’re a girl or a boy.” Those pink girls who don’t feel very pink then have blue brains added, and the blue boys who don’t feel very macho have pink brains added. These children, we are told, are “transgender.”

Visually, what better way to emphasise to children that gender stereotypes are true and immutable: that a normal girl is 100% ‘feminine’ and a normal boy 100% ‘masculine.’ This is the kind of sexist stereotyping we have fought for so long to undo; the kind of stereotyping which mostly harms and holds back girls. The animation reinforces the idea that, for example, girls are clearly not suited to science and maths and it’s because of their pink lady brains. The video manages to put across both the message that any child with unmatching ‘hormones, brain and body’ is abnormal, at the same time as presenting “trans” as just a normal variation of childhood.

The gender stereotyping is reinforced throughout the whole video; partly by the omission of any discussion of what a ‘girl’ is or what a ‘boy’ is (a discussion which would have exposed the stereotypes and questioned them) and also by the wholesale acceptance that it is ‘gender’ which defines you as a girl or as a boy – so, some sort of personality type – and not biological sex.

The only clues as to what Leo means by the assertion “I always knew I was really a boy” are the references to girls having to wear dresses and have long hair, whereas boys get to wear different things and have short hair.

Leo’s story follows the established narrative of “trans kids.” As a little girl, Lilly (as she was then) hates having her hair long and wearing dresses, the mother loves doing Lilly’s hair “in little bunches,” Lilly rebels by cutting her hair off and insisting she is a boy, and finally mum looks on the internet and finds an explanation: Lilly must be transgender. At no point is any other explanation offered or explored; there is no option that Lilly might be a girl who just doesn’t fit that ‘feminine’ stereotype, either because it’s simply not her personality, or because she may be lesbian. Lilly herself will now probably never find out as ‘she’ is now a ‘he,’ affirmed and socialised as a boy and on track for puberty blockers followed by the inevitable full transition. Leo gets to go on the t.v. and now hopes that by telling his story he will help other transgender people accept themselves. Every “trans kid” story follows the same script. The role of online political trans activism in the creation of this story is not examined.

Girls insisting that they are boys is not a new or unusual phenomenon; for many girls, the ‘feminine’ stereotype they are meant to embody is boring, stifling and rage-inducing. Watching this programme will convince more girls that it’s possible to really be a boy. All the plus points (attention, acceptance, t.v. appearances, documentaries made about you) are not balanced by the reality that Leo will become a lifelong medical patient, taking off-label hormones with well-documented risks and side effects, possible surgery including amputation of healthy body parts, sterilisation and the probability of a shortened life-span. ‘He,’ despite all this, will remain biologically female. It is irresponsible of the BBC to present this path as a kind of happy lifestyle choice.

During the programme, we see the new Leo sitting in a park talking to three girls who are his friends, supporting him with words of acceptance because “everyone’s different.” Would a girl who dressed, presented and played football like Leo be so easily accepted on those terms? Everyone being “different” seems to be OK as long as they either stay within their ‘gender’ boxes or change sex to fit their personalities.

We want to reiterate that the purpose of this blog is not to attack Leo and his family; we wish them only the best. What we take issue with is CBBC promoting to all children harmful and discredited ‘brain sex’ theories and the damaging message that it is ‘gender’ that distinguishes girls from boys, not biological sex. CBBC broadcasting this video with no further explanation represents a failure in duty to provide accurate and balanced information, and exposes a lack of research on a subject which will have a big influence on children and how they understand themselves at the most fundamental level.

CBBC: My Life: I Am Leo 10.20am Monday March 21st 2016

To make an online complaint to the BBC click here.

This Post Has 26 Comments

  1. Una Hodgkins

    Where is “Leo’s” father? Does he share this acceptance?

  2. Elaine Hutton

    I totally agree with this and will make a complaint to the BBC

  3. Alison Smith

    Thank you for highlighting this. I will watch the programme on catch-up tomorrow and contact the BBC to make an official complaint.

    I actually feel quite sick just from your description of the programme. When I was a girl, being a “tomboy” was my only way out of being girl – being like George (Georgina) in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. Thank goodness transgender wasn’t a thing back in the 70s as I can see how seductive an idea it must be. And for the BBC to promote this nonsensical and dangerous propaganda via its children’s programming is shocking and alarming!

    When my son was little – from about 3 years old till he was about 9 – he expressed preferences for “girly” things. I explained that none of these things – clothes, colours, make-up, hairstyles etc were anything to do with biology but all about fashion and culture and that these things changed across time and space. I got him pink shoes, funky nail varnish, pink hairgel, clasps for his hair (all things he chose) and we agreed he could wear make-up when he was 13. He did get to indulge his love for make-up with the samples in the local department store ( I, his mother, don’t wear make-up so he couldn’t play that game at home!). At church sales he spent his pocket money on handbags, make-up mirrors and jewellery, chose a play lipstick as a gift at Sunday School, and loved wearing the princess costumes from the dressing up box at Out of School Care. There was never any doubting that he was a boy. He was annoyed that girls had more choice in clothing, types of fabric, jewellery etc, and we had long discussions about that and about how society places limits and expectations on boys and girls, men and women.

    Now, he’s 14. He doesn’t want to wear make-up any more. It was all just a part and parcel of his childhood, and I actually feel quite sad sometimes that that part of his life is gone as he heads into adolescence. But that’s life, isn’t it? Life in all its rich variety – the unboxed in kind.

  4. Una Hodgkins

    I have also just submitted a complaint. It takes time, but otherwise the BBC will never know that they have just endorsed brainless stereotyping – and child torture!

  5. Dave

    I’m afraid the documentary has just won a Royal Television Society award – a very bad decision

  6. Elaine Hutton

    Response to CBBC 22/03/16
    I have just watched the CBBC programme, ‘My Life: I am Leo’, aired yesterday, 21/03/16.
    I am appalled at this programme – at the misinformation, distortion and omissions, and the fact that institutionalised child abuse is presented uncritically by the BBC on a programme designed to be watched by children and adolescents.

    Specific criticisms
    There is never any critique of Leo/Lily’s constant assertion that ‘he’ is ‘born in the wrong body’, or is a boy born in a girl’s body, when in fact human sexuality is an objective biological binary trait.
    Leo is shown as happily embracing puberty blockers, and is told by a so-called expert ‘Dr Polly’ that these can be happily reversed at any time, should ‘he’ change his mind. She says ‘If you stop the injections the body just carries on developing’ and your hormones start working just like before.

    The risks are never pointed out – that puberty blocking hormones can be dangerous, and inhibit growth and fertility in a previously biologically healthy child. It is also not mentioned by Dr Polly that children who use puberty blockers to impersonate the opposite sex will require cross-sex hormones in late adolescence, which are associated with dangerous health risks – high blood pressure, blood clots, stroke and cancer.
    Feminists have worked hard over years to abolish gender stereotypes, yet here there is a simplified lesson in hormones, with accompanying diagrams, which inaccurately suggests that girls have ‘girl’ brains and boys have ‘boy’ brains and any child who does not adhere to this strict definition has a ‘girl brain in a boy body’ and vice versa. This rubbish, masquerading as science, has been long discredited, and it is irresponsible of a public broadcaster to present it as factual information. More worryingly, Leo/Lily, and the audience, is never presented with other alternatives, e.g. that girls can be physically strong and adventurous, and boys can be ‘sensitive’. Also, one never sees programmes for children extolling the advantages of becoming a lesbian, and this is never presented in schools or in broadcasted programmes as a viable option for girls who feel ‘uncomfortable’ with stereotyped ‘femininity’.

    There have been previous critiques of CBBC programmes for their sexism, (focus on boys being active and girls in subordinate roles), and this programme continues the trend. Girls are diminished; the two trans ‘boys’ are permitted to speak of their actual biological sex with scorn/derision – ‘trapped in this awful body’, the female passport was ‘rubbish’.(One wonders what effect these comments will have on girls, who are constantly, via media and social media, being told they are wrong, and do not matter). No positive images of girls, or young lesbians, are presented, so the programme is sexist and heterosexist.

    Finally, the only adults who appear, apart from Leo/Lily’s mother, are Stephen Whittle, from the trans lobby group Press for Change, which, we are told in passing, coerced Lily/Leo’s school into promoting transgender ideas, and Dr. Polly Carmichael, of the Gender Identity Development Service.
    Where is the balance?

  7. atranswidow

    Lilly/Leo is very photogenic and a natural in front of the camera. Put that together with a dedicated and passionate film-crew who know how to pull an emotional punch on screen and you have an award winning film.

    I found this article on Ariel, the BBC’s in-house, on-line, paper……

    From the production team……..”’The passport is crucial. Films like this need a narrative, a reason to stay watching, otherwise they can just be like a lovely warm bath,’ Lewis says.”

    ‘It’s not about the science or the medicine, it is fundamentally about identity and passion……”

    And this…….”Colourful graphic figures represent a child’ eye view of someone born into the wrong gender body and there’s a light-hearted sequence in the consulting room where Leo is ‘frozen’ with a graphic ‘pause’ button, to illustrate how medication is putting his natural development on hold.”

    Followed by……”But the subject of sex change is deliberately never mentioned, explains Lewis, who has made other more explicit films about transgender adults: ‘Having the kind of boundaries you have to work with when you’re portraying children to other children can actually inspire you to be more creative,’ she says.”

    Yes, ”more creative” with the truth. Any icky bits about the long term medical effects, including sterility, that maybe facing Leo later down the line deliberately avoided, after all that doesn’t win TV awards or Baftas.

    So in answer to Elaine’s question ”Where is the balance?” it would seem that there was never intended to be any.

    I shall be re-watching and sending my first ever BBC complaint this evening.

  8. Hecuba

    So that old old male women-hating lie that ‘hormones are either “female or male” surfaces once again to support mens’ lie (oops I mean men’s truth) that men are from mars and women are from venus!

    This is eugenics or rather pseudo biological essentalism which is being used to reinforce mens’ lie that any female or male child who does not rigidly adhere to mens’ definition of appropriate ‘femininity/masculinity’ must therefore be born in the wrong body!

    Yet the BBC claims their corporation is not women-hating but instead supposedly promotes ‘equality!’ Except of course ‘equality’ continues to be male defined!

  9. Una Hodgkins

    I complained on 22nd March to the BBC website and received today (31st March) a predictably unexceptional reply from CBBC. I have complained again in the following terms:

    “The response which you have given is (1) legally correct, but (2) could have been written by Mermaids, GIRES, “Gender Intelligence” or one of the many “trans-activist” groups, often led by trans individuals on a mission to convert. It is a timid and uncritical response. I was hoping for a more challenging discussion of the profound moral issue which I raise. We are talking about leading children who are not old enough to have sex, vote or drive a car, onto an almost irreversible path to sterilisation and life-long medical treatment. It is a fact that very few “trans children” stop after taking so-called “blockers”. They believe, wrongly, that exterior changes will allow them to “change gender”, which is medically impossible. Gender dysphoria is a trend, like anorexia: there used to be vanishingly few TG children. Suddenly there are many, even in the same class! They and their parents do not understand the consequences of their actions, which is why there is a moral issue here.

    The medical profession will not discuss this openly, but there is a lot of disquiet: many (physical) doctors profoundly disagree with the (few) psychiatrists treating GD. There is also disquiet even among psychiatrists. The point which I made is that these children are being given medical treatment (so called “blocking” drugs and the promise of surgery) for what is, basically, a psychiatric problem, not a physical one.

    This point needs to be raised and discussed openly. Otherwise the only discussion of this very difficult subject will be in the “comments” underneath on-line articles about transgender sufferers.

    There is complete misunderstanding about the true nature of GD: it has no similarity to the LGB community who have no need for drugs or surgery.

    Of course I do know a lot about this subject: I am the ex-wife of a life-long transgender sufferer who hid this critical fact from me for 14 years.”

    I wish I had forwarded Sylvie’s link to the webpage of the American College of Pediatricians, with its firm, authoritative rebuttal!

  10. Una Hodgkins

    Re: my complaint to BBC dated 31st March above.
    I did in fact send them the link to the ACpeds webpage ( in a third complaint on the same day.

    I have received today a repetition of the “It was not our remit” reply. CBBC have said:

    “Thank you for your further email. We are sorry to hear that you were unhappy with our previous response.

    We appreciate that you believe gender dysphoria is a psychiatric problem and are unhappy that this was not addressed within this programme. However, I Am Leo never set out to explore the causes of transgender conditions. As previously stated, this documentary was a personal look at the experiences of Leo and of two other young people; one who lives as a transgender boy, and one who identifies as a young transgender woman. We believe the programme fairly represented the issues affecting them, and will have helped viewers to understand some of the difficulties faced by those who present as transgender.

    We hope that you will agree that the programme was successful in its aim. However, should you believe there were inaccuracies in the programme amounting to a breach of the BBC’s editorial guidelines, ( it is now open to you to go to stage 2 of the BBC’s complaints process and raise your concerns with the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit. The Unit operates independently of programme makers and management and investigates whether programmes have breached our editorial standards. If a complaint is upheld they ensure that the BBC takes appropriate action in response to the finding.

    You can e-mail them ( or write to them at: Editorial Complaints Unit, Broadcast Centre, BC2 B4, 201 Wood Lane, London, W12 7TP. This should be done within 20 working days and you should quote case number CAS-3771214-HTPZYM.


    Before I go and complain to the Editorial Complaints Unit I want to ask others:

    (1) Have you received replies to your complaints, and of what kind?

    (2) The key to criticizing successfully this documentary is to discredit the doctrine (cult) of “gender identity” in a rigorous and logical way, as Dr Rebecca Reilly Cooper has done brilliantly in a talk which was recorded here:

    (3) Pathological psychiatry:
    Transgender people are projecting their pathological mental state onto normal people. Normal people do not claim that they have a “gender identity”, a (mental) identity separate from their body. This idea has no meaning to them. For them “gender identity” does not exist, it is tosh! But transgender sufferers claim that they do have one. In their case their “gender identity” is a novel construction, a misconception, a misunderstanding about watching oneself behave (in a stereotypical way). It is a “hypersensitivity” – which is a pathological state.

    I would like some feedback before I write to the BBC again. Thank you.

    1. Transgender Trend

      The programme DID “explore the causes of transgender conditions” with one explanation only, in their animation: some boys have “girl” brains and some girls have “boy” brains. There is no scientific basis for this claim, in fact neuroscience consistently shows there is no such thing as a male or female brain. This is a very misleading and harmful “inaccuracy” to present to children as fact, and it goes against all we are trying to teach children, especially girls, in its reinforcement of innate male and female capabilities and aptitudes.

      1. Sylvie

        Wow, what a toxic mess, BBC.

        Seems from their response, the BBC (lawyers) are not interested in addressing this as a wider issue, because:

        “However, I Am Leo never set out to explore the causes of transgender conditions. As previously stated, this documentary was a personal look at the experiences of Leo and of two other young people; one who lives as a transgender boy, and one who identifies as a young transgender woman. We believe the programme fairly represented the issues affecting them, and will have helped viewers to understand some of the difficulties faced by those who present as transgender.”

        So they are essentially cutting off all other POV’s based on the assertion this doco is re these people only – ala not representative of anyone/anything as a whole, and therefore invalidating anything that attempts to draw attention to the flawed reporting. (Though the last comment is a tad biased – surely “some of the difficulties” is best balanced by the REST of the difficulties/SCIENCE, etc, in order to avoid that bias? Not necessarily in the same doco – maybe a series).

        A bullshit distinction by the BBC that fails to acknowledge the INFLUENCE the media has on swaying public perception, via emotive reporting. I think it’s something worth addressing in any comms to them – as well as noting it is (should be?) their responsibility to present full and factual information lest they be held responsible for future Leo’s who end up regretting their decision because pink brain was wrong/a phase/whatever?

        1. Una Hodgkins

          POV = “points of view”
          What is “doco”?
          What is “ala”?

          Can you please translate? I am not familiar with the terminology. Thank you.

          1. Sylvie

            Hi Una – apologies for my laziness 🙂

            Yes, POV = point of view
            Doco = documentary
            Please ignore “ala” – I’m not sure how it got in there (typing in small boxes on a Friday night)

            The response from the BBC struck me as designed to shut down any complaint by stating it was experience of only those featured in the program, abdicating any responsibility on their part to present any other info.

  11. Una Hodgkins

    I wrote yesterday to the BBC’s editorial complaints unit, as follows:

    “I am not at all satisfied with the replies which I have received from your complaints unit on 14th April and 5th May 2016. I will state more clearly for my third complaint that the programme did NOT provide:

    (1) factually accurate reporting;

    (2) balanced reporting and

    (3) a challenge to discrimination on the basis of sex. On the contrary the programme promoted sex discrimination because it reinforced gender role stereotypes.

    (1) No one knows the cause (or causes) of transgender conditions. That is a fact and should have been stated in this simple way. Contrary to your assertion “However, I Am Leo never set out to explore the causes of transgender conditions” the programme did discuss a cause. It offered a very contentious explanation in the animation: some boys have “girl” brains and some girls have “boy” brains. There is no scientific basis for this claim. In fact neuroscience consistently shows there is no such thing as a male or female brain. No differences in brains can be found. So to give your explanation is a very misleading and harmful “inaccuracy” to present to children as fact, and it goes against all we are trying to teach children, especially girls, in its reinforcement of supposedly innate male and female capabilities and aptitudes.

    (2) “Leo” says that he feels better now that he is taking puberty-blockers and anticipates excitedly the next treatments. The programme should have referred to the harmful consequences of puberty-blocking and life-long hormone treatments (which are both drugs) including future sterility and long-term adult psychiatric problems (anxiety, depression, suicide) as almost certain and very likely consequences of the choices which “Leo” is making. It is not true to say that puberty-blockers are “fully reversible” for two reasons: (1) Any drug which stops puberty is stopping the natural growth of the child, which induces psychological as well as physical changes. The surge of sex hormones in puberty should not normally be arrested as it harms the psycho-social development of the child. A child should develop socially with his or her peers, and feel part of his biological sex peer group, not stuck alone on the sidelines in an artificially childish state, vulnerable to pressure to pursue further a development pathway which is artificially induced with cross-sex hormones; and (2) girls given blockers just before puberty, e.g. at the age of 8 or 9, will not develop eggs in their ovaries. These girls will thus be made permanently sterile.

    (3) Leo and his FtM trans friend reject wearing dresses and having long hair, because they think those behaviours equate to being a girl. This is an extremely restricted view of life as a girl. It just doesn’t correspond to the huge variety of people, including girls, who wear all kinds of clothes or hairstyles, or braces on their teeth, or earrings, or flat- or high-heels, etc….Has Leo never noticed and “identified with” girls of his age with short hair wearing tight jeans? I see a lot of them! Leo and friend’s quest for “gender identity” is a narrow obsession: they try to establish their “gender identity” exclusively in terms of gender stereotypes. As I said above, reinforcing supposedly “innate” male and female capabilities and aptitudes goes against everything we are trying to teach children, especially girls, to free them from stereotypes and to encourage them to try any activity which seems interesting and worthwhile. Thus the programme promoted sex discrimination.

    Further thoughts: the concept of “gender identity” is not logically coherent and does not exist

    This is a question which should be examined by a future programme. I and many others do not feel that we have a “gender identity”. I am a woman, a mother, a Chemistry graduate and post-graduate researcher, a science book editor, an active dinghy sailor and yachtswoman, a dressmaker of considerable skill, a gardener, a competent painter and decorator and skilled handi-person, a campaigner for the NHS, the wife for 14 years of a life-long GD sufferer (ex-wife after he told me the truth!), etc, etc….. This is a set of biological attributes, intellectual interests and experiences which constitutes a mix of male and female stereotypes. I am above all a person and I do not, emphatically not, spend any time at all trying to “conform” to a gender stereotype or “gender identity”. I just live a full life! I have never met a normal person who thinks that they have a “gender identity” and “identifies” with male or female “characteristics”. Postulating an identity which is somehow outside of your body seems to me to be a pathological psychology, discussed only by GD sufferers and the psychiatrists who treat them.

    Leo comes across as extrovert and he is photogenic. Leo’s story seems convincing as told by a professional film crew and editors, but I would expect either this documentary or, more likely, a future documentary to dig deeper and offer a much fuller picture of the long-term confusion, self-induced isolation and permanent dissatisfaction of transgender adults, who are pitiable. They deserve our sympathy, but not our admiration. There is no “courage” in being confused.

    I expected much better from the BBC!

    I have provided a copy of my original complaints of 22nd March and 31st March below.

    I look forward to hearing from you in due course”.

    I do look forward to seeing how they deal with our complaint – thank you for your input Transgender Trend and Sylvie!

    1. Transgender Trend

      That’s fantastic Una, well done for such a comprehensive response and please let us know their reply on here.

    2. Sylvie

      Hi Una – that’s a brilliant reply to the BBC! Very well written. Thank you for persisting and posting the communications to/from them.

    3. Una Hodgkins

      I have received a reply dated 17th June (below) from a Complaints Manager at the BBC’s Editorial Complaints Unit. She again hides behind (1) the protected characteristic of gender “reassignment” [if only people stopped using euphemisms: castration for men is life-threatening from blood loss!!] and (2) the autobiographical focus of the programme. I am bored of this exchange. I will never give up my moral and scientific objections but the BBC will mount their specific narrow defence. I honestly hope that Leo/Lily never regrets his/her decision.
      I notice: (1) the programme is not available on the BBC i-player, only via the You Tube link above (2) At the beginning “Leo” says “I am a normal 13-year old – well, actually “he” is a lot shorter than his 13-year old male friends because of puberty-blocking drugs. “He” is short even for a girl, I think.. Please correct me if I am wrong. I would like to continue this fight but unless anyone can think of a new line of attack I would like to switch to a newer “trans-fight”. Complaining only gets you so far. I have another idea.

      British Broadcasting Corporation White City, 201 Wood Lane, London, W12 7TP
      Telephone: 020 8743 8000 Email:
      Editorial Complaints Unit
      Ms Una-Jane Winfield
      16 June 2016
      Dear Ms Winfield
      My Life: I am Leo, CBBC, 21 March 2016
      I’ve now completed my investigation into your complaint about this programme. As you
      may be aware the remit of the Editorial Complaints Unit is to carry out independent
      investigations where people are dissatisfied with previous responses received from the BBC,
      and to assess whether the output complained of represents a serious breach of the standards
      set out in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines. In your correspondence you challenged the
      programme’s accuracy and impartiality, so I’ve considered your complaint in the context of
      those guidelines1.
      The guidelines describe a requirement for “due” accuracy and impartiality, explaining the
      term due means the accuracy/impartiality must be adequate and appropriate to the output
      and, significantly in this case, they go on to say due impartiality does not require absolute
      neutrality on every issue or detachment from fundamental democratic principles. The
      Equality Act 2010 says that a person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment
      if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a
      process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other
      attributes of sex. The act goes on to define anything creating an intimidating, hostile,
      degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for a person with a protected characteristic,
      as harassment, in view of which I cannot agree, as you suggest, that it would have been
      appropriate for this film to introduce discussion of what you describe as “the long-term
      confusion, self-induced isolation and permanent dissatisfaction of transgender adults, who
      are pitiable”. That may be your view of transgender people, but it was clear from Leo’s
      account that the unhappiness and confusion he experienced resulted, in his view, from not
      being understood and accepted as the person he is.
      The fact that trans male/female status is recognised as a characteristic in law makes it
      irrelevant in the context of the programme whether or not scientific research has identified
      actual anatomical or physiological markers in the brain. In essence the law recognises that
      what makes someone transgender is the way they feel about themselves, and as Leo’s mother
      explained in the film “he had to go through a long process of being watched and talked to
      and understood so they (the doctors) were 100% sure he was right for the treatment”. Leo’s treatment with hormone blockers was evidently based on received medical opinion, after intense and prolonged consideration of his individual situation by experts in the field. I don’t believe it was necessary, in order to meet the requirements of the impartiality guidelines, to give any greater weight to the view of those who oppose such treatment than Leo’s acknowledgement that “not everyone agrees the treatment is a good thing. Newspapers write articles about me because I take hormone blockers. Some people think it’s not right to give them to children”.
      Nor, for that reason, do I believe it was inaccurate to use the imagery of blue and pink brains as an illustration of Leo’s situation, since it reflected his perception of what was happening in his brain. I don’t agree that by doing so the programme promoted sex discrimination and reinforced gender role stereotypes, since acknowledging that stereotypes exist does not of itself endorse them or amount to discrimination. As CBBC pointed out in their reply to you, My Life previously looked at gender perceptions in their film What is a Girl? The subject of that film spent time in a classroom of three and four year olds talking to them about what it meant to be a girl or a boy. All the children had very clear ideas of what it meant to be a girl or a boy and of their own gender identity, and cited clothes, toys, hairstyles and professions, among other things, as being for boys or for girls. Gender distinction exists in the way we dress, behave and view the world and is not necessarily harmful. It may become harmful, as you point out, when imposed on people who can’t or don’t want to conform to something considered the norm for their gender. This film was certainly not advocating that anyone should have to do so; as one of Leo’s friends said “Everybody’s gonna be different. I just hate it how people expect others to be like them and then they start like judging them”.
      The impartiality guidelines acknowledge that the BBC exercises editorial freedom to produce content about any subject, at any point on the spectrum of debate, as long as there are good editorial reasons for doing so, and point to a tradition of allowing a wide range of individuals, groups or organisations to offer a personal view or opinion, express a belief, or advance a contentious argument in BBC output, on the basis that this can add to public understanding and debate. They say that such personal view content must be signposted to audiences in advance, as was the case here given that the programme’s format and title clearly indicate that each film is a personal view by its author. The editorial justification for concentrating on one viewpoint is provided by the aim of promoting understanding and acceptance of the different life experiences children encounter. As mentioned in previous correspondence the programme was originally broadcast in 2014 as part of the BBC’s anti-bullying week.
      I hope that explains why I don’t believe the programme breached the guidelines cited, but ECU findings are provisional in the first instance and we welcome comment on them for ten days following notification. Please let me know if there are points you’d like to make on this finding by 30 June and I’ll be happy to consider them before finalising it.
      Yours sincerely
      Alison Wilson
      Complaints Manager

      1. Sylvie

        Hi Una

        Thank you for sharing their latest response. It will come in handy for future endeavours. I don’t blame you for being bored. They will just continue to trot out the same tired rhetoric and misinformation with each new reply.

        “This film was certainly not advocating that anyone should have to do so” – Alison Wilson just doesn’t get it.

      2. Una Hodgkins

        I decided to write a brief rebuttal today.

        “Dear Ms Wilson,

        I have considered your letter dated 16th June in reply to my complaints below on 22nd March, 30th March and 12th May. I thank you for trying to answer my complaints.

        You have not, in my opinion, succeeded in rejecting my three points which were that (1) the programme is not factually accurate, (2) it is not balanced and (3) it encourages discrimination on the basis of sex. We are not going to see eye to eye because I do not accept your interpretation of the BBC’s editorial guidelines. You have adopted a selective, legalistic interpretation based on the narrow autobiographical focus of the programme and the simple “explanation” (there is no accepted scientific explanation!) offered to children for gender dysphoria. Without wishing to cause offence, your interpretation of the guidelines is simply inadequate and unacceptable for such a controversial subject. In fact it would have been possible to include a “disclaimer” at the beginning of the programme. The producer (a voice over perhaps?) could have said, for example, that the matters covered in this documentary are sensitive and controversial, that gender dysphoria is very rare (1 in 30,000 of the population/ much higher in men than women), that the medical treatment discussed is contested among doctors and scientists, and that the drugs used, which change the body and the mind of otherwise healthy children, carry significant risks including permanent physical and mental ill-health. That warning could have provided the wider context that this programme needed. Instead the programme effectively endorsed, with only the most fleeting self-questioning, treating children as experimental guinea pigs with off-label drugs: so called “puberty blockers” are not approved for use on physically normal children. And the psychiatrists are endorsing a permanent schism between the mind and body of children. The documentary glossed over these difficulties instead of tackling them as I have suggested.
        Children are suggestible. Children and young people look to adults for guidance: they watch BBC programmes about a sensational subject like this and then may try to imitate them. So the BBC had an even greater responsibility to get the message balanced. But it wasn’t! It is not fair to ignore the wider context and the future consequences of the choices which “Leo” aged 13 and his docile mother are making. We have no idea whether “Leo” will come to regret the “trans” choice. If young people are encouraged to view gender dysphoria as “normal” they will, but GD is a devastating condition as I will explain. The scientific evidence currently available suggests that most GD sufferers continue to have mental health problems after their sex change operation. Because they continue to need cross-sex hormones for the rest of their lives GD sufferers are medical patients for the rest of their lives…. They are still not “free”. They can’t help but notice this so the internal struggle to establish their “true” identity never goes away. That is why I and many others feel sorry for them.
        The distress, followed by life-threatening surgery (castration for men!) and followed by life-long medicalisation are so many burdens to carry all their lives.

        We need a BBC programme for children and adults about the scientific truths about life-long gender dysphoria.

        Yours sincerely
        Una-Jane Hodgkins

        PS: The current treatment for GD does not bring mind and body into harmony. We need fresh thinking about this (mental) condition: we urgently need more, and more rigorous experiments to try to find better treatments, using new analogues of existing sex hormones and new psychotherapies.





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