Thursday, March 31, 2016

Today is Transgender Day of Visibility.

The BBC, including BBC children's TV, has done a lot to promote transgender people. This video, for example, sees Leo Waddell self-identify as transgender before giving tips on how to deal with bullying.

But the situation on BBC children's TV is somewhat different when it comes to lesbian, gay or bisexual kids.

This failure to even acknowledge LGB people was evident in the My Life: I Am Leo documentary. Leo flew to Scotland to meet Natalie, who, by the way, had already appeared another BBC documentary called 'Coming Out Diaries'

Leo: (narrating) The scary flight was worth it - Natalie is really nice. She's transgender, like me; only the other way round. Natalie was born in a boy's body, but lives as a 20-year-woman. Some of her family haven't accepted her, and I want to find out what that's like.

Leo: When did you know you were transgender?

Natalie: Probably around 15. I knew a little bit earlier. I mean since I was 5 I always felt a little bit different - a bit iffy with everything. But I didn't know what transgender was until I was 15.

Leo: How was your mum when you first came out?

Natalie: My parents found out while I was getting bullied a school. They thought maybe I was just hanging out with the wrong people, maybe it was just a phase. Without the support of my family it made me worse. ....

Although Leo and his mum had been specially flown to Scotland, the interview with Natalie lasted only a few seconds and we weren't given the opportunity to find out more about the nature of that bullying, and, in particular was homophobic language involved?

The fact that I Am Leo avoided any mention of LGB-related terms suggests anti-gay attitudes are still the order of the day in the BBC children's department. That charge will remain valid until the person in charge, Alice Webb affirms and supports kids who self-identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Royal Television Society, according to its current CEO, Theresa Wise, has a strong orientation towards young people, particularly students and those endeavouring to get into and get on in television.

The RTS is clearly set on its members' interests and helping people get jobs in TV. High-quality TV seems to be a lesser priority. Take, for example, the RTS Programme Awards, announced at a ceremony last Tuesday.

The three programmes nominated for Best Children's Programme were

Lily's Driftwood Bay: Goodbye Seabird
The Dumping Ground
My Life: I Am Leo

Lily's Driftwood Bay is a series of colourful 7-minute long animated stories featuring Lily and her friends. It is aimed at young children, and the nominated episode, Goodbye Seabird broaches the topic of bereavement in an age-appropriate and entirely sensitive way. Of the three nominations, Lily's Driftwood Bay was by far the most deserving of the RTS award. It ill-behoves the Royal Television Society that Lily's Driftwood Bay was not awarded the prize.

Second in line should surely have been The Dumping Ground. The CBBC series is well-meaning and reasonably inclusive, though, as yet, none of the resident kids has identified as lesbian or gay.

The winner of the RTS award went to CBBC's My Life: I Am Leo. The documentary is about a child who was born as a girl, and originally named Lily, but who wants to live as a male called Leo.

CBBC's documentary is, according to RTS, an uplifting piece of TV, but the programme has been criticised by many on the internet and social media. The documentary was problematic, and shouldn't have been nominated for any awards.

One of the main issues is that the programme, with its irresponsible use of pseudoscience, might easily impose or reinforce gender stereotypes on potentially vulnerable gender-non-conforming children, some of whom will be lesbian, gay or bisexual.

A better approach would be to let kids know that gender equality means they don't need to look or behave in any particular way. Gender pigeonholing is anti-diversity and exactly NOT the message BBC children's TV should be promoting.

Leo: "I think I might be in love with Holly Willoughby"

Lastly it's worth pointing out the role of Leo's mum in what is going on. ITV's This Morning has been intent on promoting Leo's story for a while now. In this interview Leo's mum, Hayley, says "If Leo could have had those [hormone blockers] at [age] 9, I would have happily let him have them. As it happened, because he had to start into puberty, I mean he will still have to face a certain amount of surgery ..."

So it seems that, hormone blockers or not, Leo's mum already had her child's future mapped out: He will face surgery when he's older. Anyone could be forgiven for questioning whether that mother really has her child's best interests at heart.

See also: UK CBBC Children’s TV: I Am Leo

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The BBC's 'mission' is to enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain. CBBC's My Life documentary series generally meets that aspiration, but one particular episode - I Am Leo - falls short in several ways. Most notably, the programme makers appear to have made a special effort to avoid any discussion of sexual orientation, or even mention of words such as 'lesbian' and 'gay' throughout the entire programme.

So it seems the BBC's mission stops short of honestly informing and educating kids about LGB diversity. In so doing the Corporation is in danger of confusing young children, and potentially causing a great deal of harm, especially if it leads them on a route towards unnecessary invasive surgery and/or lifelong hormone-dependence.

Despite these serious failings, I Am Leo has already won a BAFTA award, which was collected by Leo last year. And now the episode has been nominated for a Royal Television Society award. Lesbian, gay and bisexual exclusion has regrettably become the accepted norm for media organisations.

Leo at the British Academy Children’s Awards award ceremony on 22/11/2015

My Life: I Am Leo is to be repeated twice tomorrow on CBBC (10.20am and 2pm)

See also (Nov 2014): Boy, 13, born in girl's body: 'I want my eggs frozen so I can have children'

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Newsround at 7.40am - Leah: Women and girls are equal to men and boys, and as such should be treated equally - that's the message of International Women's Day.

All three Newsround bulletins today led with a report about International Women's Day and an important equality message. Would have been nice to see Newsround do something similar to give a confidence boost to non-hetero kids during LGBT History Month, but CBBC still comes across as unwilling to support lesbian, gay and bisexual kids.

CBBC has yet to make a documentary about kids growing up gay. As a children's documentary maker recently put it: "the difficulty is that you'd need to tackle sexual attraction which is hard when you're addressing 6-12s"

Sunday, March 06, 2016

A (2014) documentary called I Am Leo - one part of CBBC's extensive My Life series - is amongst the programmes nominated for a Royal Television Society award. I Am Leo received a children's BAFTA last year. Another CBBC series, The Dumping Ground, is also up for an RTS award. The winners will be announced at a star-studded ceremony on 22nd March.