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A response to negative newspaper coverage on transgender rights

Recently, we've tried very hard to step away from the most degrading examples of anti-trans rhetoric in the national press and focus on the positive. Today, in the middle of what might feel like nothing short of an orchestrated onslaught, we feel we have no choice.

We cannot stand silent amidst a slew of misleading stories, seemingly designed to undermine, frighten, alienate and demonise a vulnerable minority, including children. We have been approached for comment by all of the journalists responsible and it has been depressing, trying to offer fact-based, reasonable information. In truth, while a small number are simply too busy, too inexperienced, too lazy or too incompetent to question the motives of small but noisy groups seeking to spread fear and division, the truth is that some are only too happy to vilify transgender and non-binary kids and adults. So, after a short period of very positive coverage of transgender issues, we face the inevitable attempt to force us all back to the all-too-familiar tropes.

Let's start with a story on Sky News (we won't link to such stories, to prevent unnecessary traffic) about a new group, seeking to support mainly women and girls seeking to 'detransition'. We were approached for comment during the week with the assumption that we would be opposed to anyone supporting people who do so. We explained, as we have explained before, that we support anyone following their own path and simply try to help people to feel empowered and safe. We sent a link to this blog post. We also suggested the journalist consider the wealth of research showing that 'detransition' rates are very low: less than 1% in a number of international studies, including this report, which found of 3,398 trans patients who'd accessed NHS support, 16 expressed regret, and only 3 made a long-term detransition.

Still, regret following any surgery is commonplace but - according to a number of international studies - regret for post-operative gender-transition patients is far lower than for other forms of 'plastic surgery'.

This doesn't mean we 'advocate' any particular route for young transgender or 'enby' (we like that contraction and hope you do too) service users. Nor do we belittle or abandon those few who regret. Our ethos is only ever to support people in their own choices. We also suggested the Sky journalist might wish to question the claim that 'hundreds' of people were approaching this new group for help. If so, then that's an important piece of date very much worthy of discussion.

Any group supporting young people in their journey is welcome, so long as it isn't a trojan horse for anti-transgender rhetoric.

The Daily Mail has a story suggesting that cisgender girls are afraid to use the toilets at school because transgender and non-binary students are using them and this is causing pupils to risk their health.

Newspapers are quick to base articles on hearsay and unsubstantiated anecdotal claims made by a tiny minority. Why? Because fear and prejudice sells papers and gets clicks, and because a number of journalists personally believe that trans people (particularly trans women/girls) are a threat or are deserving of ridicule. The article claims cisgender girls are afraid to use the toilets.

Our experience shows that it is transgender and non-binary students who are afraid to use the toilets at school. It is our young service users who speak very emotionally about years spent trying to hold on before using facilities, risking their health. It is they who face daily verbal and physical assaults. We find no proof of transgender students causing cis' female classmate distress in school toilets while they are menstruating. We know of no figures suggesting trans or enby kids are a threat in school facilities at all.

We do know that our service users are being regularly demonised in the national press by a small number of people who seem intent on ruthlessly attacking defenceless children and encouraging their cis' classmates to mock, isolate and ridicule them. We say: shame on you. The newspapers, the journalists and the "equality campaigners", who seem determined to injure and cow every transgender person in the country, regardless of their age or vulnerability.

As we wait for an IPSO review of reporting on transgender issues over the last decade, we ask for nothing more from our press than equality of coverage on this vital and complex issue. Not to be approached at the 11th hour for a one-line comment at the end of a 1,000-word article founded on rumour, prejudice and division. Not to answer to factual inaccuracies. Not to be equated to groups fuelled by hate.
 
We beg journos to spend 5 minutes looking into their sources, asking objectively what their motives & who their backers might be. We ask them to read scientific papers and look at respected international studies. We ask them to meet our service users to help them understand.
  
Things are getting better. More and more, people are standing behind LGBTQ+ causes and newspapers are beginning to offer space to real people with real stories. That is precisely why this latest wave of negative coverage has come our way. In a way, it's a good sign.
 
Still, we cannot ignore the fact that some politicians are also doubtful of the need to support transgender people. According to reports today,
Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss MP, will deny trans adults the long-awaited freedom to self ID. We know many of those at the Equalities Office will be dismayed and we sincerely hope this is not an accurate report. We are yet to engage with Liz Truss and would be pleased to do so.
 
On this somewhat dismal day in the newspapers, let us end on a positive note. We stand strong with our fellow charities and organisations: Stonewall, Gendered Intelligence, AllSorts, The Albert Kennedy Trust, All About Trans, Pinks News, Gay TImes and many more. 
 
We promise those who feel afraid this weekend that we will not abandon you. We will not let you be silenced. We will not let you be demonised. We will keep fighting for your rights and for the truth. One day, we will look back on these stories spreading fear and division and we will wonder how we kept going. And the answer will be: because we always do. And because we have hope.
 
As we approach our 25th anniversary, we look at what we've achieved and only wish this blog post and twitter thread weren't still necessary. But they are more necessary than ever. So let's keep going.
 
Please share this post and the Twitter thread and make ourselves heard.