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James Kirkup: the BBC should be ashamed of its reporting on trans teenagers

(30 Posts)
RoyalCorgi Wed 23-Dec-20 12:50:05

Haven't seen this shared anywhere else, but might have missed it:

www.spectator.co.uk/article/the-bbc-should-be-ashamed-of-its-reporting-on-trans-teenagers

Excellent piece.

OP’s posts: |
Ereshkigalangcleg Wed 23-Dec-20 13:07:12

That is a good piece, except I don't have a great deal of respect for Carmichael. Otherwise it's bang on, and her quote is relevant in the context.

PenguindreamsofDraco Wed 23-Dec-20 13:16:20

Is it just. I complained in rather less eloquent terms yesterday. Truly shocking piece of "journalism".

TiredMary Wed 23-Dec-20 13:17:33

I complained yesterday to the BBC on an article on the Tavistock case. Such biased, irresponsible ‘journalism’.

SadlyMissTaken Wed 23-Dec-20 13:21:44

I can't acess this. Could someone post some extracts?

Campervan69 Wed 23-Dec-20 13:31:58

This is some of the article:

"This is an article about some difficult, complex subjects: suicide, mental health, support for transgender children. It’s also about something very simple: a horrible failure of journalism by the BBC.

The first thing to do is to note the longstandingadviceto the media from the Samaritans on how to report responsibly on the issue of suicide, in order to avoid the risk of adversely influencing the behaviour of vulnerable people.

'Steer clear of presenting suicidal behaviour as an understandable response to a crisis or adversity. This can contribute to unhelpful and risky normalising of suicide as an appropriate response to distress.'

And:

'Speculation about the ‘trigger’ orcauseof a suicide can oversimplify the issue and should be avoided. Suicide is extremely complex and most of the time there is no single event or factor that leads someone to take their own life.'

Next, I think readers should consider astatementmade in 2018 by the Gender Identity Development Service at the Tavistock and Portman NHS trust, the UK’s main centre of treatment for gender-variant children:

'Suicidality in young people attending the GIDS is similar to that of young people referred to child and adolescent mental health services. It is not helpful to suggest that suicidality is an inevitable part of this condition.'

A third data point comes from a High Courtjudgementmade earlier this month. It concerned the Tavistock clinic’s use of puberty-blocking medication on children who experience trouble over their gender. The Tavistock lost the case, as the judges decided children could not give informed consent to such treatment, the use of which has now been halted by NHS England.

During the case, the Tavistock submitted to the court an interim paper arising from its study of children who received 'early pubertal suppression'. According to the court judgment, the Tavistock paper foundthat'there was no overall improvement in mood or psychological wellbeing using standardised psychological measures.'

Dear reader, consider how the BBC this week reported on that court ruling and its implications for children with gender issues.

I very much recommendreading the piece in full, bearing in mind the facts above. But here are some especially interesting extracts from the article, headlined 'Puberty blockers: Parents' warning as ruling appealed'.The third paragraph of the story says this:

'Doctors and parents have told the BBC the ruling couldcausedistressed trans teens to self-harm or even take their own lives.'

Doctors, eh? That’s quite a thing to report. If 'doctors' are indeed saying that a court ruling could 'cause' children to commit suicide, that’s surely something that should be reported, in the public interest.So who are these doctors?

Well, first the BBC offers us 'a clinician who currently works within the NHS GIDS' and does not wish to be named: She is reported as saying 'I know of several young people who have tried to take their lives, some successfully, and that was before these legal challenges which will only slow down and block our services even more.'

That’s suggestive, but still falls some way short of asserting that the ruling 'could cause' children to kill themselves. But the next quote the BBC offers is a little more definitive. It comes from Dr Adrian Harrop. He’s cited as saying this:

'It makes me terribly worried that there is now nothing there for those children, and nothing that can be done to help them. Parents are being left at a point where they're having to struggle to cope with these children who are in a real state of distress and anxiety. Sadly, there is a very real risk of seeing more suicides.'

Dr Harrop is a GP in Liverpool. He has a record of expressing strong opinions on transgender issues via social media.What he does not have is a history of publishing peer-reviewed medical research on mental health and self-harm among trans children. Nor has he worked as a clinician at a clinic such as GIDS.Yet the BBC deems his speculation about child suicide more worthy of reporting than the views of experts such as Polly Carmichael, head of the GIDS and a world-recognised authority in the care of trans children.

She is on the record, in aspeech to amedical conference on gender in October 2017as challenging those who seek to create a narrative that trans children are uniquely at risk of suicide and self harm.(Sample quote:'I also question the discourse that is being created around young people experiencing gender diversity, that it is unbearable, intolerable. This is quite unhelpful. While recognising distress, we need not to be buying into a narrative that is so imbued with negativity and lack of resilience and remember that many of the young people here are coping quite well.')

Still, the BBC report doesn’t stop there. It also breathlessly reports a letter 'seen exclusively by the BBC' to NHS England from GenderGP, which the BBC calls 'one of the only private healthcare providers for transgender people in the UK'.

That letter laments the court ruling and, the BBC reports, concludes: 'The mental health implications of this cannot be underestimated, and the risk of self-harm and suicide must be acknowledged.'

Here, I offer another summary: the BBC reported that 'doctors' say a court ruling halting the use of puberty blockers could 'cause' children to commit suicide, on the basis of unevidenced assertions from a non-specialist medic and disgraced doctors who make money selling such drugs. It did so without reporting the views of actual experts that such narratives about suicide are misleading and potentially harmful.

There are several other things I could say about that BBC report, but I’m not going to say them here."

He ends with Samaritans advice about reporting on suicide.

Gibbonsgibbonsgibbons Wed 23-Dec-20 13:32:02

sadly can you read if you open in private/incognito?

HecatesCatsInXmasHats Wed 23-Dec-20 13:47:38

He's correct and the BBC should take the article down. It also needs to remind journalists of the editorial guidelines and the importance of doing due diligence on sources.

HecatesCatsInXmasHats Wed 23-Dec-20 14:00:43

From the BBC:

Biscuitsanddoombar Wed 23-Dec-20 14:03:23

Sadly as the new Samaritans CEO is the ex girl “TWAW” guides ceo can’t see them commenting about the ongoing breaches of guidelines around discussing suicide by the BBC

RoyalCorgi Wed 23-Dec-20 14:49:23

That is such an abysmal response, Hecates. Why don't they just take the article down?

OP’s posts: |
Gibbonsgibbonsgibbons Wed 23-Dec-20 14:56:57

Biscuitsanddoombar

Sadly as the new Samaritans CEO is the ex girl “TWAW” guides ceo can’t see them commenting about the ongoing breaches of guidelines around discussing suicide by the BBC

Urgh it’s such a career circuit

WarOnWomen Wed 23-Dec-20 14:58:27

The Samaritans guidelines re: suicide are being trampled on left, right and centre. Are Samaritans actually speaking about this at all or calling anyone out?

boatyardblues Wed 23-Dec-20 14:59:53

Nope, curiously mute on this topic.

WarOnWomen Wed 23-Dec-20 15:01:10

Sorry, Biscuits. Didn't see your post. Makes sense now.

HecatesCatsInXmasHats Wed 23-Dec-20 15:06:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HecatesCatsInXmasHats Wed 23-Dec-20 15:08:18

Ignore previous post you can only complain to ofcom after bbc complaints process.

UppityPuppity Wed 23-Dec-20 15:41:57

Nope, curiously mute on this topic.

How is it possible that all these once great charities are now implicit in the harm they were once set up to protect against.

Which ones are left? The only one that comes to mind is the Howard League for Penal Reform.

A clear statement from the S would be very helpful in stemming the false suicide stats - which themselves cause harm. Their clear and chosen failure to do that is reprehensible.

TimeLady Wed 23-Dec-20 16:30:38

If you're reading this, James, thank you once again.

persistentwoman Wed 23-Dec-20 16:48:26

Biscuitsanddoombar

Sadly as the new Samaritans CEO is the ex girl “TWAW” guides ceo can’t see them commenting about the ongoing breaches of guidelines around discussing suicide by the BBC

This is the problem - the circular nature of the well funded gravy train that makes it so easy to regulatory capture individuals and thus organisations.

Datun Wed 23-Dec-20 17:08:41

He is correct.

The journalist is very silly.

Anyone can google Harrop and Webberley and decide exactly why they are saying what they are. How one is suspended for running an illegal clinic, and the other had to leave Twitter.

It makes the BBC look totally dodgy.

Presumably they couldn't find any credible doctors to support the same premise.

SophocIestheFox Wed 23-Dec-20 17:44:07

That’s a cracking article.Nicely done, James.

I wouldn’t be too hasty in condemning the Samaritans. A while back, after a particularly egregious bit of suicide baiting by Mermaids, I emailed the Samaritans to ask them if they would comment on just how thoroughly Mermaids had shit on about five of their guidelines (I may have put it a little more eloquently than that). They were very polite, but basically said they never comment directly in public on such matters- which makes sense as anything they do to continue the conversation would worsen the situation by shining even more light on the article or post than it might otherwise have got, therefore potentially causing even more suicidality.

I will never not be mad about how suicide is talked about by people purporting to support trans people. Never.

UppityPuppity Wed 23-Dec-20 20:48:20

A while back, after a particularly egregious bit of suicide baiting by Mermaids, I emailed the Samaritans to ask them if they would comment on just how thoroughly Mermaids had shit on about five of their guidelines (I may have put it a little more eloquently than that). They were very polite, but basically said they never comment directly in public on such matters- which makes sense as anything they do to continue the conversation would worsen the situation by shining even more light on the article or post than it might otherwise have got, therefore potentially causing even more suicidality.

Interesting point. Well done for writing! We will need to keep referencing it.

VulvaPerson Wed 23-Dec-20 21:55:38

It makes me terribly worried that there is now nothing there for those children, and nothing that can be done to help them.

So, unsurprisingly really, Harrop reckons there nothing that can be done to help 'trans children', no, nothing at all, if experiments cannot be done on them? The insinuation that they will be completely ignored if not put on a medical pathway, is ridiculous. Mind, I guess TRAs have long been campaigning against mental health support for transpeople so..I guess it makes sense in a warped way.

motorcyclenumptiness Thu 24-Dec-20 07:52:22

Presumably they couldn't find any credible doctors to support the same premise
It's the worst kind of journalism that starts with a conclusion and works backwards

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