Trans people get a rough ride in the British media. Contact with producers ranges from the patronising to the downright hostile. The overwhelming majority of those making shows or writing articles about trans people are not trans themselves. And judging by the industry insiders we’ve spoken to, the majority don’t even know a trans person.
This lack of familiarity, understanding and knowledge has its effects. In Trans Media Watch’s 2009 survey, 95% of trans respondents said they felt the media didn’t care about them. Hardly a surprise. With an absence of good role models, details about our lives frequently distorted, and derogatory terminology rampant, it’s easy for the trans community to feel the media is only interested in us as punch bags.
Otherwise well-written stories are commonly let down by offensive headings. Terms like “tranny” – analogous to slurs such as “poofter” or “paki” – appear frequently. Misleading figures about the costs of genital surgery are rife, and trans people are often referred to with incorrect pronouns.
So, what can we do to help the media create more accurate coverage about trans people? Looking at the press, headlines in particular are appalling – how can we start to change them?