The media coverage of trans youth and trans healthcare was something all young people talked about. You can read about the impact of media coverage and the ways young people manage this. They talked about the following aspects of the media:
- Describing media coverage
- Misinformation and spreading fear
- Harmful representations of trans people
- Coverage of young people and healthcare
- Coverage of ‘detransition’
- Hopes for future coverage
Describing media coverage
Young people were frustrated with media coverage of trans youth and trans healthcare and felt it was very negative. Cas said, ‘I think most things surrounding the LGBT community tend to be very negatively portrayed in the media.’ A said, ‘I think in the UK especially, it’s really, really terrible. I don’t think there’s one mainstream newspaper that is like generally positive on trans healthcare at all.’
Jessica said, ‘I think the UK media definitely has a huge issue with transphobia.’ She gave the example of the media giving airtime to ‘several notable transphobes and several awareness groups that have been like trying to block reforms to the Gender Recognition Act.’
Many young people were frustrated that media coverage of trans people in general was framed as a ‘debate’. Summer said, ‘the whole discussion is starting from this place of… whether trans people are allowed to exist’. Jack felt that trans peoples’ lives ‘shouldn’t be a debate’. Cassie said, ‘I’m being called an experiment on the front page of [a national newspaper]. I don’t like that.’ She said it’s ‘as if my existence is a question, that it can be the front page headline of a newspaper’.
Michelle says the reporting on the issue of trans kids specifically has been abysmal. Genuinely awful.
Young people felt that the media mostly ignores the issues that are important to them, such as long waiting times for gender identity services (see also Trans and gender diverse young people’s experiences of the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) and Trans and gender diverse young people’s experience of Gender Identity Clinics (GIC)). Theo felt disappointed that trans healthcare and waiting times were ‘not on mainstream news… it should be, because it is a major issue. If it was any other health sector [such as] people waiting years for cancer treatment that would be on the news.’
Jaz looked forward to ‘the conversations we have when we stop having to engage in this non-dialogue with people who don’t want you to exist.’ She said ‘it forces you into a corner… it feels like it prevents speaking about other possibilities or other things that we might want as well.’
H describes media coverage of trans healthcare.
Misinformation and spreading fear
Young people felt there was a lot of incorrect information and spreading of fear around trans people. CJ felt that the media makes trans people out to be villains. Some commented on ‘sensationalised’ articles about trans people. Bay described the media coverage of trans healthcare as ‘a lot of sensationalism, a lot of just incorrect stuff.’
Young people worried about how this impacts what the public think about trans people. Jessica explained, ‘your average … person who isn’t trans and doesn’t know that much about transition… might end up being misinformed and misled by the media’ Jack said, ‘Honestly, it’s terrible, it’s misinformed, it’s dangerous’. He said, ‘it’s disgusting, I think these journalists, the media and people putting this through are doing real damage to people. There’s been a huge surge in transphobic hate crime recorded and I think a lot of that is to do with the negative media attention that’s been going on’.
Freya wants to clear up the fearmongering’ of trans healthcare for young people, there is a crisis going onwe are getting ignored.
People talked about the amount of untrue information in the media. Shash said, ‘It frustrates me [that] there’s so much misinformation, and it frustrates me that like it’s just allowed to slide, and these people are complaining about being silenced when they are talking to politicians on a daily basis’. Kat said, ‘You get a lot of different perspectives all of which end on the same thing about trans people being bad. So we’ve got like the stuff from [some national newspapers] fearmongering about trans children being forced to believe they’re trans.’
Young people shared why they felt media coverage could be poor or misinformed. Michelle said, ‘I think there is a major problem in the news… the main driver of the news media, is to make money. They will put out a thing saying it’s all about getting facts out there and trying to inform people, but they don’t do that.’ Jack said, ‘I think this debate is to try and roll back other rights, for example rights to access abortion or contraception. I think people would do well to look at where the money to fund these debates is coming from’. He added ‘I think in 10 or 20 years a lot of people will have their tails between their legs and be very ashamed and history will not look fondly on them.’
Summer talks about the way stories about trans people are reported in the media and the stories they are not reporting.
Harmful representations of trans people
People said that they fear that trans people are being represented as a danger to others. They talked about the impact this has on their safety. H said, ‘I feel like sometimes the media try and make trans people out to look like crazy perverts… you know and it creates a fear’. CJ said that the media makes out ‘trans people as predators as violent and a lot of it ties in with the same narrative that gay men had in the 80’s …it’s terrifying as a trans person because it makes us seem like animals almost. It makes us seem like something from a different planet. Something not quite human.’
Rahul talks about how the media misinformation is fuelling transphobia’ and impacts the conversations he has with work colleagues.
Coverage of young people and healthcare
A key topic was healthcare services for young trans people and negative media coverage about puberty blockers. Ari said, ‘I find it enraging because it goes against ethical journalism to pretend that we’re just handing out hormones to people as young as six or seven when that’s not what’s happening, remotely’. They said, ‘widespread newspapers…are just spreading that misinformation and spreading that prejudice and people are gonna believe it, because they read it in the news, when it’s completely false.’ You can read more about experiences of puberty and puberty blockers.
N felt the media presents an extreme view and talks about trans people only in medical terms that ‘reduce[s] us to our genitalia or hormones’. N said, ‘In the current climate it’s used as a scare tactic… trying to use trans healthcare for people under 18 … to generate fear… to prevent proper, informed, supportive trans healthcare’.
Patrick talks about the misinformation of young people accessing healthcare.
G talks about the misinformation about puberty blockers and says it makes young people unable to come to an informed decision.
Tom responds to critics of puberty blockers and describes the positive impacts they’ve had on his life.
People felt that media coverage of young people accessing healthcare was unfair and did not match their own experiences. Rosa said ‘it’s claimed that children are being rushed into hormone therapy and stuff… I’ve actually been through it and I know other people who’ve been through it and it’s just nothing like that, whatsoever.’ Young people we interviewed talked about waiting times of more than 2 years before a first appointment at the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS).
Loges said, ‘I think there needs to be a lot more of like saying about different options and how long the waiting lists actually are.’ Bay said, ‘The discussions around treatment of trans youth and trans children I find very frustrating because although I appreciate that it is an incredibly complex issue… those discussions in the media are often filled with stuff that isn’t true.’
Bay talks about how incorrect information in media articles impacts people’s discussions around trans healthcare.
Charke talks about the journalism surrounding puberty blockers as quite disappointing’ and how fearmongering’ and misinformation is allowed to continue.
Kat talks about her opinions on misinformation about young people and gender dysphoria.
Jack shares his thoughts of the media coverage of Gillick competence in prescribing puberty blockers for trans young people.
Coverage of ‘detransition’
Young people talked about the media’s focus on ‘detransition’. Detransition is ‘a process through which a person discontinues some or all aspects of gender affirmation’ (Turban et al., 2021**). CJ said, ‘I am concerned with the fact that [detransitioners are] being used as a weapon against trans people [..] the weaponizing of that narrative is something that makes me feel so uncomfortable because from what I have seen the de-transitioning narrative is not being used in good faith, it’s being used to support agendas that go much further beyond gender.’ You can also read more about what young people say about retransition and detransition.
June said, ‘I think it’s incredibly upsetting the amount of airtime that people that detransition are given.’ He said the coverage of detransition is ‘given disproportionate time in the media’. Reuben said, ‘Whenever there’s been a discussion about trans healthcare its only ever been around people that want to detransition, I haven’t actually heard much [in the media] about how trans people are able to access healthcare’.
Bee finds the debates’ about trans healthcare endlessly infuriating’ a constant flow of misinformation.
Erion says it’s incredibly frustrating because [the media] go into a lot of things without all the facts.
Hopes for future coverage
People wanted more mainstream media articles by trans authors and journalists. Finn said, ‘From what I do see there, it’s very evident when people who don’t understand trans stuff, write about it.’ Cassie said, ‘I would like to see people talking about being trans in an affirmatory and positive light, because you have to look for that.’ Sophie said, ‘It would be nice to see some really positive things have helped LGBT people‘. Shash added, ‘the media is not great and I wish we had more trans writers and reporters rather than cis people writing about our experiences because at the end of the day trans people are definitely going to be much better writers about the trans experience’.
Sophie says there have been very good’ programmes on TV about transitioning but doesn’t feel the media as whole understand the full [process] of being trans and transitioning.
N describes the media coverage as wildly uninformed… storytelling and manipulation of the truth to win political points against trans people.
* “Children under the age of 16 can consent to their own treatment if they’re believed to have enough intelligence, competence and understanding to fully appreciate what’s involved in their treatment. This is known as being Gillick competent.” (NHS, 2021)
** Turban, J.L., Loo, S.S., Almazan, A.N. and Keuroghlian, A.S., 2021. Factors leading to “detransition” among transgender and gender diverse people in the United States: A mixed-methods analysis. LGBT health, 8(4), pp.273-280.