Well, in the case of ITV's Loose Women not so much. A panel consisting of Jane Moore, Gloria Hunniford, Nadia Sawalha and Andrea McLean, all cisgender women, have received criticism for a discussion on transgender issues on the show yesterday, November 27th.
The group were talking about the subject of 'oversharing' with children and the potential harm that it can cause, questioning if children should be sheltered from certain subjects for their own safety and happiness. It was during this discussion that the subject of transgender children came up.
Andrea McLean introduced the topic, saying 'There's been a quadruple rise in the number of children, some aged 10 or under , who have been referred to the NHS and that's because of transgender feelings. Transgender is a word that has been banded around an awful lot in the last 12 months or so, especially because of the Caitlyn Jenner case over in America.'
'One case is wonderful and lovely, how accepting people are of fluid sexuality. But the fact that young children are now questioning their sexuality and gender at such a young age, is that refreshing or worrying?'
Obviously this was already problematic as one of the hosts had already confused gender and sexuality, something that annoyed some viewers. Nadia Sawalha went on to add further ire when she went on to say, 'Last year my step daughter told me the 'in' thing in school was self harming, and then before that it was throwing up. You know, fashionable words that have been taken on'.
I, and some others who have taken to social media to complain, think that comparing any of these issues to being an 'in' thing is incredibly insulting and potentially dangerous. It pushed someone who is going through one or more of these issues away, it sends a message that if someone feels that they might be transgender they're only doing it to be fashionable because it's 'in'. It tells parents not to worry if your child is self harming, it's not because they're in pain and need help, it's because it's a fad.
Gloria Hunniford proved to be just as problematic when she went on to discuss a family friend, whose child, assigned female at birth but identifying as male, who has expressed the desire to undergo gender realignment surgery to remove his breasts.
She said, 'It must be so difficult for parents to deal with that. It would be bad enough if a child eventually had a mastectomy for health reasons, but just to look like a boy?'
No only did none of the presenters respect this young man enough to use male pronouns, using she and her throughout, but Hunniford seems more concerned with how parents of transgender teens feel than the feelings of the transgender person themselves, going on to lament the parent's feelings of their child having to have surgery 'just to look like a boy'. God forbid she actually think this person might need that surgery for their own quality of life, or respect them enough not to use language like 'look like a boy'.
Jane Moore tried to inject some wisdom at this point, telling Hunniford 'I would say if she's got to that stage she's definitely....at teen age you know by then, don't you? The under 10 aspect worries me.' Despite stating that the young man probably isn't just 'confused' by that age is good, being unable to say the word transgender and misgendering them is not.
Hunniford went on to add, 'You understand when your child talks about homosexuality but being transgender is a whole new thing.'
Jane Moore ended the talk by saying, 'We shouldn't push anything on a child. All you can ever have with them is an open relationship where they feel they can come and talk to you about it.' The audience applauded the panel at the end.
However, it would seem that not everyone agrees with everything the panel said, calling out some poor use of language, the muddling of gender and sexuality, their concern for parents of trans children over the trans children themselves and general lack of education and ignorance on the subject.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and it's a panel show where people are allowed to share those opinions, but it's obvious from every comment that the presenters made that none of them have ever looked into transgender issues, especially transgender children. All of their opinions seem to be based on shaky general knowledge, informed by other ill educated television and radio.
They failed to use correct pronouns, they felt that even acknowledging trans issues is somehow 'forcing' them on children, they show more concern over the feelings of the 'poor' parents, they seem not to understand the reasons for surgical procedures. Hell, the way they were talking I'm surprised they didn't start trotting out 80's tropes and innuendos.
So many people are educated by television, the things they see and hear act as their guides on issues they might never have come across before or thought about much. That in itself is not a bad thing, television is a medium that can be used to a fantastic effect to educate and inform, but only when done right.
When little or no research is done on such a sensitive and important issue as transgender children it can lead to the furthering of misconceptions and discriminatory views. This was an excellent chance to do something good, even if it had helped just one member of the trans community by giving out the right info it would have been worth it, instead they've helped no one, possibly even the opposite.
If you are discussing transgender issues and don't have any trans people their to help educate and inform, please go and do just a little bit of research, Half an hour on Google would have made their discussion very different. It doesn't take much effort to get it right, but it takes a lot more effort to fix it when it's been done wrong.