Opinion | 'Dear gay men and women, they’re coming for you next'

Charlie Craggs, presenter of BBC Three doc Transitioning Teens, on why the rest of the LGBTQ community must take a stand against media transphobia - including the BBC's.


Words: Charlie Craggs; Images: BBC

You may have seen the recent news about the BBC severing ties with LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, pulling out of their Diversity Champions programme – something done on the grounds of remaining “impartial” on the topic of trans rights, according to Director-General of the BBC Tim Davie.

As a trans BBC presenter, this hurt: Human rights should never be an impartiality topic (p.s. please watch my BBC Three doc Transitioning Teens for a real insight into the issues young trans people continue to face). What I found more offensive than this though, was Tim Davie’s cheek, nerve, gall, audacity and gumption in trying to pass off his own actions as ‘impartial’.

Just a week before the BBC announced it was withdrawing from the Stonewall workplace diversity scheme, Davie defended a hit piece on the trans community entitled “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women”. The public fear-mongering that conflated trans women with sexual predators came despite the fact one of the main sources for the article, adult performer Lily Cade, has faced multiple accusations of sexual assault herself. (Cade wrote in response to those allegations on October 31: “If a rapist is someone who is accused in public of sexual assault, then I am a rapist.” Her contribution was later removed from the article, and frankly, the fact the BBC withdrew from the Stonewall scheme rather than being kicked out is perhaps the most offensive part in all of this all.

Charlie Craggs fronts Transitioning Teens, available to watch on BBC Three now via BBC iPlayer (Image: BBC)

You read that right though babes, Lily Cade - a woman who recently said “if a rapist is someone who pays women to have sex they don’t actually want to have, then I am a goddamn fucking rapist” was cited as one of the main sources in a piece claiming that trans women are forcing cisgender women into having sex they don’t want to have. Sounds familiar. Doesn’t sound too impartial though.

The irony would be hilarious if it wasn’t so terrifying, especially for trans women like me whose lives are directly affected by articles like this, especially when they’re published by outlets with as much global reach and respect as the BBC. As figures show anti-trans hate crime is up in this country and that globally 2021 was the deadliest year on record for trans people, with the highest number of murders ever reported, the BBC are still platforming people who want us dead. I am not being hyperbolic when I say people like Lily Cade want us dead: After the BBC piece came out, Lily Cade went online to say that trans women should be “lynched” proudly saying “if you left it up to me, I’d execute every last one of them personally”.

Another lovely quote from Lily Cade I wanted to share with you is when she recently described trans women as “evil pedophiles who have twisted the minds of your people so badly with annoying, ugly, stupid language that your children are mutilating their bodies to please them”. I wanted to share this quote with you because its feels nauseatingly nostalgic, doesn’t it, harking back to a time not so long ago when the mainstream media in this country could get away with talking about gay men and women in this way, fueling fear that gay people were sexual deviants preying on children and promoting unnatural urges.

Charlie Craggs (Image: BBC)

This Trans Awareness Week, I guess I just want you to be aware that trans people are still being talked about the way you once were. I urge you to step up and be an ally, because the BBC and other publications publishing these moral panic pieces on a weekly basis are only able to get away with it because you’re letting them. If more people stood up to them, they’d soon stop, but with trans people making up just 1% of the population they know they can get away with talking about us like this because we’re an easy target. We don’t stand a chance… without you.

We are the weakest link in our queer community, which is why they are coming for us, but I promise you, once these bigots break the weakest link in the chain they’ll go for the next link and then the next. We’re seeing this exact thing happening in real time in Hungary right now, where after years of getting away with attacking trans people and pushing trans rights back, the right-wing government is now moving onto attacking gay people and rights. Hungary have just implemented a Russia-style law that prohibits the so-called ‘promotion ‘of homosexuality. If more people (no names) had stood up when they were attacking trans people and rights, it might not have snowballed to this point.

Please learn from Hungary’s lesson and start standing up for trans people when you see us being attacked in the media. When publications and institutions like the BBC see they can get away with using a thin veil of “impartiality” as way of debating our human rights it is clear we are in deep trouble. I mean, pulling out of Stonewall’s LGBTQ diversity scheme doesn’t just hurt trans people, it hurts all the other letters of the acronym: it’s a slap in the face to all of us. I guess what I’m trying to say is, if stepping up for selfless reasons isn’t enough, step up for selfish ones, because I promise you my LGB brothers and sisters, if you don’t start standing up for your trans siblings, you’ll be next.

Transitioning Teens is available to watch on BBC Three now via BBC iPlayer.