I think this is pretty freaking great. At an event on Monday Channel 4, one of the UK’s major broadcast networks, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Trans Media Watch to cover transgender issues responsibly and respectfully. The UK-based organization provides guidance for media organizations and trans folks who are thinking about engaging with the media. The MOU, which you can download from their website, focuses on four key areas:
- Eliminating transphobia in the media.
- Ending the provision of misinformation about transgender issues in the media.
- Increasing positive, well-informed representations of transgender people in the media.
- Ensuring that transgender people working in or with the media are treated with the same respect as non-transgender people in equivalent positions.
While Channel 4 is the first network to sign the MOU, the BBC has suggested they intend to sign on as well, and Trans Media Watch says ITV is also considering signing the MOU. The document was developed after the organization released research showing trans folks experienced media portrayals as overwhelmingly negative and linked to experiences of harassment.
Channel 4 is also doing research about trans folks designed to inform and improve representation of our community on the network. Director of creative diversity Stuart Cosgrove admitted last year that stories accurately and respectfully representing trans folks are missing on television because of a lack of “confidence and understanding.” The goal is better representation both in news stories and entertainment programming, especially a shift away from only focusing on medical transition.
Media representation of trans issues and people is a major problem. News reports are overwhelmingly terrible, using incorrect language, bringing up medical transitions and prior names for no legitimate reason, getting pronouns wrong, and seldom talking about trans folks at all outside the context of being murdered. Representations in pop entertainment are seldom better, again focusing on transition, painting us as deviant, or making us the butt of jokes. So I’m very happy to see a major media organization engaging so directly with trans advocates. Simply admitting how big the problem is is a big deal at the moment – making a commitment to do something about it is an important step forward.
Congratulations to Trans Media Watch on this victory! Here’s hoping we see more media organizations follow suit.