Why It Matters

Trans and intersex people have the same right to be treated with accuracy, dignity and respect as anybody else. They have the same right to live their lives free from harassment. They also face risks that the majority of the population does not have to contend with.

According to a 2005 study by Press For Change and Manchester Metropolitan University:-

  • 10% of trans people have been physically threatened in public places.
  • 73% have been harassed in public places.
  • 35% have attempted suicide at least once for reasons related to their gender identity.
  • 45% have experienced family beakdown for reasons related to their gender identity.
  • 64% of young trans men and 44% of trans women have been bullied at school, sometimes by teachers.

How the media covers trans and intersex issues can really make a difference. In 2010, TMW conducted its own survey, How Transgender People Experience the Media, with findings including the following:-

  • 70% of respondents felt that media portrayals of people like them were either negative or very negative, and 78% that these portrayals were either inaccurate or highly inaccurate.
  • 67% said that seeing negative items in the media made them feel angry. Over half said it made them feel unhappy, 35% that they felt excluded and 20% felt frightened.
  • 21% had received at least one instance of verbal abuse which they believed was associated with the representations of trans or intersex people in the media.
  • 20% had received negative reactions at work which they could trace to items in the media.
  • 36% reported that media representations of trans people had precipitated negative reactions from their family or friends.

Comments from TMW’s respondents exemplify the problem:-

“An article by Julie Bindel about how damaging gender reassignment surgery was led my family to say that I was mentally ill and ruining my life and needed help.”

“My mother’s perceptions of trans people derived almost exclusively from what she’d seen portrayed on television – she referenced various programmes in an attempt to paint trans people as pathetic, unconvincing and inherently narcissistic. She rejected all suggestion that transsexual people could ever be in any way ‘normal’. She has now refused contact for several years.”

“Negative experiences can be so very damaging. What troubles me is how common it is to see almost throwaway references to trans people that are so cruel and damaging no one would consider saying it about anyone else or group… And what is even scarier is how common place and accepted it is. There are weeks when I will see several examples, especially in sitcoms or discussion programmes or films that will simply reference how freaky, disgusting or hilarious trans people can be. Sitcoms especially seem to have picked this group recently… and more and more I see cheap bad jokes made at the expense of trans people.”

Despite all this, most respondents said – and TMW supporters continue to say – that they want to see more trans and intersex people in the media, not fewer. They just want to see them represented properly. Positive role models can make a huge difference. Many people tell us that awareness of public figures like April Ashley and Eddie Izzard has helped them come to terms with their circumstances and make positive changes in their lives.