BBC Complaint

People I’ve talked to over the last week will probably have heard me moaning about the farce that was the BBC’s “The Moral Maze” episode on trans identities. Believe me, I have a hundred different problems with that program but I don’t have all day and the Beeb only let you put 1500 words in a complaint. So I decided to tackle the use of language. Here’s the full text of my complaint:

I previously complained to the BBC about its lack of a style guide for trans-related language (CAS-4356729-YR4CQ4), and listening to the Moral Maze last week I was dismayed to hear the presenter, Michael Buerk, use the word “transsexuals” to describe gender diverse people within the first 30 seconds of the program.

Not only has the problem not been addressed, but using the correct trans-related language is important and given the variety of misinformation currently being broadcast to the public the BBC has a responsibility to lead the way here by using the correct language when producing programmes.

The correct way to describe the group of people debated in “The Moral Maze” on Saturday 18th November is “trans people”. Other acceptable forms are “transgender people” and “gender-diverse people”. Note how the noun here is “people”: “Trans” is an adjective. “Transsexual” is outdated terminology and should be avoided.

The use of “transsexual”, as a noun, is a practice known as “othering”- or positioning a minority group in such a way as to make listeners think that they are somehow “other”, different, or removed from themselves, and it is well established that this breeds intolerance and prejudice. Calling a trans person “a transsexual” (noun) reduces them to an object.

Similar techniques have been used in propaganda throughout history in order to position minority groups as somehow lesser than the general public, so as to allow their systematic oppression to be tolerated (see also: homosexual people during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, followers of Judaism in 1930s Germany, and so on). Presumably the BBC would not call a black person “a Black” in 2017, for the same reason?

A further style guide is available here:

In responding to my complaint I would like you to address how the BBC will be updating its style guide and training presenters and journalists on the correct usage of this terminology.

I chose this point to labor as it was succinct to explain, and seemed the most understandable to the journalistic audience reading my complaint. If I had to go into the reasons that the arguments presented on the programme were the highest form of cattle excrement I’d be here all day and you’d get bored reading it. Perhaps another time.

I’ll publish the Beeb’s response and my analysis when it comes through (probably about 3 weeks). If you ever want to complain to the BBC about their content, the link to use is: . If unsatisfied with their response, you can (and should) elevate the complaint to Ofcom at