Saturday, October 01, 2016

"I never felt like a girl - I always thought there was something different about me" - that's what Leo says in one of the clips in a trailer for CBBC's autumn schedule. It actually comes from an award-winning, but highly controversial documentary called "I am Leo", which was first broadcast almost two years ago.

Trailer for CBBC's autumn programmes

Perhaps people won't be surprised that Leo felt different when they learn that Leo's mum, Hayley, "knew" the gender of her child because of her difficult pregnancy.

Hayley Waddell: 'I knew when I was pregnant with Leo that something was different ... I've been pregnant with three other girls and this one was completely new. I was so horribly sick all the way through. I was just certain I was having a boy.'

Saturday, September 17, 2016

An exhibition in the Wellcome Wing of the Science Museum called "Who am I?" featured briefly in CBBC's controversial "I am Leo" documentary. That programme, despite concerns to the BBC about its scientific accuracy, was repeated for the umpteenth time today.

Amongst the Science Museum exhibits you will find a packer, a chest binder and some testosterone patches - paraphernalia used by some people to help disguise what they believe are their "awful" bodies.

Who am I? - "Packer" and other items on display

For those unfamiliar with this topic, a 'packer' is a plastic penis-shaped object, designed to give the impression that the wearer has male genitalia. A 'chest binder' is used to flatten female breasts in an attempt to mimic the male body outline. Testosterone often has the effect of lowering the pitch of a human voice and promoting the growth of facial hair etc.

Following criticism the Science Museum has recently blogged that changes will be made.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Guide to Gender Identity (part 2)

What does 'gender identity' mean?

In part 1 of this Guide, I explained some of the ways used by activists to swell the apparent number of transgender people living in the UK. In reality, few 'trans' people have actually had surgery and rely on regular hormone jabs or hormone patches.

The impression that there are hundreds of thousands of trans people in Britain relies on convincing us that a person's 'gender' and 'sex' are two different things, and that each of us has a 'gender identity' which may or may not be the same as our biological sex. Using the terminology of trans activists, we are either AFAB or AMAB.

AFAB means 'assigned female at birth'

AMAB means 'assigned male at birth'

The truth, of course, is that we aren't assigned anything at birth. Instead our lifelong sex is identified at birth and recorded. The vast majority of people can be correctly identified as either male or female, though on rare occasions sex organs are insufficiently developed to be certain.

Trans activists say that everyone who isn't transgender should be referred to as 'cisgender' or just 'cis'.

But these same activists face a dilemma: the logic of being either cisgender or transgender breaks down as soon as we accept the existence of non-binary and a gender spectrum.

So where does that leave the controversial 'born in the wrong body' (BITWB) ideology, as promoted by BBC Children's?

Sunday, August 07, 2016

A Guide to Gender Identity (part 1)

Over the last couple of years there's been a lot of media coverage of 'transgender' people and gender identity. Much of the interest began as a result of a BBC children's documentary, I Am Leo, in which viewers saw a child's efforts to be fully accepted as a boy. Leo says "although people saw me as a girl, I always knew I was really a boy."

What does 'transgender' mean?

There is a lot of confusion about what is meant by the word. The reason for the confusion is that activists like to suggest being 'transgender' is not particularly unusual. So, for example, although Leo admits being transgender is "not very common," only moments later he stresses there are THOUSANDS of transgender people in the UK. The documentary, which was aimed at children as young as six, will leave its audience with the distinct impression that people are either boys/men or girls/women - there was no suggestion that a person can be somewhere inbetween. The documentary makers aggressively utilize the concept of separate hormones for boys and girls.

Clip from CBBC I Am Leo documentary

If you now check the UK 'transgender' population you will notice that "current estimates indicate that some 650,000 people are “likely to be gender incongruent to some degree”." In fact, trans activists deliberately blur the distinction between those who are gender non-conforming and those who, like Leo, are actually convinced they are the opposite sex to that identified at birth.

The vast majority of that 650,000 estimate will be, for example, girls who like playing football, or boys who don't. In other words, any deviation from stereotypical or traditional gender norms has been used to swell the apparent 'trans' population.

It is important for parents, teachers and children themselves to understand that most transgender activists are acting CONTRARY TO THE PRINCIPLES OF DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY. There is absolutely no need for girls and boys to conform to stereotypes - hobbies, interests, mannerisms and sexual orientation have not the slightest impact on whether a child is a girl or a boy.

Friday, July 08, 2016

It's been a busy week for Leo Waddell, transgender star of the controversial BBC children's documentary I Am Leo. Presumably he got special permission to take time off school to appear, firstly, at this year's Children's Media Conference in Sheffield, where he opened the BBC Commissioner Conversations session. Panelists included CBBC's Cheryl Taylor, and Kay Benbow from CBeebies.

Report by Simon Bor – Commissioner Conversations: BBC

Then, today, Leo was a speaker at Stonewall's Education for All Conference in London -

Leo Waddell (left) with mum Hayley in London's QE II Centre - 8th July 2016

Saturday, July 02, 2016

On 29th June 2016 I received an email from the BBC which thanked me for pointing out a flaw in their Response to complaints about CBBC's My Life: I Am Leo documentary: "We appreciate you bringing this to our attention." (CAS-3833834-V0NNW1)

I first raised the particular issue with Alice Webb, Director of BBC Children's on 24th April 2016. However, Ms Webb did not reply or acknowledge my correspondence. So on 9th May I contacted a more senior manager, Anne Bulford, who then ensured it was properly dealt with.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Newsround's coverage of the EU referendum seemed to generally favour the Bremain side. That's because reporters were sent to Poland and Spain to see how the outcome would affect kids in those countries.

The fairly close referendum result suggests people in Britain thought the arguments were finely balanced. But summing up #BrexitIn5Words, Newsround's editor Lewis James, tweeted "Confirms all my existing prejudices," and in a second tweet My opinion superior to yours. Perhaps he was unhappy with the democratic decision to leave?

Poor lamb, Baa-rry (left) is upset about his side losing the referendum

Monday, June 20, 2016

CBBC Newsround has today started an official Twitter account -

It is not yet clear whether the official account is permitted to interact with other Twitter users - in particular those with no BBC connections.

For those who are not already aware, the Blog your are now reading and its associated Twitter account have no connection with the BBC or the CBBC Newsround programme - we are completely independent.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Newsround report this morning about shootings in Orlando.

Ayshah introducing CBBC Newsround on 13th June 2013 at 7.40am

Transcript (7.40am) -

Ayshah Tull: Good Morning, I'm Ayshah. First, to sad news from Orlando in America. In the early hours of Sunday morning there were attacks there. I've been following all the news.

(Recorded report)

Ayshah: Cities across America have been laying flowers and candles, to show people in Orlando that they care. It's because of attacks that happened there in a night club in the early hours of Sunday morning. Sadly 50 people died, and 53 others were injured. The man responsible for the attack was shot by police before he could do more harm. Many of the victims were gay people. The American President, Barack Obama has spoken out against what has happened.

President Obama: We know enough to say that this was an act of terror, and an act of hate. And as Americans we are united in grief and outrage and in resolve to defend our people.

Ayshah: We don't know exactly why the attack happened, but it could have been the result of hatred towards gay people. The police are still investigating. And in the City of Orlando people are trying to come to terms with the attacks.

Laura Bicker: As the investigation continues there are several words that sums up this community - shock, outrage, fear, but there is also unity. This is a city trying to make sense of the senseless, and they're doing it in their own way.

Ayshah: Hundreds have queued for hours to donate blood for the victims in hospital, as the community come together to show their support and do what they can to help.


Ayshah: Remember if anything you see in the news upsets you there's help and guidance online.

The 8.15am report was only slightly different.

EDIT at 5pm

The 4.20pm edition of CBBC Newsround added an extra report about homophobia -

Sunday, June 05, 2016

A significant issue in the build-up to the USA Presidential election concerns the rights of 'trans' people to use the toilet (in America 'bathroom' or 'restroom') they feel most appropriate for their 'gender identity'

That story has not been mentioned by CBBC Newsround, though a few weeks ago the programme did cover something about Republican candidate, Donald Trump.

All the fuss about toilets has given 'trans' a much higher profile than before, giving the impression that they are a sizable minority. But how true is that impression?

The answer to this very much depends on what exactly is meant by a 'trans' person. If the term is used to mean 'transsexual' then only a tiny proportion of the population are trans. However there has been a trend recently to phase out references to 'transsexual' and use the more general term 'transgender' which activists see as more appropriate for people of all ages, including young children. After all, isn't it unlikely the BBC would have made a documentary aimed at kids aged 6-12 if Leo had insisted in calling himself a transsexual?

Broadcasters, book publishers and many LGB allies have been persuaded into believing in the concept of 'gender identity' as opposed to birth sex. Unfortunately parents, too, have been taken in by all this. On seeing indications that their children are interested in the 'wrong' sort of toys, colours or clothes they're encouraged to rush off to quack clinics or 'support' groups, which then are all too happy to confirm that the kid is 'trangendered' and, in so doing, possibly condemn these children to lifetime drug dependency as well as unnecessary invasive surgery.

A more sensible approach is to disregard gender non-conformity except where a child repeatedly expresses the opinion that they are the opposite gender. In other words it may be necessary and appropriate, in rare circumstances, to give children an early sex education lesson, carefully explaining what makes a girl physically different from a boy. It's most unlikely young children will persist in their delusion if parents take time to explain things.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Many people are concerned about giving hormone blockers to children. An internet forum discussion broached the topic recently, with veteran trans activist, Carol Steele, claiming: "Those [children] that are simply displaying gender variant behaviour will grow out of it and will not even get near to blockers.."

Dave: If only that was true. Unfortunately the BBC and the Tavistock Clinic, in their wisdom, have been propagandising the benefits of blockers to children aged six and upwards

Carol: Absolute hogwash - as well you know Dave. Blockers will not be mentioned to children as young as six - although the parents might be informed of them to prepare them for what is to come and so that they can independently research the risks and benefits.

Blockers are not given until at least Tanner stage 2 (at 12 years old).

These children are assessed many times from the day they enter the clinic, at whatever age, and many children are refused because the clinic veers on the side of being ultra cautious - even though both the children and their parents want them to be prescribed.

Have you ever spoken to any of the clinicians at the Tavi? I have - on a number of occasions.

Dave: Have you ever heard of a CBBC programme called I Am Leo which is aimed at 6-12 year old children?

Carol: Have you ever considered what a fight you would have on your hands if you even attempted to put a dress on a young boy of 6 or 7 and send him to school like that?

Stop using faux arguments Dave and look at the reality of the situation instead.

Dave: If you check out the I Am Leo programme which, as I said, is aimed at 6-12 year old children, you will see Dr Polly Carmichael from the Tavistock Clinic talk about the use of hormone blockers. So, I hope you accept it was not hogwash, but fact.

I take it from your "absolute hogwash" response that you think it was improper to mention hormone blockers to such young and vulnerable children?

Unfortunately Carol was unwilling to accept that six year olds had, in fact, been informed about using hormone blockers by the Tavistock Clinic in conjunction with the BBC

Friday, April 15, 2016

Gender confusion

Last November the BBC broadcast a documentary which, amongst other things, claimed that "there are an estimated 300-500 thousand people classed as transgender living in Britain." That number seemed excessive, so Newsround Blog investigated further. The programme in question, "How Straight Am I?" was made for the BBC by Roughcut TV, so I emailed them on 12th November -

Just watched your programme "How Straight Am I?" presented by Tyger Drew-Honey. After about 30 minutes into the programme Tyger mentioned that there are an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people classed as transgender living in Britain.

Please could you clarify what Tyger meant by "classed as transgender" - does it mean self-identify as transgender, or something else? Also could you let me know the source of the estimated figure?

Roughcut replied on 23rd November. They didn't explain what Tyger meant by "classed as transgender" but they did cite the source as

It turns out that the 300-500 thousand estimate was made by GIRES, which is basically a transgender-promoting charity. The figure arrived at was not, as you might expect, the number of people who want to swap gender. It is simply an estimate of the number of people who don't conform to gender stereotypes. So, for example, girls who love to play football might easily come under their catch-all definition.

The GIRES estimate is misleading. But why is this happening? It is because some people are deliberately trying to blur the distinction between gender and sex. So, for the purposes of promoting the concept of a large trans population, all those who don't conform with traditional rigid male and female stereotypes come under the 'trans' umbrella.

One of the consequences of this approach is that it could lead some vulnerable gender-non-conforming children into believing they're "trans"

The BBC documentary My Life: I Am Leo is an example of how things can be made worse. The programme's executive producer, Kez Margrie, said she wanted to do a story on a transgender child because "there are kids out there having a tough time." Of course some kids do have a hard time. But the vast majority of those kids do not change gender - and quite a lot of them might be lesbian, gay or bisexual . And yet nowhere in the apparently well-intentioned documentary is there any mention of these words, or of issues around sexual orientation.

In the rush to accommodate a minuscule number of transgender children it seems there is a real danger of much larger groups falling by the wayside. And this problem of LGB-erasure isn't only noticeable on children's TV - even organisations set up to challenge homophobia seem to be kowtowing to the trans agenda.

An Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH) video was released in time for this year's Trangender Day of Visibility. But nowhere does it broach the topic of sexual orientation. Furthermore this EACH document could give teachers and kids the impression that homophobia is to be taken less seriously than transphobia. You will notice, for example, that Tr*nny is the only term of abuse which has been censored. Homophobic words are printed in full throughout the document. I have tackled EACH about this, and am awaiting their response.

See also Bigoted or Brave? A Response to CBBC

Thursday, April 14, 2016

CBBC Newsround science blunder

A report on Newsround yesterday morning contained several mistakes, the most serious of which was that a future starship will travel at 100 million miles per second.

Newsround suggests the future starship will travel faster than light

I informed CBBC Newsround's editor, Lewis James, about the mistake. My message wasn't acknowledged but the blunder was edited out of the website version of their report. At the time of writing other less serious errors, including the distance to Pluto, are still there.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Newsround Blog rarely had a good word to say about The Next Step, and from what we've seen so far, the same looks true for its spin-off series: Lost & Found Music Studios. In episode 1, first broadcast by CBBC last Monday, we saw the introduction of some of the main characters and relationships.

The series largely goes along with gender stereotypes. At the very start, for example, the boys were playing in a band whilst a group of girls bopped up and down to the music - not difficult to picture if you've ever seen some of those old Top of the Pops shows on the BBC.

Next we found out about some of the main characters' crushes. Songwriter Leia has a huge crush on Luke. Luke's friend John has a crush on Michelle, but is too shy to tell her about his feelings. John has written a love song all inspired by her, but is worried Michelle doesn't feel the same way. Luke sings the song at the party that evening, intending to call over John to join in half-way through. But his plan goes awry when Leia mistakenly assumes Luke wrote the song, and that he's performing it for her. Luke then reveals that the song was written by John.

After the performance Michelle asks Luke if he knows who the song was about. Luke tells her that she would need to ask John that question. John is hiding nearby and hears the conversation. But by the time we get to episode 2, it seems the writers forgot what happened in episode 1 -

John (narrating): Yesterday, Luke played a love song that I wrote for Michelle. She knew that I wrote it, but she didn't know it was about her. When Michelle came to talk to me after the show I had no idea what to do.

John (speaking to Luke): So let me get this straight. You told Michelle that I wrote the song for Theo.

Luke: Yeah.

John: She's supposed to believe that I wanted to have my heart broken by Theo?

Luke: Yeah - it's like a, you know, a bromance thing!

Any suggestion of one boy having a crush on another boy was quickly dismissed. So it's not surprising that BBC children's TV has been accused of homophobia and LGB-erasure. I've asked the Director of BBC Children's whether there are any plans to make CBBC more inclusive.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

My Life: I Am Leo is, as we've discussed in earlier blog entries, an example of how not to make children's TV. Nevertheless the programme has won yet another TV award. This time it is the International Emmy® Kids Awards @MIPTV. The award was handed to Leo, yesterday, at a glitzy ceremony in Cannes, France.

Catriona Lewis of Nine Lives Media was also there.

Leo Waddell with Cat Lewis in Cannes

Ms Lewis says that BBC children's TV hasn't yet made a documentary about an LGB kid because of the difficulty of tackling "sexual attraction" for an audience of 6 to 12-year-olds.

Newsround Blog is unclear as to whether UK licence payers footed the bill for Cat and Leo's attendance in Cannes.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Today is Transgender Day of Visibility.

The BBC, including BBC children's TV, has done a lot to promote transgender people. This video, for example, sees Leo Waddell self-identify as transgender before giving tips on how to deal with bullying.

But the situation on BBC children's TV is somewhat different when it comes to lesbian, gay or bisexual kids.

This failure to even acknowledge LGB people was evident in the My Life: I Am Leo documentary. Leo flew to Scotland to meet Natalie, who, by the way, had already appeared another BBC documentary called 'Coming Out Diaries'

Leo: (narrating) The scary flight was worth it - Natalie is really nice. She's transgender, like me; only the other way round. Natalie was born in a boy's body, but lives as a 20-year-woman. Some of her family haven't accepted her, and I want to find out what that's like.

Leo: When did you know you were transgender?

Natalie: Probably around 15. I knew a little bit earlier. I mean since I was 5 I always felt a little bit different - a bit iffy with everything. But I didn't know what transgender was until I was 15.

Leo: How was your mum when you first came out?

Natalie: My parents found out while I was getting bullied a school. They thought maybe I was just hanging out with the wrong people, maybe it was just a phase. Without the support of my family it made me worse. ....

Although Leo and his mum had been specially flown to Scotland, the interview with Natalie lasted only a few seconds and we weren't given the opportunity to find out more about the nature of that bullying, and, in particular was homophobic language involved?

The fact that I Am Leo avoided any mention of LGB-related terms suggests anti-gay attitudes are still the order of the day in the BBC children's department. That charge will remain valid until the person in charge, Alice Webb affirms and supports kids who self-identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Royal Television Society, according to its current CEO, Theresa Wise, has a strong orientation towards young people, particularly students and those endeavouring to get into and get on in television.

The RTS is clearly set on its members' interests and helping people get jobs in TV. High-quality TV seems to be a lesser priority. Take, for example, the RTS Programme Awards, announced at a ceremony last Tuesday.

The three programmes nominated for Best Children's Programme were

Lily's Driftwood Bay: Goodbye Seabird
The Dumping Ground
My Life: I Am Leo

Lily's Driftwood Bay is a series of colourful 7-minute long animated stories featuring Lily and her friends. It is aimed at young children, and the nominated episode, Goodbye Seabird broaches the topic of bereavement in an age-appropriate and entirely sensitive way. Of the three nominations, Lily's Driftwood Bay was by far the most deserving of the RTS award. It ill-behoves the Royal Television Society that Lily's Driftwood Bay was not awarded the prize.

Second in line should surely have been The Dumping Ground. The CBBC series is well-meaning and reasonably inclusive, though, as yet, none of the resident kids has identified as lesbian or gay.

The winner of the RTS award went to CBBC's My Life: I Am Leo. The documentary is about a child who was born as a girl, and originally named Lily, but who wants to live as a male called Leo.

CBBC's documentary is, according to RTS, an uplifting piece of TV, but the programme has been criticised by many on the internet and social media. The documentary was problematic, and shouldn't have been nominated for any awards.

One of the main issues is that the programme, with its irresponsible use of pseudoscience, might easily impose or reinforce gender stereotypes on potentially vulnerable gender-non-conforming children, some of whom will be lesbian, gay or bisexual.

A better approach would be to let kids know that gender equality means they don't need to look or behave in any particular way. Gender pigeonholing is anti-diversity and exactly NOT the message BBC children's TV should be promoting.

Leo: "I think I might be in love with Holly Willoughby"

Lastly it's worth pointing out the role of Leo's mum in what is going on. ITV's This Morning has been intent on promoting Leo's story for a while now. In this interview Leo's mum, Hayley, says "If Leo could have had those [hormone blockers] at [age] 9, I would have happily let him have them. As it happened, because he had to start into puberty, I mean he will still have to face a certain amount of surgery ..."

So it seems that, hormone blockers or not, Leo's mum already had her child's future mapped out: He will face surgery when he's older. Anyone could be forgiven for questioning whether that mother really has her child's best interests at heart.

See also: UK CBBC Children’s TV: I Am Leo

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The BBC's 'mission' is to enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain. CBBC's My Life documentary series generally meets that aspiration, but one particular episode - I Am Leo - falls short in several ways. Most notably, the programme makers appear to have made a special effort to avoid any discussion of sexual orientation, or even mention of words such as 'lesbian' and 'gay' throughout the entire programme.

So it seems the BBC's mission stops short of honestly informing and educating kids about LGB diversity. In so doing the Corporation is in danger of confusing young children, and potentially causing a great deal of harm, especially if it leads them on a route towards unnecessary invasive surgery and/or lifelong hormone-dependence.

Despite these serious failings, I Am Leo has already won a BAFTA award, which was collected by Leo last year. And now the episode has been nominated for a Royal Television Society award. Lesbian, gay and bisexual exclusion has regrettably become the accepted norm for media organisations.

Leo at the British Academy Children’s Awards award ceremony on 22/11/2015

My Life: I Am Leo is to be repeated twice tomorrow on CBBC (10.20am and 2pm)

See also (Nov 2014): Boy, 13, born in girl's body: 'I want my eggs frozen so I can have children'

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Newsround at 7.40am - Leah: Women and girls are equal to men and boys, and as such should be treated equally - that's the message of International Women's Day.

All three Newsround bulletins today led with a report about International Women's Day and an important equality message. Would have been nice to see Newsround do something similar to give a confidence boost to non-hetero kids during LGBT History Month, but CBBC still comes across as unwilling to support lesbian, gay and bisexual kids.

CBBC has yet to make a documentary about kids growing up gay. As a children's documentary maker recently put it: "the difficulty is that you'd need to tackle sexual attraction which is hard when you're addressing 6-12s"

Sunday, March 06, 2016

A (2014) documentary called I Am Leo - one part of CBBC's extensive My Life series - is amongst the programmes nominated for a Royal Television Society award. I Am Leo received a children's BAFTA last year. Another CBBC series, The Dumping Ground, is also up for an RTS award. The winners will be announced at a star-studded ceremony on 22nd March.