RTÉ’s television programme Prime Time chose last night to air an episode discussing trans issues which included transphobic commentary from Graham Linehan, amongst others.
This was despite a petition which garnered over 5,000 signatures, calls from community members and organisations and a protest outside their studios concerned with the national broadcaster giving such a large platform to hate speech.
In the wake of the Prime Time episode, community leaders and organisations have expressed their disappointment at the decision and the framing of the episode as a whole.
— Gay Community News (@GCNmag) January 22, 2019
Sara R Phillips, the Chair of TENI, who appeared in prerecorded sections of the episode, shared her disappointment with GCN – “Last night’s RTÉ Prime Time programme was a lost opportunity to present a positive view of trans people in Ireland. In fact many of the negative opinions expressed, by mostly UK based commentators, were let go unchecked.
Despite having been framed as a positive documentary on self identification for young people, the piece was an extension of the toxic debate currently being had in the UK. The trans community in Ireland has been supported by the wider community. The 2015 Gender Recognition Act was a positive and respectful debate. Politicians and the media were willing to be educated and understand the trans community’s needs .
Transgender Equality Network Ireland has been at the forefront of this work over the last 14 years. This type of documentary does not serve to advance any of our rights nor serve to improve society’s understanding of needs. Trans kids especially deserve better.”
The inclusion of contributors such as Graham Linehan is, in our view, unwarranted and unhelpful. Mr Linehan has no recognised background or connection to trans issues and has been an aggressive critic of trans rights in the context of the UK debate on law reform. #PrimeTime
— TENI (@TENI_Tweets) January 22, 2019
Many questioned why Linehan had been featured at all considering the only connection he has to the trans community is saying hateful things online – in fact, he was given a warning by the police in the UK for verbally harassing a trans activist.
Linehan also likened trans activism to nazism and encouraged the National Lottery to block funding to Mermaids – a support charity for trans children. Why should he be given a platform for his views at all? What in particular made his voice so important it simply must be broadcast?
However @RTEprime_time chose to highlight in, many instances, a negative view of trans lives in Ireland. The issues which have arisen in the uk do not exist here, due to respectful debate and an understanding of inclusion through education.
— Sara R Phillips (@sararphillips) January 22, 2019
BeLonG To, amongst others, questioned why transgender lives were even a reason for debate?
Transgender lives are not up for debate. Let’s listen to the voices and lived experiences of #trans young people creating an inclusive and accepting Ireland for everyone.#SolidariT #RTEPT #primetime pic.twitter.com/0w4ceWFYM4
— BeLonG To (@BeLonG_To) January 22, 2019
There is also a concern that in introducing these negative views on a national television programme, it may be actually starting a troubling argument that was never being had in this country in the first place.
— Declan Meehan (@dec_meehan) January 22, 2019
The issues raised in tonight's #PrimeTime 'Generation Gender' programme deserved a more indepth and nuanced exploration. Many unfounded assertions simply went unchalleged. This serves only to misinform and ultimately misrepresent issues requiring serious and sensitive treatment.
— Stephen O'Hare (@SOHare75) January 22, 2019
What was th point of that #primetime? Becoming & being trans not a ‘debate’. It’s a reality. The legal changes are crucial to equality, dignity & life possibilities of trans young people. Need to just get on with it. #SolidariT #RTEPT @TENI_Tweets @BeLonG_To
— Ailbhe Smyth (@ailbhes) January 22, 2019
Others found it striking that in closing, the presenter encouraged those affected by the issues raised to contact their GP. No mention was given of TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland), even though they had featured the Chair in the actual programme, or of any other trans support organisation.
The final insult from @RTE_PrimeTime – if you’ve been affected contact your GP. No mention of the many LGBTQI helplines – no research done in programme at all. They just went for anti-Trans activists & dog-whistled. This was not public service, this was incitement to hatred.
— Dr Robert Bohan (@RobertBohan) January 22, 2019
If you are affected by any of the issues raised, TENI can be contacted here.
© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBT+ community since 1988.
During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.
GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBT+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBT+ media.