THERE’S a reason that transgender people in the United Kingdom are wary about speaking to the media – and Channel 4’s Gender Wars documentary likely couldn’t be a better example of why.

The broadcaster describes the show, due to air tomorrow after at least seven months in production, as having unique access to former University of Sussex professor Kathleen Stock to speak about her alleged “hounding” – Channel 4’s description, not mine – from her university job for holding gender-critical viewpoints.

With such loaded terms in play before even airing, I didn’t have high hopes for a balanced discussion. But after hearing from the transgender and non-binary people who gave their time to appear in it, I expect Channel 4’s latest foray into the culture war to do even more damage to the deeply broken relationship between the UK’s transgender community and the British media.

When the London-based production company Brook Lapping reached out to trans commentators and academics about appearing in its next production, it was with the understanding that this would be a very different programme from what we can expect.

In an open letter published by trans and non-binary interviewees ahead of the air date, the contributors allege they were not told what the nature of the show was, and particularly that they were not told Stock would feature.

Potential interviewees say they were told they would be taking part in a documentary called Sex/Gender Matters, a television show that would “fully include people’s views, experiences and thoughts on both sides”. Instead, contributors now allege the show is little more than a vehicle for Stock to portray herself as a victim to cancel culture.

“We felt it was possible to move to a more positive discussion between the ‘two sides’, the open letter states, “about ways to combat men’s misogyny and violence toward both women and trans people.

“We took part in good faith hoping to find a way forward. We all had doubts about taking part, but in the end took the production team at their word,” they conclude.

Like Megan Phelps-Roper’s Witch Trials of JK Rowling that came before it, I suspect we can expect another monologue marketed as dialogue, where trans people are relegated to a bit part in their own stories. And this is hardly an isolated incident. It’s why many transgender contributors are wary of broadcasters, or refuse to speak to unknown journalists.

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Professor Stephen Whittle is a British legal scholar and an activist with the transgender activist group Press for Change. He is one of the contributors to the show and a signatory to the open letter. He chose to give Channel 4 the benefit of the doubt in the hopes of having a meaningful discussion.

Whittle had previous experience with the broadcaster on its much-maligned Genderquake Debate; a 2018 panel discussion featuring model and activist Munroe Bergdorf, academic Germaine Greer and Trump apologist Caitlyn Jenner. (Remember kids, trans people aren’t a monolith. Some of us are rockets, but that’s no excuse for discrimination.) Described in Gay Times as a “sh*tshow of epic proportions”, the programme allowed a group of anti-trans activists to harass participants throughout the so-called debate.

While trying to have open dialogue, Bergdorf and Jenner were instead barraged by audience members shouting the word “penis” at them over and over again throughout. During the live broadcast she called for hecklers to be removed from the audience but programme staff refused to intervene.

Whittle gave the broadcaster another chance on the understanding that this documentary could take some of the heat out of the ‘debate’. Instead, it looks a lot like the same story.

You might have heard the phrase “no debate” used to describe how transgender activists supposedly refuse to take part in discourse about our lives but that isn’t an accurate representation. Rather, most trans people refuse to reduce our right to exist and to live openly down to something that must be earned through rigorous dialogue in much the same way that contemporary media would never ask a gay man or lesbian to come on national television and argue that they have the inalienable right to exist as they are.

In reality, trans people discuss the philosophical and cultural implications of our existence often, but always with the worry that our words will be misused or that our events will be presented without context or misrepresented entirely.

Trans and non-binary contributors to Gender Wars say that, while they are not misrepresented through their interviews, key pieces of contextual information are missing from the show; including that Kathleen Stock wasn’t “hounded” out of her job at Sussex University at all.

Absent from the documentary is any coverage of the protests against transgender lecturers such as Whittle, who recounts that he was targeted and protested not for his words or actions, but for who he is.

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Rather than hearing from “both sides” as pitched, I suspect instead we can expect another round of wailing and the gnashing of teeth over cancel culture, while a community facing legitimate threats of being excluded further and further from society are sidelined.

The open letter concludes: “None of us would have agreed to take part in a documentary about Kathleen Stock, who already enjoys a wide platform, and is far from cancelled or silenced.

“Her views on trans exclusion are well-known and well publicised. None of us would have wished to further or legitimise those views.”