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Criticism of Channel Seven's 'Spotlight' program grows

Channel Seven has issued an apology for using images of transgender people in their promotional video for an episode that focused on people who transition gender and later decide to revert to their gender assigned at birth.

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There has been growing criticism of the episode of the Spotlight program that aired a report from Liam Bartlett on Sunday night.

Warning: This story has details of threats of violence and comments which might be distressing to some readers. For 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For Australia-wide LGBTQI peer support call QLife on 1800 184 527 or webchat.

Bartlett’s report, which filled the entire 42-minute episode, features interviews with three women who had transitioned gender from female to male, and then later returned to the gender they were assigned at birth.

The report featured interviews with US based campaigner Chloe Cole, as well as two Australian women who shared their experiences. Bartlett also spoke to Queensland psychologist Dr Jillian Spencer who is an opponent of the affirmation approach of gender care, and pediatrician Dr Dylan Wilson who has penned an open letter calling for a new approach.

A five minute segment of the program featured an interview with psychologist Professor Ian Hickie who defended the current approach. Bartlett’s interview style with the professor has been called into question with industry insiders calling it combative.

Channel Seven issues apology over use of images in Spotlight promo

Prior to the episode airing prominent transgender rights activist Grace Hyland questioned why her image was being used in the promotional video. In a clip posted to social media Hyland said she wanted to make clear she had not taken part in the program.

“That kind of makes it look like I’m of the kids that regrets it.” she said of the TV station’s promo. “I transitioned at thirteen and I do not regret it at all.”

“Why are you using my photos?” Hyland asked before going on to state her thoughts including a push for gender affirming health care to be given more funding.

The video was removed from airplay and the station’s website and social media platforms, and the broadcaster later issued an apology, but not specially name Hyland.

“In a promotional video for 7NEWS Spotlight, the image of a transgender woman was shown during a voiceover discussing children expressing regret over transitioning.

We acknowledge the photo might inadvertently imply that the individual in question regretted their transition.” the Spotlight program said in a statement.

“As soon as we were made aware, the image was removed and the promo replaced.

“We sincerely apologise for any confusion this may have caused.”

More people coming forward accusing Spotlight of misrepresenting their experience

Musician Levi Ace Day has also raised concern about their images being used by the program.

In a TikTok video Day said they had become aware of the station using their images to “promote transphobia”.

“I guess they couldn’t find enough evidence of actual detransitioners, so they’re just using actual happy trans people to make their point.” Day said.

Day invited the program to quote their actual stance saying, “My name is Levi, I’ve been on testosterone for a year and half, and don’t regret any part of transitioning.” Day also noted that they are 27 years old, and not a teenager.

Australian artist and queer advocate Olivia Gavranich has started a Change.org petition revealing she was “horrified” to see a video of herself on Channel 7 Spotlight used without consent.

In two days over 30,000 people have signed Olivia’s petition calling on the broadcaster to remove the segment that uses images and videos of trans and non-binary folk without consent, followed by an apology and compensation to all impacted people. Gravranich, originally from Fremantle, now lives and works in Sydney as a singer-songwriter-producer by the name of St. South.

“I’ve received hundreds of supportive messages in the last 24 hours, but the ones that have stood out the most are from the parents of trans children, saying how detrimental this segment has been to their child’s mental health. Visibility is life saving. Gender-affirming healthcare is life saving.

“Trans kids need protection and support and safe soil to grow in. I will continue to fight for them to exist, and despite the nightmare that is Channel 7’s Spotlight, we are full of love and stronger than ever.” Gavranich said.

 

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The Victorian Pride Lobby responded to the episode via a post on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter.

“Trans people deserve dignity and respect like any other Australian. We understand the slow death of commercial TV news is hard, but taking that out on us won’t bring your viewers back.” the activist group said in their post directed at the broadcaster.

Australian guidelines on transgender health were developed by the Gender Clinic at Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital. They have been endorsed by AusPATH, the professional association for transgender healthcare and supported by the Royal Australian College of Medical Practitioners.

Under the guidelines children are unable to access puberty blockers or cross-sex hormones without parental permission, and surgery is not permitted until patients are over 18 years of age. Doctors have confirmed that there have been a very small number of cases where ‘top surgery’, removal of breast tissue, has been permitted for patients at 17 years of age.

Jeremy Wiggins, CEO of transgender youth organisation Transcend Australia, told SBS News that, contrary to claims in Channel 7’s reporting, it can take several years before transgender children can even access a consultation with health professionals.

Wiggins described the program as “dangerous” saying it presented the issue in a sensationalist manner.

“It’s exposing trans people to danger that we don’t deserve, and we deserve to thrive and flourish”. Wiggins said.

“It jeopardises the public safety of trans people of all ages and it jeopardises the wellbeing of family units, including parents.

“It spreads disinformation so that people who don’t know any better are misled by the lies. And it drives fear and stigma and shame about being trans which is going to create poor health outcomes and a more unsafe environment for trans people.”

Ghassan Kassisieh, legal director at Equality Australia also told SBS News public debates over gender affirming care “serve no one and send damaging messages to trans youth”.

“These are deeply personal decisions that should be left to young people, their families and the doctors who actually care for their wellbeing.”

The Greens MP Stephen Bates described the report as “reckless, dangerous and irresponsible”

“Promoting this kind of fear mongering endangers lives. At a time when trans kids are most at risk, Seven’s editorial decision is reckless, dangerous and irresponsible.” Bates posted to social media.

“Trans people, especially trans youth, are some of the most brave and resilient in our community, but they shouldn’t have to be. Now more than ever, they need our support.”

Mental health expert Professor Patrick McGory has backed up the stance taken by Professor Hickie on the program. Professor McGory said his colleague had used the interview to “fearlessly challenges the biased reporting in this channel 7 story which is part of a wider and extreme anti-trans campaign.”

Multiple studies show regret over gender surgery is extremely low

A recently released study from the University of Michigan, published in the journal JAMA Surgery looked into 235 patients who had undergone a gender affirming mastectomy over the last 30 years.

They found that the median satisfaction rate among those patients was five out of five, and that not a single patient in the study regretted their decision to change gender. The study centred around a single medical provider, and researchers say the next step will be to look at satisfaction rates across multiple providers.

Previous studies have also shown that the level of regret is extremely low. A study of 6793 people who sought gender-affirming services at the multi-disciplinary VU Medical Centre in Amsterdam between 1972 and 2015 found that patients who underwent a gonadectomy had a regret rate of 0.6 % for trans women and 0,3% for transmen. They acknowledge that rate of regret may be higher though as many patients did not continue seeing the clinic for follow ups.

One of the largest studies into transgender levels of regret was the US Transgender Survey that took place in 2015. It included 27,715 adults, and they asked if patients had ever, even if only temporarily detransitioned.

Rates of detransition were higher in transgender women (11%) than transgender men (4%). The most common reasons cited were pressure from a parent (36%), transitioning was too hard (33%), too much harassment or discrimination (31%), and trouble getting a job (29%).

Australian Christian Lobby praises the Spotlight report

Michelle Pearse, the Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby has praised the episode saying it revealed the honest story of three women who had told their honest stories about what happened when they were encouraged to transition genders as teenagers.

Pearse said it was disappointing the federal government had declined to hold a formal inquiry into transgender health care, saying it was an “evil practice”.

Graeme Watson, Channel Seven’s Spotlight program has been contacted for comment. 


Do you need some support?

If you are struggling with anxiety or depression, support and counselling are available from:

QLife: 1800 184 527 / qlife.org.au (Webchat 3pm – midnight)
QLife are a counselling and referral service for LGBTQIA+ people.

DISCHARGEDinfo@discharged.asn.au / discharged.asn.au
Discharged is a trans-led support service with peer support groups for trans and gender diverse folks.

Lifeline: 13 11 14 / lifeline.org.au

Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636 / www.beyondblue.org.au


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