Parents and MPs have fiercely criticised a CBBC programme about a boy living as a girl, calling it “completely inappropriate”.
Just A Girl features ‘Amy’ – played by an actress – who is starting out at secondary school, and does not want anyone to find out he was “born in the wrong body”.
It is accessible via the CBBC iPlayer website, which is aimed at children between six and twelve years old.
In the programme, Amy is already taking hormone blockers and regularly texts her friend ‘Josh’ – a girl who is living as a boy – about living as a transsexual.
MPs are among those who have spoken out to express their anger and concern, but the BBC has said it is “very proud” of the programme.
Julian Brazier MP called the programme inappropriate, and said: “Children are very impressionable and this is going to confuse and worry them.”
Peter Bone MP said he would write to BBC bosses to have it taken down, stating, “It is completely inappropriate for such material to be on the CBBC website”.
“I entirely share the anger of parents who just want to let children be children.”
Even Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee – which was criticised in January for championing gender-neutral passports and driving licences – voiced concerns over whether the BBC had tackled the subject in “an age appropriate way”.
And child psychotherapist Dr Dilys Daws branded the BBC irresponsible for exposing children as young as six to the idea of ‘changing sex’.
Parents on Mumsnet also expressed their concern. One mother explained how her daughter, who enjoys football and wears boys’ clothes, saw the programme and became worried. She asked her mother “anxiously, if that means she was a boy”.
One parent wrote: “Don’t think this is remotely appropriate for a seven-year-old”, while another added: “I don’t think hormone therapy should be normalised”.
Norman Wells, Director of the Family Education Trust, said the BBC was irresponsible for introducing “impressionable children as young as six to the idea that they can choose to be something other than their biological sex”.
He added that promoting the idea that children can be born into the body of the opposite sex, and that drugs and surgery can correct that, will leave children “utterly confused”.
“Respecting and preserving a child’s birth sex should be seen as a child protection issue”.
The BBC denies Just A Girl is inappropriate, with a spokesman saying: “CBBC aims to reflect true life, providing content that mirrors the lives of as many UK children as possible.”
The House of Lords Communications Committee questioned BBC Children’s Director Alice Webb on Tuesday over how the BBC had made the judgement on what age was appropriate for children to explore the issue.
She said that part of the BBC’s “public service role” was to “stimulate conversation”, and that Just A Girl was presented in an “age appropriate way”.
She added: “I’m very proud of that show”.