A letter of complaint to RTÉ

January 30th, 2019

 

To whom it may concern at RTÉ:

 

I’m writing to you in reference to the episode of your show Prime Time that aired 22/01/19.

First a little about myself:

I am a 47 year old intersex and transgender woman that grew up in an Ireland that was far less tolerant than the one I am writing to you in today. I don’t expect you to understand what that would have been like, so let me please briefly run you through it. Born to horrified Irish Catholic parents in the early 70s, I underwent binary-affirming surgery and the decision was taken to name me and raise me as a boy in Tallaght. Back then the language to describe why my behaviour, mannerisms and preferences didn’t fall in line with my surgery and my assigned gender wasn’t in common usage or didn’t yet exist. My carpenter father and nurse mother were deeply ashamed and every decision from clothes shopping to what to ask Santa for was met with ridicule, reprimands, punishment and beatings. Bullying, as you may or may not know, begins at home. Other children noticed that I wasn’t like other boys and I was bullied constantly. Beaten up on my way to school, picked on and beaten up at school while the headmaster sometimes supervised, as it was “good for me”. He and other teachers would tell me to keep my hands up and defend myself. On the way home I’d be bullied too. At home I would get in trouble for my torn, dirty and bloody uniform and I’d be beaten and punished there also. I tried to commit suicide on many occasions; hanging, suffocation, jumping in front of and cycling in front of vehicles. I was referred to by my mother as an “abomination”, and my presence at home apparently transformed our home into a “den of iniquity”.

I left Ireland in search of community and acceptance at my earliest opportunity in 1992. Rather than bore you with the details of what transpired between then and now, let me just tell you that I moved my wife and twin sons back home to a brave new Ireland after things became dangerous for us following the election of Donald Trump as president.

While not as progressive back home as I would have hoped, I was heartened to see over and over something that would have been unimaginable during my childhood; Transgender children happy and healthy with friends going about their days just being normal, rather than covered in blood and mud and being chased back to a home where they aren’t wanted by the neighbourhood bullies.

I’m sure you can imagine how overjoyed I was to read the response by Irish feminists to UK anti-trans activists.

So I’m sure you can also understand my heartache at RTÉ’s decision to air a show that jeopardizes the well-being of intersex, transgender and gender non-conforming children and adults, despite the concern and protests of those directly affected, the Irish transgender community themselves. You might not be aware that transgender children attempt suicide at a much higher rate than other children, but do much better, understandably, when raised in an affirming environment.

That you chose to host a notorious anti-transgender activist whose only qualification to speak on the subject is writing an episode of a popular TV show containing a very dangerous and misleading trope that leads to our murders, and attacking funding for a support charity for transgender children is incredibly disappointing, heart breaking and disheartening.

And dangerous. It wasn’t that my parents were particularly bad people, they were ordinary people. They didn’t have the knowledge or the benefit of research that exists today. Here are some of the guidelines of actual respected, specialized medical professionals if you would like to compare them with the opinions of your guest.

You know that when you offer a platform to a guest to speak on your show you give them credibility. To the uninformed and unknowledgeable parent, relative, neighbour or school teacher, your guest’s uninformed and unqualified opinions are given a weight and credence. “why would he be on this show if he didn’t know about it?,” they might ask.

I’m going to apologize. Earlier I promised I would skip through the years between the time I emigrated to the United States and the time I returned home to Ireland, but I’m going to tell you a little bit about what I experienced after the unfounded rumours of predatory transgender women in bathrooms was started and North Carolina’s bill got passed. Even though there was no evidence to substantiate their fears, otherwise ordinary Texans took to barring my way into (men’s) restroom cubicles, spitting in my face, pointing me out to their children as “what a child molester looks like”, attempting to wrestle my stall open, and on one occasion in an Austin Walmart mens bathroom, pressing a handgun to the side of my head. Locals attempted to form prayer circles around me in my business. I was insulted, constantly threatened and eventually closed up, moving back home with my family to Ireland.

These rumours affected not only transgender women in the United States but cisgender women too.

So I am curious as to your motivation to platform this guest.

I would hate to think you would put the safety and well-being of vulnerable children at risk purely for ratings. A more sinister motive might be an attempt to move current UK anti-trans vitriol to Ireland where it is not welcome. Those UK anti-transgender activists centred in the “debate” have this very week been involved in meetings in the United States with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank responsible for generating many of the United States recent anti-transgender policies.

Might it be to misinform the public?

We can’t be erased. While not all intersex folk are transgender, just as not all transgender folk are intersex, there is an overlap. Intersex conditions are apparent in more species than just humans and make up almost 2 percent of the human population, more than humans born with red hair or green eyes.

Besides the concerns of myself and my community it appears you have violated several of your own rules (the broadcasting act of 2009) by platforming that guest.

Namely 42(2)(a),(b) that all news broadcast by a broadcaster is reported and presented in a fair, objective and impartial manner and without any expression of the broadcaster’s own views.

Objectivity and impartiality were certainly abandoned with the airing of this episode as well as was evidenced during editor Donagh Diamond’s interview with Eoghan McDermott.

(c) as explained above is likely to incite crime and lead to the privacy of transgender folk to be unreasonably encroached upon.

(3)(a) offence have been realized and harm potentially so.

(d) the potential damage possibly caused by exposing the uninformed and unknowledgeable to the opinions of your unqualified guest have been discussed above.

39(1)(a)(b)(d)(e) see above.

I am hopeful you will make this right and make efforts to dispel the harmful myths that were propagated on your television show, and protect the lives and well-being of our society’s most vulnerable children and adults.

 

 

Yours sincerely,

Adeline W. Berry

 

photo above of my wife, one of my sons, our friend Maja and myself at Dublin’s first transgender pride parade in 2018. Courtesy of Dublinlive.ie