Transphobia row | BBC boss tells LGBT+ staff: 'get used to hearing views you don't like'

BBC boss tells LGBT+ staff: 'get used to hearing views you don't like'

A BBC chief has told LGBT+ staff to get used to hearing views they disagree, amid accusations from its own employees that it was “institutionally transphobic”.

As reported by The Times, the broadcaster’s Head of News, Fran Unsworth, hit back against claims during a Zoom call with the BBC’s Pride network last Friday morning.

The meeting was reportedly held in the wake of the corporation’s departure from Stonewall’s diversity champions scheme, under which it paid for advice and assessment.

Critics of the BBC’s participation in the scheme argued that it “ran contrary to its commitment to impartiality, because of Stonewall’s lobbying on transgender issues”, The Times wrote.

Ofcom, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and others have also recently quit the scheme.

During the meeting, further concerns were reportedly raised about the BBC’s recent coverage of LGBT issues, including an article on lesbian women who felt “pressured and coerced into accepting trans women as partners”.

Two sources who attended the meeting told The Sunday Times that Unsworth, who will leave her role in January, told staff: “You’ll hear things you don’t personally like and see things you don’t like — that’s what the BBC is, and you have to get used to that.”

She added: “These are the stories we tell. We can’t walk away from the conversation.”

Another source claimed that one colleague accused the BBC of being “institutionally transphobic.”

A BBC spokesperson told MailOnline: “The BBC is fully committed to being an industry-leading employer on LGBTQ+ inclusion. We are proud of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans colleagues and we support them to have fulfilling careers at the BBC."

They went on: “As a broadcaster, we have our own values and editorial standards – these are clearly set out and published in our Editorial Guidelines. We are also governed by the Royal Charter and the Ofcom Broadcasting Code. Our journalists continue, as ever, to report a full range of perspectives on stories.

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“Although the BBC will not be renewing its participation in the Diversity Champions Programme, in the future we will continue to work with a range of external organisations, including Stonewall, on relevant projects to support our LGBTQ+ staff.”

Stonewall said it was 'a shame' that the BBC had left the scheme, saying: “Many of the arguments against trans people today are simply recycled homophobia from the 80s and 90s.

“We all remember being told gay people were predators and lesbians were a threat in single-sex spaces.

“That wasn't true of lesbians, bi and gay people then, and it isn't true of trans people now.”

Bosses met with backlash

Not for the first time in recent months has a boss come under fire for defending their firm’s position in response to concerns about LGBT inclusion.

In October, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos received a backlash after the streaming giant suspended employees who crashed an executive meeting to protest a new comedy special containing a joke about transgender people.

As reported by Variety, the streaming giant was hit with claims that it suspended three workers, one of whom identifies as trans, for showing up to a virtual quarterly business review – a meeting attended by the firm’s top 500 employees.

But Sarandos defended the decision not to take down the Dave Chappelle show. According to Variety, a Netflix internal memo from co-CEO Sarandos said: “As with our other talent, we work hard to support their creative freedom — even though this means there will always be content on Netflix some people believe is harmful.”

Raising issues in the workplace

If employees are having a problem at work, Acas’s website explained that it is usually better to informally raise it with your employer first – whether this is via a line manager or HR.

Informal chats could range from a quiet word to more of a structured meeting. The site also explained that if employees feel they required more support, they could perhaps speak to mental health first aiders or fair treatment ambassadors.

However, if the issue can’t be resolved informally, staff can raise a formal grievance. Acas explained that if this doesn’t resolve the issue then the staff member may be able to make a claim at an employment tribunal.

How can HR support LGBT+ staff?

Emma Kosmin, Associate Director of Workplace Client Relationships at Stonewall, (she/her), told HR Grapevine it was "vital" that employers ensure their workplaces that allow employees to feel completely comfortable to be themselves.

”It’s vital that employers create environments in which all employees feel comfortable being themselves” she said.

“From ensuring your organisation’s policies are LGBTQ+ inclusive to visibly supporting events like Pride, there’s so many ways that employers can make their LGBTQ+ staff feel supported."

Kosmin added: “Organisations should also know that they are not alone when it comes to creating an inclusive workplace. At Stonewall, we work with more than 900 organisations through our Diversity Champions programme and we’ll continue to work with organisations to create a world in which all LGBTQ+ people are free to thrive as themselves.”

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Comments (1)

  • Lesley
    Mon, 15 Nov 2021 1:23pm GMT
    I think HR Grapevine need to look further into why so many organisations are leaving Stonewall? This is an issue that is getting more and more coverage. You should be reporting on the clash between trans and women's rights and where HR policies are in breach of EA2010. e.g., asking for gender identity instead of sex on job applications - gender identity is not a protected characteristic and collecting that information can breach GDPR.

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