The BBC has defended transgender CBBC series Just A Girl against criticism that its story is inappropriate for young children.
The Mail on Sunday ran a front page claiming that parents were ‘furious’ with the BBC for creating a web series about a young 11-year-old girl called Amy who is transitioning from a boy to a girl.
The article included quotes from Tory MP Peter Bone, who said it was “completely inappropriate for such material to be on the CBBC website”, but the BBC has defended the show, saying that the series deals with “universal themes that many children can relate to”.
Just A Girl takes the form of a diary, with 11-year-old Amy talking about her worries about moving from primary to secondary school and what her classmates will think of her.
The CBBC website also includes information about what it means to be transgender alongside the online-only series.
“Some feel that they were born into the wrong body, or that the way they were born is does not fit who they are. So for example, sometimes a person born a girl might feel that they are male, or not fully a girl or boy,” the CBBC page reads, adding, “No matter what, everyone deserves to be treated fairly and kindly.”
The Mail pointed to comments on parenting website Mumsnet, with some parents anxious about whether the series is an “inappropriate topic for a young age group”.
Another post argued that Just A Girl was ‘not remotely suitable for a 7-year-old. “To start suggesting that little children can be transgender when they’re far too young to actually have a gender is reckless and damaging,” the comment said.
However, other comments support the BBC’s decision to explore transgender issues in this way, with one post reading, “I know a child who recently came out as transgender in primary school, I think its the perfect age to show children its normal and to teach then tolerance.”
In 2015, the BBC launched Boy Meets Girl, the first series on UK TV with a lead transgender character and storyline.
Star Rebecca Root says the series helped give people “courage to transition” after watching.
“People say, ‘I had the courage to transition
after watching Boy Meets Girl,’ and that’s heart-warming,” she told Radio Times. As a humble actor – and I’m nothing compared to the amazing surgeons
and hormone specialists – it’s lovely to play
my part. It’s great that people feel able to seek help, whereas before they’d have thought,
“I’m a freak. What’s wrong with me?”