MCC Leaders Respond to BBC Documentary on Transgender Children

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Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown,
Interim Moderator, MCC

MCC leaders are challenging a recent documentary by the BBC called,Transgender Kids, Who Knows Best?

The program denies the existence of non-binary gender variance, and features discredited experts whose treatment practices are considered harmful in the trans community. Additionally, the documentary asserts that adult trans activists should not be allowed to comment on the treatment of children when gender variant adults–who experienced gender dysphoria as children–are among the best of resources to society.

As leaders in Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), a global Christian denomination that values the affirmation of an individual’s gender identity, we continue to validate and bless all genders and all gender expressions. That is why we cannot ignore the harm done to the trans community by this program, nor can we ignore its disregard of the Human Rights Act 1998 (UK), which affirms the rights of all people, including children, to their own expression.

Today, we stand in solidarity with the Trans* community as MCC Clergy and Laity affirming our values of inclusion, community spiritual transformation, and social action in an open response to the BBC.

We discover the wonder of God’s work when listening to the experiences of transgender and gender non-conforming persons. This is a time to be present and honor the gender identity of all people regardless of age. Read the words of wisdom and stories of personal experiences in this letter. Join with me to pray for the full acceptance of all of God’s people as their authentic selves. And then share this letter widely. Let MCC be the voice of hope.

Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown
Interim Moderator, Metropolitan Community Churches

Sarah-Jane Ramage, M.A. (Cantab)
Vice Chair, Governing Board, Metropolitan Community Churches

“I am shocked that the BBC would voluntarily give air time to jokes about whether trans* children should be listened to and respected. The hurt caused to individuals who are or who have transitioned is visible all around me; the potential harm to children whose parents watched this documentary looking for guidance is horrifying.

This documentary is not a balanced view of the care available to children who experience gender diversity. By quoting the opinions of discredited experts and referring to those who affirm trans* stories to be activists, the narrative is skewed towards questioning trans* children. Anyone who speaks out against society’s expectation of themselves should be listened to, affirmed, and respected; not belittled and joked about.”

Rev. Elder Ines-Paul Baumann
MCC Council of Elders; Pastor, MCC Köln, Germany

“Whether or not gender-variant: Children should be free to express themselves without being restricted to gender norms or what adults consider ‘appropriate’ to their birth-assigned gender.”

Ms. Reubs J. Walsh, M.A. (Oxon) MSc
MCC Member and Trans Neuroscience Expert, UK

“Gender identity development is a complex field of research, and we still have a lot to learn. One of the few things that has been thoroughly tested and represents a true scientific consensus is that gender identity cannot and should not be undermined or denied. Extensive research has shown time and again that persistent denial of a person’s gender identity causes profound emotional distress and, when chronic, can truly damage mental health. The work of Rebecca Robles and colleagues, recently presented in The Lancet Psychiatry (2016), shows that this is the source of the clinically significant psychiatric distress that many transgender patients present with, and so the approach taken by Zucker, Blanchard, and others, to attempt to change the gender identity of a child is doomed to cause only harm. This is the reason that their clinic was closed, and it is also the reason that much of their research has been dismissed by the World Psychiatric Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) as unscientific.

Put simply, gender identity ought to have nothing to do with the shape of the bodies we’re born with. The only scientifically valid way to assess a person’s gender is to ask them how they identify.”

Rev. Peta Evans
Associate Pastor, MCC North London, UK

“As a transgendered child, teenager, and adult, I became accustomed to being told that my feelings, thoughts, and desires were invalid, unacceptable, and irrelevant. That I had no say in who I was, nor how I would express myself. Adults and professionals would decide that for me, based on their own ideas, and my only task was to change myself – no matter how painful, no matter how much I had to limit my own feelings and my own potential – in order that I might become more acceptable to them. Such treatment for gay and lesbian people has long been discredited, and is known to be traumatic and harmful, so I am distressed to see respected bodies such as the BBC still give discernible validity and credence to those who insist, in effect, that it is more preferable to restrict children’s gender expression than to allow them to explore it fully.”

Rev. Dr. Mia Briggs
Senior Pastor, Safe Harbour MCC, Devon UK

“The BBC Documentary on Transgendered Children was both disappointing and dangerous. Every time we reduce people to labels and deny their individuality, we limit our own humanity and damage those for whom the labels do not accurately represent the person within. These are often the most vulnerable individuals in society. I believe that we are called to make our world a safer, more inclusive place, a place where everyone can thrive, and that this documentary has made this calling harder for us all.”

Read Letter to the BBC

16 January 2017
Dear Tony Hall, Director-General BBC:

The BBC is a publicly funded, independent body, which is tasked with, and world renowned for, balanced broadcasting on a variety of world issues. Its documentaries are used as educational resources and are assumed to be without bias. However, this was not the case in the BBC 2 documentary, Transgender Kids, Who Knows Best?

We are shocked and disappointed that this distinguished body would produce a documentary regarding transgender children which is biased against supportive parenting, implies that children are receiving surgical and hormonal treatment in the UK, and denies the existence of non-binary gender variance. Within the first 90 seconds, the documentary features discredited experts comparing gender dysphoria to a child’s desire to imagine themself as an animal. This sets the tone for the program and is both inappropriate and damaging to viewers whose gender identity is
not in line with the gender they were assigned at birth.

The continued misgendering of children throughout the program may be against the Human Rights Act 1998. The implication that treatment is offered at a very young age in the UK ignores the UK treatment protocol, which prohibits surgical treatment before the age of 17, in addition to the recognised impact of puberty on gender dysphoric teenagers. Likewise, the implication that the majority of children who seek treatment subsequently revert to their assigned gender is based on discredited evidence that included gender variant children who were not expressing an assigned-gender-incongruent identity. It is these who make up the group referred to as

The programme appears to defend the professional credentials of Dr. Kenneth Zucker and his treatment practices and does not reflect the fact that, within the trans community, adults who have experienced such treatment consider it to have been harmful. The links made by Dr. Zucker between gender dysphoria and traumatic experiences, autism, and homophobic societal expectations are profound misrepresentations of the current scientific consensus. Indeed, the documentary also cited the work of Zucker’s long-time colleague, Ray Blanchard, whose work has since been dismissed by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) as too profoundly flawed to be of scientific use.

The repeated assertion that adult trans activists should not be allowed to comment upon the treatment of children over whom they have no parental authority is prejudicial and does not fit within a society where all adults defend the rights of children. In other forms of abuse—and the denial of a trans child’s stated gender identity is abusive—the right of the abusive parent(s) to continue to have influence over the child in any way that could facilitate the abuse is appropriately called into question. To deny this collective responsibility fails to recognise the valuable experience of gender variant adults—who were, after all, children with gender dysphoria. Even worse, it ignores the number of trans person who took their own lives because their experience was devalued or questioned. It is this mistreatment which causes the clinically significant distress of trans people, as was recently demonstrated by evidence published in The Lancet Psychiatry (Robles, et al, 2016). We believe these assertions are dangerous and ignore the experiences of trans persons.

As leaders in Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC), a global Christian denomination with 26 churches and ministries in Europe, and holds as a important value the affirmation of an individual’s gender identity, we continue to validate and bless all genders and all gender expressions. That is why we cannot ignore the harm done to the trans community by this programme, nor can we ignore its disregard of the Human Rights Act 1998 which affirms the rights of all people, including children, to their own expression.

We, therefore, call on the BBC to apologise and correct the documentary, and to provide an alternative, unbiased view, at the earliest opportunity.

Founded in 1968, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) has been at the vanguard of civil and human
rights movements by addressing issues of race, gender, sexual orientation, economics, climate change,
aging, and global human rights. MCC recognizes a state of need around the world in the areas of human
rights and justice. As people of faith, MCC endeavors to build bridges that liberate and unite voices of
sacred defiance. MCC leads from the margins and transforms.

MCC Letter to the BBC – Trans Kids Documentary

Thank you to these individuals who have added their names solidarity
with the trans* community:

Sarah-Jane Ramage, M.A. (Cantab), Vice Chair of the MCC Governing Board
Rev. Elder Rachelle Brown, Global Interim Moderator, MCC
Rev. Elder Ines-Paul Baumann, MCC Council of Elders; Pastor, MCC Cologne (Germany)
Rev. Dr. Mia Briggs, Pastor, Safe Harbour MCC, Devon
Rev. Peta Evans, Assistant Pastor, MCC North London
Andrew Ramage, M.B.A, Pastor, MCC Brighton, Sussex
Rev. Maxwell Reay, Our Tribe MCC, Edinburgh
Ms. Reubs J. Walsh, M.A. (Oxon) MSc, MCC Member, Trans Neuroscience expert
Rev. Jak Davis, MCC Pastor
Rev. Kate Rowley-Harford, Clergy on staff, MCC Northern Lights, Newcastle
Rev. Michael Hydes, Pastor, The Village MCC, Brighton, Sussex
Mike Holroyd, M.A., Pastor, Living Springs MCC, Bath
Rev. Jane Clarke, Pastor, MCC Glasgow, UK
Rev. Shanon Ferguson, M.A., Senior Pastor, MCC North London; PhD Researcher in Theology and Non-binary Gender at Roehampton University
Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, Director, Office of Emerging Ministries, MCC; MCC Council of Elders
Dr. Sharon Groves, Vice President for Partner Engagement, Auburn Seminary, New York, USA
Angel Collie, MDiv, MCC Governing Board; MCC Trans/GNC Working Group
Linda Brenner, M.A., Associate Director/Communications, MCC
Richard Henry, Vice Moderator, CLM Coordinator, Church of the Trinity MCC; Florida, USA
Renee Eberling, Open Arms MCC, New York, USA
Elder Nancy Maxwell, MCC Council of Elders
Rev. Mary A. Cantrell, MCC Chaplain, Program Officer for MCC Heterosexual Council
Rev. Troy Plummer Treash, Senior Pastor, Resurrection MCC, Texas, USA
Rev. Elder Héctor Gutiérrez, MCC Council of Elders, Associate Director, Office of Emerging Ministries, MCC
Ms. Marsha Robbins, MCC North London, London, UK
Rev. Alycia Erickson, Pastor, Pikes Peak MCC, Colorado, USA
Rev. Elder Dr. Candace R. Shultis, Senior Pastor, King of Peace MCC, Florida, USA
Rev. Dr. Elijah C Nealy, PhD, MDiv, LCSW, Connecticut, USA; Author of forthcoming
Transgender Children and Youth: Cultivating Pride and Joy with Families in Transition (W. W. Norton, 2017)
Stacy Sandberg, Eternal Joy MCC, Lay Delegate; Member of Trans* and Gender Nonconforming Working Group, Ohio, USA
Rev. Jake Kopmeier, Transgender Ministry Leader, King of Peace MCC, Florida, USA
Rev. Candy Holmes, Program Officer for People of African Descent, MCC
David Williams, M.D., M.P.H., Program Officer for Health and Wellness, MCC
Rev. Lisa Heilig, Resource Development Specialist, Office of Church Life and Health, MCC, Georgia, USA
Rev. Dawn Flynn, New Life MCC, North Carolina, USA
Sam Hockaday, Pianist, MCC Sacred Journey, North Carolina, USA
Susie Brenner, Pastor, Beyond These Walls MCC, Florida, USA
Lauren Bennett, Conference Coordinator, MCC; MCC of Washington, DC, USA
Rev. Vickey Gibbs, Associate Pastor, Resurrection MCC, Texas, USA
Rev. Ann Craig, Communications Consultant, New York, USA
Rev. Joe Cobb, Governing Board, MCC; Senior Pastor, MCC of the Blue Ridge, Virginia, USA
Rev. Victor H. Floyd, MCC Disability Inclusion Working Group, Calvary Presbyterian Church (USA), California, USA
Rev. Emily Worman, Pastor, Church in Progress MCC, Auckland, New Zealand
Kimberly Brown, Governing Board, MCC, Oregon, USA
Rev. Mel Martinez, MDiv, Pastor, Wichita Falls MCC, Texas, USA
Rev. Joy Simpson, Eternal Joy MCC, Ohio, USA
Dr. Mark Dalgleish, Governing Board, MCC
Rev. Wendy Woodruff, Provisional Pastor, MCC Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA
Rev. Elizabeth Goudy, Pastor, MCC Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, USA
Rev. Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas, Senior Pastor, Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ, Texas, USA
Rev. Catherine Dearlove, Pastor, Trinity, MCC, Florida, USA
Rev. Colleen Darraugh, Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of Greater Dallas, Texas, USA
Rev. Dr. William H. Knight, Governing Board, MCC; Pastor, Open Arms MCC, Hawaii, USA
Susan Gilchrist, Committee Secretary of the Sibyls, Christian Spirituality Transgender Support Group
Rev. Mario Bonfanti, Pastor, Il Cerchio, Milan, Italy
Rev. Tory V. Topjian, Senior Pastor, Milwaukee Metropolitan Community Church, Wisconsin, USA
Rev. Terri Steed Pierce, Senior Pastor, Joy MCC, Florida, USA
Beth Kind, Lay Delegate and Board of Directors, MCC San Diego; Steering Committee, Human Rights Campaign, California, USA
Rev. David Wynn, Senior Pastor, Agape MCC, Texas, USA
David R Wilson, MCC Eastern USA Network Co-Leader
Felix Power, Deacon, Church of the Trinity MCC, Florida, USA
Rev. Carmen Llanos, Pastor of Alternative Worship & Community Care Ministry, MCC Toronto, Canada
Rev. Kenny Callaghan, Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond, Virginia, USA
Rev. Jackie Carter, Senior Pastor, Table of Hope MCC, Kansas, USA; Program Officer, Women’s Working Group.
Stacy Sedgewood, Adjunct Instructor, Quincy College, Massachusetts, USA