30 April 2014

Lunch with Dorset Echo journalists leads to more coverage for local trans voices

In March, as part of our work with engaging local and regional media professionals, we revisited the area of Dorset to meet with local journalists from the Dorset Echo. Having worked with Space Youth Project earlier in the year on Patchwork (the digital storytelling part of AAT), we recruited volunteers from their trans youth group, to carry out an informal, social meet-up with the local media.

Senior reporters Emma Walker, Tara Cox and Rachel Stretton joined two young trans men and Sarah (Space Youth Project Coordinator) and we all sat down for lunch in a local pub/restaurant not far from the Dorset Echo offices and got stuck into conversation. The nature of each interaction is to give people the opportunity to get to know each other and feel comfortable to ask questions. So often in the work, we’ve found that journalists have never knowingly sat down with a trans person and it’s also just as unlikely for a trans person to have coffee with a journalist or reporter.

Large, hearty plates of jacket potato, salad and sandwiches arrived and each pair got chatting. At each interaction, everyone is assigned a “buddy”, who has similar interests to them. This gives them some common ground to start from, preventing the awkward “So have you come far?” moments. Pairs then swap around and the group share thoughts and surprising facts that come from the one-on-one chats.

I really enjoyed chatting in the 1-2-1’s, they were very respectful and seemed genuinely interested and recognised there is a need for positivity in the media of the portrayal of Trans*. They were very down to earth and I felt communicated on our level. So many times in the past I have felt ignored so it was so nice to not be.

Jay, All About Trans volunteer

Interaction with Dorset Echo

Volunteer from Space Youth Project chats to Rachel Stretton, Dorset Echo

We started talking about trans children and how coming out in schools can lead to bullying. Some of the volunteers shared their own experiences of coming out and dealing with the school’s response. We talked about the high levels of self harm amongst the LGBT community. We discussed the access to support Space Youth provide for young trans people in and around Poole and Bournemouth and how important that is for rural areas where young trans people might feel very alone.

The discussion went on to how difficult it can be for reporters to pitch stories and and that stories involving trans people don’t often get published. The reporters admitted they’d come across local transition stories from trans people but could see how important it was that attitudes change. Many conservative attitudes exist in the senior roles at many media organisations and sensationalism can be apparent when it comes to reporting stories involving trans people.

Reporters often look to social media for stories and to bring about more awareness of what it means to be trans, trans people need to have that confidence to share things publicly. Sarah, from Space Youth commented on how hard it was for community organisation to get their stories out there in the media and how a meeting like this could really support them to share their work and access more LGBT young people.

The group talked a lot about poetry too. One of the volunteers, with some encouragement, recited a poem he’d wrote, which impressed everyone. He explained that he felt like more of a poet than a trans person. We talked briefly about how creative the trans community are – they are artists, musicians, poets, academics, writers etc. We also touched briefly on the question around surgery, and how to be respectful and not ask personal questions about someone’s personal life.

The group agreed that with more time, there would have been so much more to discuss, like family support and personal experiences. Everyone promised to keep in touch and we’re currently working with Emma on a magazine feature about the interaction, Space Youth Project’s local work and trans experiences. We look forward to sharing this soon.

Outcomes of the meeting

Dorset Echo feature with Dylan HaydenDaily Echo feature on AAT


If you are interested in coming on an interaction or hearing more about the project, please get in touch.

On Road, Project Manager for On Road.


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