All About Trans is an On Road Media project that positively changes how the media understands and portrays trans people.
The All About Trans project looks at creative ways to encourage greater understanding between trans people and media professionals to support better, more sensitive representation in the UK media.
The media’s portrayal of trans people has traditionally relied on sensationalism and inaccuracy, fueled by a widespread lack of understanding of trans issues. All About Trans aims to establish connections between the trans community and the media and offer support to improve portrayal. Through these relationships and collaborations, a dialogue can be created that brings about better, more accurate and positive representation.
The project offers the trans community a platform to speak out against the prejudice they may experience and promotes engagement between the wide diversity of trans voices and the media. In the long term, All About Trans aims to create a movement towards fair treatment and greater understanding that can sustain itself.
We hope this will lead to a greater public understanding of transgender issues and wider acceptance.
Paris Lees, journalist and presenter explains the work:
The Media Interactions
All About Trans has two elements: The Media Interactions (ongoing) and the Patchwork Digital Storytelling Project (which ran throughout 2014 and ended in 2015). The project is supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Awards for All, and previously BBC and Channel 4.
Interactions with the Media
These informal, yet facilitated, social meet-ups are about building positive and progressive relationships between trans people and the media.
An ‘interaction’ is a method for engagement developed by On Road (On Road Media is a charity that runs the All About Trans project), in consultation with the trans community. It is a unique, safe, relaxed, social meet-up between trans people and media professionals from all platforms.
It is designed to encourage greater understanding, giving participants a chance to get to know each other in a setting of their choice and at their own convenience. Each interaction is facilitated by a trans person so media or sector professionals meet people from the community with common interests. It gives them the opportunity to not only talk about trans matters, but to also bond over hobbies, work or lifestyle. Interactions can take place in locations like the aquarium, a local restaurant, nearby café or the office.
We work with trans and non-binary people (anyone who identifies along the trans spectrum), of all ages but in 2014, with support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, All About Trans spread across the country engaging regional media with young trans and gender variant people. There was a lack of awareness of the existence of young trans people and their experiences, which, when addressed, led to a greater understanding of trans people of all ages. By focusing the 2014 phase of the project on working with 18 – 30 year olds, we aimed to support a movement of young activists across the UK who had not taken part in activism before. For more information, visit our FAQ.
To date (January 2017), trans and non-binary individuals carried out interactions with nearly 350 media and sector professionals from the The Sun, Daily Mail, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Observer, LBC 97.3FM, Closer Magazine, Press Association, Press Complaints Commission, BBC Comedy, Drama and Talent, BBC Radio 1, BBC Commissioning, BBC Editorial Policy, BBC Complaints, BBC News Online, Channel 4 News, Channel 4 Drama Emmerdale, Hollyoaks, The Scotland Herald, The Dorset Echo, BBC Cambridgeshire, BBC Wales, The Argus, UKTV, BBC North West Programmers, BBC West Midlands, CBBC, Mail on Sunday, New Statesman, the Department for Education, Independent Press Standards Organisation, NHS England and Wales, the General Medical Council, Channel 5, 4Talent, independent production companies and more…
Achievements so far…
For a more detailed background on All About Trans visit our History page. Here we highlight some of the achievements we’ve had with the media since 2011 but you can read each interaction for more specific outcomes and achievements. And check out our infographic for a visual display of how the project was doing in 2014.
After developing a relationship with BBC comedy commissioning executives at Trans Camp in 2012, the BBC Writers Room Trans Comedy Award was born. Two scripts involving trans characters were developed and the winning pilot ‘Boy Meets Girl’ was showcased at the BBC Salford Comedy Festival and has been commissioned by BBC Two as the first UK trans-themed comedy sitcom. Previewed at BAFTA, it aired on BBC Two in September 2015. It was commissioned for a second series, which was broadcast in July 2016. Boy Meets Girl received the RTS North West Best Comedy Programme award and Stonewall’s Trans Media Award.
- An interaction with Independent columnist Tom Peck, and Executive Managing Editor at the Daily Mail, Robin Esser, led to The Independent, Independent on Sunday and Daily Mail using accurate pronouns when reporting the Chelsea Manning case in late 2014.
- Paris Lees and Piers Bradford, BBC Radio 1’s Commissioning Editor, met on an interaction in 2011 and this led to three critically acclaimed documentaries including “The Hate Debate” and “My Transgender Punk Rock Story”.
- Following a large interaction, the cast and crew of Hollyoaks (Lime Pictures) asked us to advise them on their trans storyline between the characters Blessing and Dennis. Consultants continue to work with them and Lewis Hancox blogged about his experience behind the scenes.
- Following a large interaction with the writers and producers of EastEnders, they began developing an idea for a trans character. In 2015, the first trans character was introduced, played by trans actor Riley Carter Millington for one year. Here’s how All About Trans played a part.
- We supported Cambridge scientist Dr Kate Stone in her negotiations with the Press Complaints Commission to rectify the unnecessary mention of her trans status in reporting on her near death experience in 2013. Six newspapers, including The Sun, admitted they were wrong and removed all mention of her trans status in the online stories.
- In 2016 The Independent Press Standards Organisation released new guidelines on reporting trans stories, created in consultation with All About Trans activists and Mermaids. Ayla Holdom, a contributor, was later interviewed for an iMediaEthics article about the guidelines.
- Developed a graphic resource in consultation with Advisory Group members explaining why using the term “sex change” in news reporting is problematic.
- After meeting with BBC North West in 2016, we were approached by a Producer of Drama who was looking for a trans actor to appear in the BBC Radio 4 drama adaptation of Michael Tolliver Lives and Mary Jane in Autumn. Actor and filmmaker Fox Fisher was cast and the play was aired on 16th May 2016 on BBC Radio 4, over a period of two weeks.
- Connected journalists with trans and non-binary individuals, leading to accurate and interesting articles or interviews in Buzzfeed News, BBC Body Positive, Huffington Post UK, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, Pink News, Belfast Telegraph, BBC News Online, BBC Breakfast, Broadly, Vice, The Guardian, Readers Digest, BBC Inside Out and BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour.
Real People: Patchwork Stories
Patchwork was a collection of digital media stories from trans people across the UK to show the diversity of stories and experiences amongst trans people. All these stories are produced in creative ways by focusing on the themes of “support” and “celebration”. Patchwork ran throughout 2014 and ended in 2015.
Patchwork content was produced in two ways: through our digital media workshops and in our collaboration with My Genderation/Lucky Tooth Films and Channel 4.
We trained young trans people across England, Scotland and Wales to use digital media to make videos and podcasts to capture their own experiences. By running two-day workshops with community organisations, we offered young trans people the chance to develop their digital media skills and produce their own stories.
In December 2013, we announced that All About Trans would team up with Lucky Tooth Films (and their side project My Genderation) to create a collection of digital stories to reflect the diversity and strength of trans people in the UK, with support from Channel 4. Fox Fisher and Lewis Hancox filmed with 25 trans and gender variant people across the country. Each mini documentary visits a trans person to hear about their life, their experiences, passions and hopes. You can watch their trailer here and read about the launch of this series at Channel 4. In October 2015, Channel 4 ‘4 Shorts’ uploaded a selection of those films on All4 and education hub Am I Normal? entitled ‘My Trans Story’. It was the most watched series on All4 in its first week of upload.
Testimonials: What media professionals are saying
“It was useful in challenging perceptions, education, suggesting story ideas and what surprised me most was that there is no need to define trans people by their surgery or lack of surgery.” Cathy Newman, Channel 4 News Presenter, journalist, The Telegraph’s Wonder Women
“I think it’s been fantastic. We sometimes treat conversations [about being trans] as abstract, academic discussion. Hearing people talk about their experience, about being challenged all throughout their lives makes you think again about the whole issue.” Ian Katz, Editor, BBC Newsnight
“I expected to be lectured but this was an opportunity to have an open and honest chat with some trans people. I found it very insightful, and has led to several programme ideas which have made it on air.” Piers Bradford, Commissioning Editor, BBC Radio One and 1Xtra
All About Trans continues to work closely with the trans community, receiving advice and guidance from organisations and individuals at every step of the process. The Advisory Group is made up of the following people:
- Anjeli Patel, People Advisory Services at Ernst & Young LLP
- Ayla Holdom, pilot, National Police Air Service, campaigner for trans rights
- Dylan Darby, West Midlands Police Force
- Ed Zephyr, Actor
- Fox Fisher, filmmaker, Lucky Tooth Films, co-founder of Trans Pride Brighton
- Iain McCallum, Head of Press and PR at Tiger Aspect, Inclusion Champion at Endemol Shine
- Ian Critchley, former BBC Head of Creative Resources, Independent Talent Consultant
- Kimberley Bird, Deputy Co-Chair of the Rainbow Network, Lloyds
- Paris Lees, award-winning journalist, campaigner, All About Trans co-founder
- Sarah Lennox, author and activist, All About Trans co-founder
- Ugla Stefanía Kristjönudóttir Jónsdóttir (Owl), My Genderation, international activist
- Alana Avery, Project Manager, On Road Media
- Nathalie McDermott, Founder, On Road Media
Our floating advisors are Yvonne Roberts, journalist, novelist, The Observer; Jay Stewart, Gendered Intelligence; and Jennie Kermode, Trans Media Watch.
Rebecca Root, voice coach and star of BBC Two’s Boy Meets Girl, is an All About Trans Patron.
For the whole background on All About Trans visit our History page.
All About Trans was launched in 2011 – at the time it was known as Trans Media Action. We began working with the organisation Trans Media Watch to devise ways to improve media professionals’ understanding of trans people, encouraging them to find out more and to create more sensitive portrayals of trans people in their work.
In 2012, On Road Media ran Trans Camp at Channel 4. The day was dedicated to exploring creative solutions to major stumbling blocks in the media’s portrayal of this misrepresented and misunderstood community. Hosted at Channel 4, Trans Camp brought together over 60 innovators, developers, entrepreneurs, designers, media professionals and trans people from all walks of life to come up with new and exciting ideas to address how the media portrayed trans people. A team of trans people, actors, comedians and key BBC comedy commissioning executives came up with the idea for the Trans Comedy Scriptwriter’s Award. This idea came to fruition, with support from the BBC Writers Room, and led to two scripts being developed with trans characters. The winning pilot ‘Boy Meets Girl’, written by Elliott Kerrigan, was made into a pilot by Tiger Aspect and commissioned by BBC Two, starring the trans actress Rebecca Root. It was broadcast in September 2015 and in 2016, a second series was commissioned and broadcast.
In 2013-14, Channel 4 went on to support All About Trans’ Patchwork project, a collection of inspirational stories from talented and dynamic British trans people. For Patchwork, All About Trans commissioned Fox Fisher and Lewis Hancox of My Genderation/Lucky Tooth Films to create twenty five short films. Eight of those short films, entitled My Trans Story, are available to view exclusively on All4.
Until 2017, All About Trans is carrying out a number of media interactions and events with an aim to encourage better understanding of the trans community, in the areas of healthcare and education specifically. An ‘interaction’ is a method for engagement we have developed over the last five years. It is a relaxed, social meet-up between a senior media or sector professional and someone with personal experience to share.
We are working to promote trans voices in the media and we also support trans and non-binary people to meet with a journalist, radio presenter, television personality, media, healthcare or education professional with the aim of encouraging fairer treatment and better representation of the trans community. Interactions will also raise awareness of the challenges trans people might face in schools, universities, employment and in healthcare.
About On Road Media, project managers of All About Trans
On Road is a charity that tackles social problems by improving media coverage of misrepresented groups and issues. The On Road team brings people together, runs events and interactions, and works with clients and communities to design projects that bring about real social change.
They take the best of what the media, digital and innovation sectors are doing and brings that knowledge to a community, working out the most relevant and useful uses of those technologies and supporting the group or community to solve problems using those tools. All About Trans is their ongoing project since 2011.