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 so media professionals meet trans people with common interests and give them the opportunity to not only talk about trans issues, 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 is a lack of awareness of the existence of young trans people and their experiences, which, when addressed, leads 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 have not taken part in activism before. For more information, visit our FAQ.
To date (May 2016), volunteers have carried out interactions with over 270 media 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 of Education, Independent Press Standards Organisation, 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 the project.
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 in 2016.
- 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. Volunteers 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. 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.
- 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.
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’.
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 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
“I found the WHOLE interaction useful and enjoyable, though the one-to-one sessions proved the most invaluable in getting to know each other. I was reassured that nothing said in the meeting was to be deemed “the wrong thing” and when I made a mistake in terms of calling a person he or she wrongly, I apologised for my slip and the error was met with good humour…we should continue this dialogue and I’d welcome your input if and when we play an Emmerdale story about a transgender character.” Mark Bickerton, Series Story Producer, Emmerdale, ITV
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:
- Ayla Holdom, Royal Air Force Flight Lieutenant
- Fox Fisher, My Genderation, Lucky Tooth Films
- Ian Critchley, former BBC Head of Creative Resources
- Kimberley Bird, Mermaids
- Lewis Hancox, filmmaker, My Genderation
- Paris Lees, journalist, activist, presenter
- Sarah Lennox, author and activist
- Yvonne Roberts, Chief Leader Writer, The Observer
- Alana Avery, Project Manager, On Road Media
- Nathalie McDermott, Director, On Road Media
Our floating advisors are 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 was recently commissioned by BBC Two, starring a trans actress. It was broadcast in September 2015 and commissioned for a second series in 2016.
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.
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. They work in partnership with minority communities to solve social problems using the web and the media. They take the best of what the media, digital and innovation sectors are doing, bring that knowledge to a community, and work out the most relevant and useful uses of those technologies to support the group or community to solve problems using those tools.
The On Road team brings people together, runs events, delivers training and works with clients and communities to design projects that bring about real social change. All About Trans is their ongoing project since 2011.