All About Trans is an On Road project that is involved in positively changing 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. 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. 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, presenter and All About Trans ambassador explains the work:
The Interactions and Patchwork Digital Storytelling
All About Trans is currently made up of two elements: Patchwork Digital Storytelling Project and The Interactions.
Patchwork is 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 content is produced in two ways: through our digital media workshops and in our collaboration with My Genderation/Lucky Tooth Films and Channel 4.
We train 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 offer 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 have 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 recent launch of this series at Channel 4. Later in the year, Channel 4 will broadcast a selection of those films presented by Fox and Lewis.
The Interactions and Youth-led Interactions
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, 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.
In 2014, with support from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we have been working across the country with young trans and gender variant people on the Youth-led Interactions. 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 this phase of the project on working with 18 – 30 year olds, we are aiming 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 (September 2014), volunteers have carried out interactions with 160 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, independent production companies and more…
All About Trans was launched in 2011 – at the time it was known as Trans Media Action. During Phase 1 we worked 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 ran Trans Camp at Channel 4. Trans Camp was a 1-day social innovation camp for innovators, developers, entrepreneurs, designers, media professionals and trans people from all walks of life. The aim was to come up with ideas to improve media coverage and awareness of trans people in the UK. 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 will be broadcast in 2015.
Phase 2 (2013 – 2014) focuses on connecting media professionals with the trans community across the UK, using the web, digital storytelling (Patchwork) and local face-to-face meetups (the Interactions). Phase 2 is supported by Channel 4, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, BBC and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.
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
Achievements so far
After an interaction with Independent columnist Tom Peck, and Executive Managing Editor at the Daily Mail, Robin Esser, The Independent, Independent on Sunday and Daily Mail used accurate pronouns when reporting the Chelsea Manning case.
- After developing a relationship with BBC comedy commissioning executives, 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.
- Paris Lees and Piers Bradford, BBC Radio 1′s Commissioning Editor, met on an interaction 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.
- 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.
For more on outcomes and results visit each Project page.
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
- Jay Stewart, Co-founder, Gendered Intelligence
- Jennie Kermode, Trans Media Watch
- Paris Lees, journalist, activist, editor at large at Attitude magazine
- Raphael Fox, My Genderation, Lucky Tooth Productions
- Rob Bell, Head of Social Justice, Paul Hamlyn Foundation
- Sarah Lennox, author and activist
- Shelagh Sheldrick, Mermaids
- Ian Critchley, BBC Head of Creative Resources
- Yvonne Roberts, Chief Leader Writer, The Observer
- Alana Avery, Project Manager, On Road
- Nathalie McDermott, Director, On Road
About On Road, project managers of All About Trans
On Road is a not-for-profit organisation that works 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 marginalised 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.