What Did We Learn From Genderquake?

With the recent showing of the reality television show, Genderquake and the debate that followed, the identity of gender has been headlining across the world. The reality show on Channel 4 saw eleven individuals of different gender identities live together in a house for a week. Although the concept is meant to educate people across the globe about the gender spectrum rather than the concept of two genders, I discovered that even in the LGBTQ+ community, transgender individuals still face prejudice and negativity.

Genderquake included a cast of individuals from all ends of the gender-spectrum. Brooke, whose body transitioned naturally due to having a rare chromosomal disorder, Klinefelter Syndrome. A trans woman, Cambell, recently completed gender confirmation surgery along with Charlie, also a trans woman. Dan identifies as genderqueer and Filomena is a straight woman who revealed that she didn’t know anything about the world of gender-fluidity before the show. Howie is a lesbian and Phoenix identifies as ’70 per cent female.’ Markus is gay and Romario is a trans man. Saffron identifies as non-binary and prefers to use they pronouns, along with Tom, a straight man.

One of the biggest moments in the show followed housemate Markus outing Romario. Romario had kept his identity hidden and was only identified when taking his t-shirt off on a beach where other housemates noticed scars following top surgery. From here, the housemates took it upon themselves to gossip and spread the rumours around the house, eventually outing Romario.

Being a cis-female, I cannot speak from experience. However, being a member of the LGBTQ+ has made me extremely disappointed that these individuals found the need to out Romario. Within this time, Romario had found himself getting close to Filomena, who remained oblivious, but Markus took it upon himself to reveal Romario’s identity to Filomena.

Although the moment caused upset through the house, it seemed that by the end of the week-long period, they had managed to sort any issues and fix friendships.

Following the two episodes, Channel 4 formed a ‘debate’ on the show, featuring a panel that included U.S. television personality, Caitlyn Jenner, model and activist Munroe Bergdorf, journalist Ash Sarkar and author Germaine Greer.

Many members of the transgender community, campaigners and allies refused to take part and to watch the discussion. In an open letter to Channel 4, many campaigners including India Willoughby, Owl, Susie Green, Travis Alabanza and Jack Monroe criticized Channel 4 for hosting the debate.

The open letter stated, ‘It is vitally important that trans people are included in the creation of content about trans people, in order to combat problematic aspects and false narratives that may be directly or indirectly perpetuated. We believe that the proposed debate, and the way it is framed, may in fact be counterproductive. We fear that rather than provide nuanced factual discussion, it may instead promote prejudice and misinformation that have negative consequences on the lives of trans people.”

Through the show, a member of the audience was shouting transphobic comments towards the panel. Although Munroe requested for the member of the audience to be removed and stated she was being attacked, security did not escort the individual to leave the building. It took Ash Sarkar, a member of the panel, to reply to the heckler and call for respect from the audience. At the end of the show, the audience member continued to shout transphobic comments. Even on television with a wide group of individuals watching and security nearby, nobody listened to her.

Many people took to social media to complain, disappointed in the way Channel 4 portrayed the show and the transphobic comments used by not only the panel but the audience.

Shaminder Nahal, Channel 4 Commissioning Editor, stated, “This debate will stimulate important and insightful discussion with a wide variety of views from the panel and audience. Issues around gender now have a prominent position in the national conversation, with strong feeling on all sides. Channel 4 is well known for exploring challenging and emotive issues in a fair and balanced way and with this programme we want to help audiences understand and engage in these multi-faceted issues.”

I understand what Channel 4 attempted to do (educating individuals about gender identities) and it is very important, but the ‘debate’ was very difficult to watch, especially in the face of constant transphobic slurs being directed towards the transgender individuals on the panel. There is work that needs to be done in order to progress within the LGBTQ+ community and globally.

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