Jack Oakley talks about the trans* character in Waterloo Road and where the BBC went horribly wrong with it
I am going to admit to one of my guilty pleasures, and please try not to judge! I watch Waterloo Road. This school-based drama has been on the BBC since 2006, has won numerous awards and enjoys a viewership of approximately 5 million. Over the years, the show has covered many difficult issues, but when they revealed earlier this year that one of their characters was trans*, I must admit I got very excited; after all this is the BBC and with its large viewership this storyline could have a great impact upon people and their understanding of trans* issues.
This was to be the second time they followed the story of a trans* child, but hopefully this time they would do it correctly. The story followed Kacey, who came out as Robbie, a transgender student transitioning from female to male. The BBC did a reasonable job of showing some of the difficulties faced by a trans* person during the early stages of coming out – from the difficulties with family, through to bullying from some of the more ignorant members of the school.
However, the staff were very supportive, and at first it seemed the BBC may have cracked it and shown the public an insight into the life of a trans* schoolchild. My hopes were so high for this storyline, but then the BBC blew it, and managed to do it in such a spectacularly damaging way it left me very angry. Robbie eventually decides that they are not actually trans*, and that it was all a mistake. This didn’t annoy me as much as you would think: after all, gender identity can be a very confusing twhing for a lot of people, particularly when they are young. What really did annoy me was how this change of heart came about. Robbie is attacked and beaten up, suddenly bringing on the “realisation” that they are actually a girl after all. This is such a dangerous approach, and I hope the BBC realise exactly what they have done. They have implied that being trans* is a phase, and is something that can be beaten out of a person. This is of course complete nonsense, and instead of the storyline encouraging trans* understanding and inclusion, it has given its viewers dangerous ideas, and if even one viewer takes it onboard then the BBC will be responsible for adding to the already horrific number of transphobic attacks that take place all over the country.
I will admit, I had always expected better of the BBC, and thought that they would encourage education and understanding of one of the most persecuted groups in society. But no, they would rather stir up further misunderstanding and potentially, even violence. Unacceptable behaviour, BBC.