Ah, the BBC. The gift that keeps on giving…
More wisdom has come down from Olympus once again (or at least from some BBC committee), ready to be inflicted on the rest of us. Apparently BBC staff are now being ‘asked’ to use non-binary language to transgender colleagues, by referring to “they” or “them”, rather than “he” or “she”. Hmm. A student of language would wonder why plural pronouns, previously the pretty-much exclusive right of singular monarchs (‘we are not amused’) is to be applied to this tiny proportion of the population.
Apparently this action is being taken to ‘ensure that the corporation does not develop a heteronormative culture’. Er, right. Let’s look at that for a moment, shall we?
Norm (according to http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary):
- a set standard of development or achievement usually derived from the average or median achievement of a large group
- a pattern or trait taken to be typical in the behaviour of a social group
- a widespread or usual practice, procedure or custom
Ok. That’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? As far as I’m aware, nobody is saying that a person cannot be transgender – merely that such individuals will usually make up a small proportion of the larger population. It follows therefore that their behaviours (sexual and/or gender-wise in this case) be different from the majority – from whom the ‘norm’ derives. A norm by no means forbids variants. It simply describes the average, the mean, the mode of behaviour, belief, appearance and so on of any given population.
‘Heteronormative culture’ is therefore likely to remain the accepted standard for the majority of any population – simply because it is the cultural behaviour of the majority. Problems with that, anyone?
A Freedom of Information request in 2017 revealed that 11.5 per cent of BBC managers and 10.6 per cent of BBC staff identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual. That’s compared to only 1.7 per cent of the UK population reporting as such in the Office of National Statistics figures current at that time.
So it would seem that the BBC is doing quite well in being a welcoming and inclusive employer, wouldn’t it? Why then the need to start asking staff to change their language as well?
But wait! There’s more! Not only should staff use ‘non-binary’ pronouns when referring to trans colleagues, but those who are heterosexual will be ‘asked’ to wear badges identifying themselves as ‘straight allies’ in an attempt to ‘help’ their LGBT colleagues.
In an organisation that is already clearly highly supportive of the LGBT community, what more do BBC thought police want? Mandatory donated blood to help struggling colleagues? What is going to happen to BBC Joe or BBC Jane who don’t want to wear such a badge? Will they be deemed ‘anti-trans’ or ‘anti-LGBT’?
Perhaps the biggest issue here is that, once again, the activists among us are failing to distinguish between an ideology and an individual. Does this wonderful, inclusive, welcoming badge actually differentiate between being an ally of a person and being an ally of an ideology? Has it escaped BBC management that staff can be perfectly kind, polite, supportive and friendly to trans and LGBT colleagues without actually supporting their lifestyle from an ideological or religious perspective? Are the practising Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs and Hindus who work at the BBC going to be required to wear these virtue-signalling badges if the message goes against their beliefs?
Gay cake, anyone? It’s only last week that the Supreme Court ruled for freedom of conscience – nobody should be required to propagate a belief that goes against their conscience. I note that the BBC did not make great play of this event at the time (can’t imagine why not) but there it is. If Christian bakers don’t have to make cakes promoting same sex marriage, Muslim publishers don’t have to print cartoons of Mohammed and Jewish bookshops don’t have to sell books denying the Holocaust, how can BBC employees be ‘asked’ to wear badges proclaiming their alignment with an ideology that may clash with their own beliefs?
Simples – you don’t ‘force’ anyone, you just ‘ask’ them. That way, you can identify the objectors without looking bad yourself. Bring on the legal challenges.