Ombudsman, CBC
P.O. Box Station A
Toronto, Ontario M5W 1E6

By Email:
Dear Mr. LaPointe,
On behalf of Egale Canada’s Trans Committee, Board of Directors and Executive Staff, we are writing to express our shock and disappointment regarding CBC’s documentary “Transgender Kids,” aired January 7th at 10:00 pm EST on The Passionate Eye on CBC News Network.
We applaud the CBC for recognizing the need to foster public awareness and discussions about sex and gender differences. However, the filmmakers’ decision to refer to all trans people featured in the documentary by their biological sex at birth, rather than their self-identified genders, was extremely disrespectful and dismissive. In addition, this was inconsistent with the guidelines for appropriate gender pronoun usage according to such respected media style guides as AP and GLAAD. It is our opinion that the CBC should not have aired this documentary without correcting this insensitive and incongruent narration.
This documentary was particularly damaging given the current political climate facing trans people in Canada. As you may already know, the federal Gender Identity Bill (C-279) is approaching second reading in parliament. This bill seeks to provide equal human rights protections to trans and gender diverse people across Canada in the areas of health care, education, housing, employment and legal and social services. As a result, it is particularly important at this time that trans identities not be misrepresented as “artificial” in respected media, such as the CBC.

Trans people in Canada have a long history of being demonized or rendered invisible. We have been unfairly pathologized as mentally ill, denied our true gendered identities and criminalized, leading to cruel and unusual punishments within the corrections system. Documentaries with insensitive and demeaning narration, such as “Transgender Kids,” although increasingly uncommon, perpetuate the misunderstandings that lead to further discrimination, harassment and violence towards members of our communities. Given the increasing incidence of trans youth being bullied at school and the alarmingly high rates of self-harm and suicide within this demographic, it is unconscionable to continue to exploit and ignore the legitimate experiences of vulnerable trans youth such as those featured in this documentary.
While the video footage and the interviews with trans children/teens, their families and friends demonstrated appropriate respect for those whose sex and gender identities do not correspond with that assigned at birth, the narration of the documentary served to undo this. Throughout, the narrator referred to these youth (and in one instance an adult mentor) by the wrong pronoun (e.g. the trans girls who spoke so candidly about their deep-seated feelings and knowledge of themselves as girls were referred to as “he” and vice versa for the trans boys). Otherwise poignant scenes of trans youth and their families struggling to grapple with, protect, embody and celebrate their gender identities were consistently undermined by de-legitimizing narration. Consequently, films such as “Transgender Kids” and the CBC’s decision to air this documentary do violence to these children and youth who represent thousands of Canadian youth in similar situations. It serves to justify the profound misunderstanding of transsexuality, transgender and Two-Spirit as being abnormal or illegitimate existences. Sadly, this significantly increases the likelihood that the viewing public will incorrectly view these children as victims of “gender confusion” and their parents as horribly misguided.
We respectfully request that the CBC issue a public apology for airing this documentary with the offensive and harmful narration. We also request that any future airings of this and similar documentaries be edited to correct the pronoun usage to correspond appropriately with the gender identity of the subject and in accordance with accepted media style guides. While the AP Stylebook provides a minimum standard for reporting on trans subjects, Egale recommends the Media Reference Guide published by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), freely available at
All responses to this letter may be directed to Helen Kennedy at 416-964-7887 ext. 21 or
Yours sincerely,

Helen Kennedy
Executive Director
Egale Canada Jesse Invik
Egale Trans Committee Dan Irving
NCR Representative
Egale Board of Directors