The British Broadcasting Company is under fire after staff complained that the news agency altered a rape victim's quotes to avoid "misgendering" her biological male transgender attacker's pronouns, according to the Times London.
The paper reported that the BBC's diversity team made the "unethical and disrespectful" decision to change a rape victim's quotes in an October 2021 article about lesbian women who feel pressured to have sex and relationships with biological men who present as transgender women.
In the article, one lesbian victim recounted her experiences with a transgender woman who physically forced her to have sex with him after a date and allegedly threatened to ostracize her if she refused.
She discussed the horrifying experience with the BBC using "he" and "him" pronouns; however, the news agency changed those pronouns to "they" and "them" upon publication. The BBC's style guide reportedly dictates that writers use an individual's preferred pronouns in their reporting.
"[They] threatened to out me as a terf and risk my job if I refused to sleep with [them]," the alleged victim's altered quote reads. "I was too young to argue and had been brainwashed by queer theory so [they were] a 'woman' even if every fibre of my being was screaming throughout so I agreed to go home with [them]. [They] used physical force when I changed my mind upon seeing [their] penis and raped me."
According to the Times, the decision was hotly contested at the time, as several senior journalists and other staff argued that altering the pronouns conflicted with BBC's responsibility to produce accurate and unbiased reporting.
"They were originally all male references but the woke bros at the news website wanted to make them female because of misgendering," a source reportedly told the Times, adding, "It's quite shocking. I can't think of any other situation where we would change the words of an alleged rape victim."
Following its publication, the article quickly became subject to a massive number of complaints. More than 20,000 people, including members of the BBC's staff, reportedly signed an open letter accusing the story of being "deeply flawed" and "incredibly dangerous," the Daily Mail reported.
The BBC issued a statement following an ECU ruling on the article last year, stating in part: "While the ECU ruling today rightly confirms the focus of the article was a legitimate area for journalistic scrutiny, it is also a reminder that the precision of our language and the caveats we place around third-party research are very important in our journalism, particularly when covering topics of highly polarised debate. In the light of the ECU ruling, the BBC has now made some amendments to the story to reflect where we got things wrong."
However, in the article's latest version, the altered quote with its "they" and "them" pronouns remains.