BBC Backlash Over Non-Binary Mastectomy Storyline

BBC Backlash Over Non-Binary Mastectomy Storyline
Undated photo of Arin Smethurst as Sah Brockner in "Casualty." (BBC)
Patricia Devlin

Campaigners have hit out at the BBC over a storyline in a popular TV series featuring its first non-binary character talking about undergoing a double mastectomy.

The “Casualty” episode, which aired on BBC1 over the weekend, showed character Sah discussing details of upcoming “top surgery” and being presented with a surprise cake shaped like breasts.

Writing on Twitter, campaign group Safe Schools Alliance described the clip—which includes Sah speaking to paramedic colleagues about the decision—as a “new low” for the broadcaster.

The group also accused the BBC of “continually [appeasing] the ideologues in their organisation rather than engaging with experts who understand child development and safeguarding.”

Female rights charity Fair Play for Women has separately asked if the broadcaster had taken its safeguarding responsibilities “seriously” in choosing to air the episode.

Nicola Williams, a research scientist specialising in human biology who heads the group, has asked the BBC to reveal all details of external groups consulted about the storyline.

In a Freedom of Information request sent to the broadcaster, Williams has asked for “all emails, reports and meeting minutes between the “Casualty” producers/writers/editorial team relating to the risk for ‘imitative behaviour’ (according to Section 5.3 editorial guidelines) that could be caused by the ’top surgery' storyline.”

Williams, who posted a screenshot of the email to Twitter, also asked the BBC for emails, reports and meeting minutes between the TV team and “any BBC staff networks” and “safeguarding team” relating to the storyline’s development of the top surgery storyline.


Some social media users questioned whether the episode was appropriate to air before the 9 p.m. watershed. Others congratulated the BBC on the storyline and praised non-binary trans actor Arin Smethurst, who plays Sah, for delivery of the issue.

One wrote: “I love that British soaps continue to reflect the LGBTQ+ community in positive ways (often overlooked for their importance and impact). Well done.”

Another said: “The cromagnon responses to this is why we fight abuse, and will not stop. If they think that this abuse will stop us, or make us run away and hide, they are gravely mistaken.”

Writing for the Metro last year, Arin Smethurst said the role has helped in the discovery of their own sexuality.

“I think that I’ve figured out more about my queer identity than they have when you meet them in the show,” Smethurst said.

“I am familiar and comfy with my sexuality and I’m uncovering new parts of my gender identity at a rapid pace. I am non-binary and also transmasculine, which means that I consider myself to lean more towards masculinity. I’m more boy than anything else, but still not a man.”

Undated photo of Milo Clarke as Teddy (R) and Arin Smethurst as Sah Brockner (L) in "Casualty." (BBC)
Undated photo of Milo Clarke as Teddy (R) and Arin Smethurst as Sah Brockner (L) in "Casualty." (BBC)

Rapped Over Trans Coverage

Last year, the BBC was rapped by its own complaints unit over a 2021 article which claimed some lesbians feel pressured into sex by trans women.
The broadcaster faced widespread accusations of transphobia and protests outside its offices, while also receiving backing from some gender-critical feminists, according to the Guardian.

Following a large number of complaints, the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) ruled that the piece fell beneath the broadcaster’s expected standards in three different ways and has ordered it to be updated.

A statement posted on the BBC said: “The head of the ECU found that the article, though a legitimate piece of journalism overall, fell below the BBC’s standards of accuracy in two respects: the headline gave the misleading impression that the focus of the article would be on pressure applied by trans women, and the treatment of the survey conducted by Get the L Out did not make sufficiently clear that it lacked statistical validity.

“He also found a breach of standards in connection with one contribution to the article (subsequently removed) which he considered to have been appropriately addressed by an update added to the article. The complaints were therefore partly upheld in relation to accuracy and resolved in relation to the deleted contribution.”

The Epoch Times has contacted the BBC for comment.

Patricia is an award winning journalist based in Ireland. She specializes in investigations and giving victims of crime, abuse, and corruption a voice.
Related Topics