A trans porn actor has said that she was interviewed by the BBC for its now infamous anti-trans story, despite the journalist’s claim that no one with an opposing viewpoint would speak to her.
On 26 October, the BBC published an article headlined, “We’re being pressured into sex by some trans women“, a one-sided story platforming multiple voices that claimed cisgender lesbians are being coerced into sex by trans women.
Those interviewed by journalist Caroline Lowbridge included anti-trans pressure groups Get the L Out and LGB Alliance, as well as transphobic porn star Lily Cade, who after the article’s publication posted an extremist manifesto on her blog calling for trans women to be “lynched”.
In her story, Lowbridge wrote that she had “contacted several… high profile trans women who have either written or spoken about sex and relationships”, but claimed: “None of them wanted to speak to me.”
Now, a trans porn performer and activist is disputing this claim.
Chelsea Poe told PinkNews that she was contacted via Twitter on 2 September 2020 by Lowbridge, who asked if she would do an interview about the “cotton ceiling”.
The “cotton ceiling” is a concept coined by porn star and trans activist Drew DeVeaux, and describes the inherent prejudice that many cisgender lesbians have against trans women, reducing them to their genitals, even they are outwardly accepting. It is not about an individuals sexual decisions, which should only every be made freely and with full, enthusiastic consent.
PinkNews has seen screenshots of direct messages that verify Poe and Lowbridge discussed an interview on this date.
Poe agreed to the interview, despite the toxic discourse that surrounds the term, because she saw the interview as an opportunity to discuss trans inclusion in the porn industry.
The next day, she and Lowbridge conducted the interview via Zoom.
“I really tried to focus on my industry, because I believe it’s really about the systemic discrimination, rather than me trying to explain anyone else’s sexuality,” she said.
“Like the policy that put trans women into a marginalised niche for so many years, that was filled with stereotypes and slurs.
“Luckily the industry has become more inclusive over the years due to people like myself pushing for trans inclusion and getting rid of slurs on trans porn sites.”
But Lowbridge, she said, kept bringing the conversation back to “questions [that] had to do with dating in the real world, in reference to going on dates with people not into trans women”.
Poe continued: “I told her that I’m in a serious, committed relationship. I also disclose being trans on any dating sites because with my job, I’m naked all over the internet.
“She pushed further and I tried to explain that my job is people finding me attractive, so I’ve never really had a issue with that… It feel extremely baiting and like she had the narrative of the article written before we talked.”
She added: “I felt so truly gross after it… I’ve had some experience with press interviewing me that was extremely baiting, but this was truly an extreme example.”
When the story was finally released, Poe’s first reaction was that she was glad she wasn’t included for fear of “more targeted harassment from TERFs”, which she has faced online for years.
But when Cade’s violent and transphobic “manifesto” was released days later, met with silence from the BBC, she felt it was “important to share what was behind the process”.
The claim that trans women did not “want to speak” to Lowbridge is “entirely untrue”, Poe said.
“I have the DMs prove to me they talked to me about the piece about the cotton ceiling.
“I would love for them to release my video interview, but I’m assuming it doesn’t fit their narrative.
“I have many sex worker friends who completely ignore the press, it might be my Midwestern politeness to give the press a chance, but this time I was extremely disappointed with everything.”
A BBC source has confirmed to PinkNews that Lowbridge interviewed Poe, and said that her contribution was judged not to be relevant to the story.
A BBC spokesperson added: “Many people were interviewed ahead of publication and not all were included in the article. That is standard journalistic practice.”
Trans porn performer Chelsea Poe says she warned the BBC about sexual assault allegations against Lily Cade
Chelsea Poe and Lily Cade crossed paths early in Poe’s porn career.
In a podcast on the BBC article, Poe explained that at the beginning of her career she was already landing roles in lesbian and BDSM porn.
She met Cade when the porn star and director attended a party hosted by Poe and they followed each other on social media. Poe decided to try her chances and reach out to Cade to see if she could be featured in one of Cade’s films.
The request soon spiralled into a public Twitter row over trans inclusion in lesbian porn, which resulted in Poe receiving a pile-on of transphobic abuse which lasted for months, and left her suffering with PTSD.
Since then, Cade has ducked out of the porn industry, following a string of accusations of sexual assault by multiple women.
She referenced the allegations in one of her blog posts, writing: “If a rapist is someone who is accused in public of sexual misconduct, then I am a rapist… If a rapist is someone who pays women to have sex that they don’t actually want to have, then I am a goddamn f**king rapist, and your world is run by rapists.”
Poe said that she made the BBC aware of the allegations against Cade, but that there was not “much of a reaction” from the journalist.
Poe told PinkNews: “I truly never thought topics surrounding my early porn career and interactions with Lily Cade would ever lead to this international news story about her posting terrorist threats.”
Activists are calling for the BBC to admit that its piece was ‘biased towards transphobic rhetoric’
When the BBC article was initially published, an open letter by Trans Activism UK, criticising the article for suggesting that “transgender women generally pose a risk to cisgender lesbians in great enough numbers that it is newsworthy” when the reality is this is “a matter of incredibly rare, isolated experiences”.
In light of the blog posts from Lily Cade, in which she explicitly called for execution of trans women, the group has issued an addendum to the letter.
It said: “Either through malice or incompetence, the BBC’s piece has platformed violent and dangerous people as impartial subjects on trans people as a wider group.”
Poe’s story, it said, suggests that the BBC “deliberately covered up the context” of the abuse accusations, “and lied when stating that trans women contacted for comment did not respond”.
Trans Activism UK continued: “If true, this means that the article’s lack of Lily Cade context was deliberate rather than through error or ignorance… further proving that this article was wholly intended to specifically target and paint all trans women as likely predators.
“It also suggests that a quote from a trans woman, where she stated that she discloses her trans status because not doing so is dangerous for many trans women, was deliberately omitted from the piece.
“In our open letter, one of our criticisms was that no trans women were able to give that specific context, and it seems that the BBC had a quote to that effect but decided not to use it in the article.
“It is clear that the BBC platformed a person with violently dangerous anti-trans views, and has not been quick to act in the wake of the manifesto being posted.”
The group is demanding “a full and appropriate response to our criticisms of the above mentioned article”, and added: “The BBC cannot continue to stand behind the sentiment that its piece is impartial, properly researched, and not biased towards clearly transphobic rhetoric.”
A BBC spokesperson admitted to PinkNews that “an admission of inappropriate behaviour” by Lily Cade “should have been included in the original article”.