Transsexual-twist reality show under fire in U.K.

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com November 01 2003 12:00 AM ET

A reality TV game show that tricks a group of men into winning the affections of a beautiful "woman" who is actually a man--what could go wrong? British pay-TV company BSkyB and independent producer Brighter Pictures are facing a threatened lawsuit from six contestants on the show, There's Something About Miriam, who are trying to prevent the program from being broadcast. The contestants are challenging the consent forms they signed before discovering that Miriam, a preoperative transsexual, was not all that she seemed.

A spokesman for the law firm Schillings declined to provide any personal details on the contestants, who are alleging breach of contract, deceit, personal injury, and sexual assault. "The whole point is that they're not identified," the spokesman said. "Six of them went onto this reality TV show on the understanding they'd have to do various tasks to win the affection of a very beautiful woman. After they'd been encouraged to have sexual contact, they found that she was a he--they all found it extremely traumatic." A BSkyB spokesman said the company had not scheduled the show for broadcast. "We have received a letter of complaint."

In a recruitment advertisement for the show, whose working title was Find Me a Man, Brighter Pictures offered "the adventure of a lifetime" with a $17,000 prize to men ages 20 to 35 who "want it all" and are "fit and up for everything." Reality shows increasingly rely on duping their contestants. The show Joe Millionaire depicted a group of young women who thought they were wooing a millionaire who was in fact a construction worker, while Boy Meets Boy featured a man courted by other men only to discover that some of his suitors were heterosexual.

Brighter Pictures is a unit of the production company Endemol, which created such reality shows as Big Brother and Fear Factor. A spokesman for the company declined to comment.