Louis Theroux admits regret over how he addressed trans inmate

Louis Theroux has admitted that he regrets his interactions with a transgender prisoner during filming of his documentary Life Behind Bars. 

The documentary, which first aired in 2008, saw Louis head to North Carolina to spend two weeks with the inmates of San Quentin State Prison. 

During his investigation into the over-population of the jail, and how it affects those who are currently residing there, Louis is introduced to Deborah, who started transition after arriving in the prison. 

But fast forward 12 years, and he’s said that, now, he would’ve been more considerate of how to address her. 

‘There’s moments where because of the nature of sensitivities now, and how much more educated we are, the conversation would take place in a different way,’ he told UniLad. 

Saying the inmate’s transition status wasn’t disclosed to him ahead of time, Louis was shocked when he arrived to meet a man, only to find out that she was actually transgender. 

‘I arrive at the cell and I’m told that this person is called Deborah,’ he recalled. ‘And Deborah comes out with long hair and with a kind of traditional feminine affect.

‘And I say, do you consider yourself a woman? And she says, “yes, I’m a trans woman now”.’ 

‘It is completely in the context of the time, kind of unexceptionable exchange, but now I would have phrased it properly,’ Louis admitted. 

‘“Do you identify as a woman?” Or you use a different language.’ 

Louis’s admission comes as he prepares for a retrospective on his career titled Louis Theroux: Life On The Edge. 


Starting from Sunday, Louis will be going through his life as a documentary presenter over the past 25 years, and the dangerous situations he’s found himself in. 

He will also reunite with some of the people he met during the course of his filmmaking. 

Louis Theroux: Life On The Edge airs Sunday at 9pm on BBC2.

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