Thursday, November 4, 2010

How it's done

Dear Mainstream News Media,

In light of your repeated failures when reporting on news stories involving transgender individuals, I would like to bring to your attention a recent story found on a college basketball blog, of all places. The post can be found here. As you read through the story you will notice some things that the author does rather effortlessly:
  1. uses the correct pronouns consistently, all the way through
  2. never refers to the individual's "real" or "actual" sex or gender
  3. recounts the individual's history in a respectful way that situates the person in his relationship with gender without making it salacious or sensationalizing his story
  4. positively notes the respectful way that the individual's school has responded to him
  5. never suggests that the individual has some sort of political or sexual agenda motivating his gender transition
  6. talks about the individual's feelings about his original gender assignment in a straight-forward way that encourages compassion and preserves his dignity.
None of these things appear to have required a superhuman effort on the author's part. None of this required arduous editing and rewriting. Perhaps this is because the author appears to have simply approached the story as if it were about a real human being, deserving of just treatment and human compassion.

I propose that this approach could serve as a model to guide you in your coverage of news stories involving transgender people. Just think of them as humans, and treat them with the kind of respect that you want to be treated with. I promise you, it's not that hard.

Thank you for your time,



  1. I agree that this author handles the subject well.

    The thing is, I suspect that Kye is experiencing the relatively good treatment he's experiencing because 1) transgender men generally (but not always) fare a little better than their counterparts, and 2) he hasn't tried to change anything, like playing on the men's team or beginning a physical transition (if that's his ultimate goal). I think the response on the GW side is a kind of patting him on the head for being a good little trans man and not shaking things up too much.

    Those issues aside, I it is refreshing to see the story reported as if it's a story about a real human being. Amazing how little we'll settle for, huh?

  2. Anonymous11/04/2010

    Yeah, this is definitely not an ideal situation, but the coverage of it in that post is good.

  3. Minerva11/05/2010

    It's not like it's rocket science - be civil and humane. Period. Somehow we have a cultural exemption of that rule when dealing with binary-transgressive individuals.

  4. feralCat11/05/2010

    I think the reason the media has such an issue with this is because our culture does. We just don't have any conception of a person wanting to change from their assigned gender or sex without having some sort of perverted sexual agenda. That's the source of the bathroom hysteria. I'm wondering why nobody is freaking out about having him in the same locker room?