Tuesday, September 01, 2009

When It Pertains To Transpeople, Do You Media Peeps Even Read The AP Stylebook?

One of the things I have griped about constantly since the founding of my blog in 2006 is the rampant use of incorrect pronouns by the media when it comes to writing news stories on transgender people.

Before I get started, let me point out what the AP Stylebook, the professional journalist's Bible, has to say about covering transgender people.

transgender-Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.

If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.

Tyli'a looked like a woman, lived her life as one and died as one.

So with that being said, how the hell did Tyli'a Mack become a 'transgender man'?

I know where the misguided usage of this term originated. It came from our scientifically challenged 'christian' wingnuts, who refer to trans women that way in their literature and hate sites.

Newsflash for the scientifically illiterate. A transgender man (or trans man) is a person born in a FEMALE body who transition to male. A transgender woman (or trans woman) is a person born in a MALE body who transitions to female.

Tyli'a Mack is the latest edition to the pathetically long list of transwomen who have paid the ultimate price for being their true selves. About 70% of the fallen transpeople memorialized on the Remembering Our Dead list are transpeople of color.

Tyli'a was stabbed to death August 26 along with another trans person who was critically injured during a daytime incident that occurred in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. has a long history of African descended transpeople not only being killed, but being the centers of media attention dating back to Tyra Hunter's 1995 death after a car accident..

So it's not like the Washington D.C. media isn't familiar with trans people and our issues in Chocolate City. But they, along with other media outlets around the country continue to get the pronouns wrong or horribly mangle the story because of ignorance on transgender issues, their own personal prejudices or a combination of both.

In Tyli'a Mack's case, the media got it horribly wrong.

Christine H. one of my TransGriot readers, e-mailed me August 31 with her observations about the Mack case.

"I watched the original NBC news coverage of the story and I think there's an important aspect that The Sexist left out. In addition to identifying the victims as "two transgendered men" instead of as women, NBC reported that police were investigating the possibility of the women stabbing each other in a fight. In fact, in the report that I saw, that was the only possible motive that NBC gave. It seems unlikely for two people in a fight to cause such major injuries to each other (one resulting in death, the other critically injured) and I can't imagine what gave NBC news that idea."

Nice, they're blaming the victims as well. And if what the NBC affiliate is reporting is correct, shouldn't the D.C. PD be spending their time looking for the waste of DNA who committed this hate crime?

Nope, instead the various D.C. media outlets are engaged in playing a public back and forth blame game with the DC Po-Po's because the DC transgender community is rightfully pissed about how Tyli'a Mack and the other transwoman were disrespected.

But that still doesn't take away the fact that despite clear guidelines for reporting on transgender people, the media continues to get it wrong because cisgender reporters don't ask enough of the right questions.

Maybe it's time for the media to do what they did back in the day. When they realized they needed Black reporters to cover the Civil Rights Movement and other breaking news in the Black community where White reporters couldn't go, they hired Black reporters to do so.

It's time for media outlets to hire transgender reporters to cover these issues.

Seems like it's the one way we trans people can insure that we won't face the recurrent pronoun problems. In addition, our issues and concerns will get the sensitive, respectful coverage they deserve.

Crossposted to Feministe

1 comment:

Unknown said...

If the style guide has it right and articles keep having it wrong, then the problem really should be fixed by the editors even when the reporters screw it up (and if the paper's style guide disagrees with AP's here, or the editor is a hater, the editor could make it wrong even when a reporter gets it right). I agree that there should be some transgender reporters working this (to, as you say, ask enough of the right questions (and not need to get a Gender 101 education on the fly while also learning the facts of the case)), but felt the need to point out that the editors have even less excuse than cisgender reporters for letting pronoun/nomenclature bogosity slip through.

Let's lean on the reporters, but don't let the editors off the hook. (You may already be ahead of me on that; it wasn't clear from this post.)