Thursday, July 25, 2013

Hey Media Peeps, Trans People Wish To Work With You, Not Fight You

After another media mess up over pronouns that in far too many cases happens with non-white trans people, it's time we trans folks make this point crystal clear to the media 

Trans people wish to work with you to accurately get our stories out there, not fight with you.

As someone whose late father was in the media for over three decades, I witnessed firsthand the power of the media and its ability to shape the perceptions of a marginalized group fighting for visibility, acceptance and understanding. 

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also cognizant of the media's power to mold and shape opinion and galvanize people to action for a human rights struggle.  He said so in an August 1967 speech to the National Association of Radio and Television Announcers.(NATRA).   

I would prefer to have that media power on our side working with the trans community to expand knowledge of it.

But when misgendering, blatant salacious reporting and indifferent to hostile attitudes from media people occur when we trans people point out the instances of problematic reporting and they continue despite having guidelines in the AP Stylebook and other places such as GLAAD, the National Association of LGBT Journalists (NGLJA) easily accessible on the Web that explain how to respectfully report on trans people, we have the right to be highly pissed about it. 

Speaking of the AP Stylebook, what does it say concerning the respectful reporting about transgender people?
2013 covertransgender-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 individuals live publicly.
Translation.  If the transperson in question has acquired the outward physical appearance of a female regardless of the genitalia configuration between their legs, that person is a transgender female and needs to be referred to with feminine pronouns and a feminine name.   If the transperson in question has acquired the outward physical characteristics of a male regardless of the genitalia configuration between their legs, that person is a transgender male and needs to be referred to with masculine pronouns and a masculine name.

Their old birth names that do not fit the person they are now aren't germane in many cases to the story and our 'real name' is what a transperson tells you it is.  Neither is it any business what the genitalia configuration of a transperson is.  You've already done so by mentioning the person is trans given the reader a clue that their genitalia may not match their physical gender presentation. 

Badly written or salacious stories also add to the climate of intolerance and fear that facilitates anti-trans violence and can lead to court cases in which justice is denied to the families of trans murder victims.

We realize that you have a tough job under deadline pressure to get a story out fast, first and accurately.   But the accuracy part is what we are focused on.   Not only is it important for you to tell our stories in the first place, it's vitally important they be told accurately so that we can get justice for our fallen transpeople and start the process of organizing vigils. 

First TV InterviewWhen you misgender transpeople in stories, peddle the 'deception' meme or use old names we don't recognize, that delays the process.  

And yes, we'd like media coverage to happen for the trans community when we have positive things to report in our community and not just during TDOR or when someone gets murdered. 

There are trans people that have fascinating and universal stories to tell, events we organize and conduct that will drive home the point we are engaged members of our various communities. 

Those guidelines aren't that hard to follow.   Following them will get you and your news organization much love and respect in the trans community when doing so.

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