This morning a friend contacted me to share her disgust that a local radio program was doing a sketch bit about "trannies" - it seems that they were guessing the biological gender of a photo array of sex workers. Yep, that's what passes for morning entertainment in Pittsburgh.
Before you ask, yes, I did contact GLAAD.
This isn't the first offense. I've tangled with some of these entertainment professionals in the past, usually via social media when they use slurs like "tranny" "homo" or even "that's so gay." Typically, this results in their listeners attacking me, but I think its worth it. Now the on-air folks actually have engaged me without resorting to more slurs.
Their defense is typically "I have friends" or "I talk about on the air" or "If you knew me, you wouldn't say that."
Well, that's the whole point. I don't know you because you present yourself as a radio personality, not my new BFF. You are a character, perhaps a character being fleshed out and exploring these issues. Perhaps a character that doesn't know any better. Perhaps a character who does indeed have gay friends (it is typically "gay friends" realistically.)
But slurs aren't open for public opinion polls. When I as a member of the LGBT community engage you in a discussion about the topic, why doesn't my opinion at least compare to the opinion of your friends? Rest assured, I can bring more people to the table who have strong opinions on the use of "tranny" and your friends would be on the losing side of that numerical equation. So why not listen to me and consider that maybe your "gay friends" aren't giving you the whole picture?
This happens with mainstream media, too. When I've questioned media reporting on LGBT issues, I have had trained and seasoned journalists respond "If you knew me ..." Again, I don't need to know you to expect professionalism when it comes to your work. I know you are a journalist so inform yourself on the appropriate terminology.
Radio personality or field reporter, you don't get a pass because you "have gay friends." If anything, that's even worse because your ignorant floundering is doing real damage to your friends. Using the term "tranny" reinforces stereotypes that create lethal situations for my friends living in Fayette County, Pennsylvania where they can be fired for being transgender. They can also be treated poorly by law enforcement and have little recourse. Defending the word "faggot" as some sort of endearment or valid critique of a person's character defects contributes to the general public perception. Congratulations - you just validated the reason "It Gets Better" continues to be relevant.
But that doesn't really matter. You don't get to decide. Decency, respect & professionalism should determine your on-air/broadcast conduct. I know a morning show, especially one that glamorizes "freaks," may have non-traditional standards, but there should be some standards. LGBT youth living under Pittsburgh bridges and sleeping on exhaust grates near the churches in downtown Pittsburgh should give you pause.
Ask them what they think. Do they have the luxury of listening to your show when they are being hustled out of the shelter for the day? Or hoping to find a "friend" so they have a place to stay? Or hoping they have bus fare to the local community center's teen night so they can feel normal for a few hours.
Ask them and their "gay friends" Take a few moments to look up the GLAAD Media Guide (there I did it for you) and see if maybe you can go for the tactless humor without the slur.
Let me be clear. Mocking transgender men and women is not okay. And the 9.9% of Pittsburgh's LGBT population who aren't "your friends" are listening.
BTW, it isn't helpful when your listeners tell me that *their* gay friends also validated your slur. Or explain that having a disability is the same thing as being gay so they also get a vote. In what reality ...