Sean Kosofsky

Bad Trans News Coverage in MI

Filed By Sean Kosofsky | February 27, 2008 10:34 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: media coverage, Michigan, Todd Heywood, trans, transgender

One of the more prominent GLBT reporters in Michigan, Todd Heywood, has posted a good piece about recent insensitive news coverage in Michigan on transgender issues. Most of which we have worked on at Triangle Foundation. Here is the link to Michigan Messenger for the news.

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Michigan press is not the only culprits, The story about a murdered transwoman in the Bronx also referred to her as a "man in a dress", and used male pronouns.

The press seems to be following the mainstream, and goes out of its way to further discriminate and marginalise the trans community. It is as offensive for trans folk as if they reffered to gays as fags, or blacks as negros.

To refer to a transgender man as a woman, or a transgender woman as a man, is one of the most disrespectful, annoying, and hurtful attacks on that person's sense of self.

The analogy closest to home is very simple.

Consistently call a woman born woman "sir". Call a man born man "miss". Refer to a woman as "he" or "him". Or a man as "she" or "her". Watch their reactions. They become highly agitated and confused as to why you are questioning or insulting their own sense of gender. It is highly offensive.

It is no different for those who are transgender.

The next time "John Q. Reporter" refers to a transgender woman as a "man in a dress", ask him if he would like to be referred to as a "woman in a suit". Ask him if he would be offended if his co-workers referred to him as "she".

Then ask him why he feels that it is acceptable to treat others in a manner that is so offensive - particularly if the person is deceased. Transgender perceptions of self-gender are no less sensitive than his own. If anything, they are even stronger. A transgender individual will "walk through fire" to be perceived in the gender with which they associate. He takes that perception for granted.

What was the point in crafting AP Stylebook rules that go over coverage of stories about transgender people if you aren't going to use them?

Unfortunately, the press only reflects popular attitudes of the public. This points out the need for a lot of education on our part to get the word out.

It's my belief, that too often those of us who can do the education spend a lot of time preaching to the choir. If the only people we feel comfortable talking to are our friends and allies, we aren't going to do much educating.

Maybe it's time go get our of our comfort zones, and have some discussions with people who have no clue what our lives are like. Sure, it's difficult, but sometimes it's necessary. One or two phone calls or e-mails to a newspaper or tv station might not make a lot of difference, but 50 or 100 would. It doesn't help a lot to complain on Bilerico. Contact the papers and tv stations and complain. That's how we change things.