Time for the media to grow up when reporting on trans issues

This press release from Gender Justice Nevada lays out the issue of how badly journalists have been completely screwing up coverage of transgender and gender non-conforming issues. It’s embarrassing for my profession to be this bad at doing its job.

All I would add to this release is that GJN is an excellent resource in our community for those who are gender queer, non-conforming, transgender, or those who would just like to learn more and become a better ally. Check them out!

Gender Justice of Nevada Asks Media to Commit to Fair and Accurate Coverage of Transgender People

This September marks the 30th anniversary celebration of PRIDE in Southern Nevada. As we continue to build on this month’s celebrations of acceptance and love, we ask that the media across our great state commit to treating LGBTQIA communities with dignity and respect. More specifically, we at Gender Justice Nevada welcome the opportunity to discuss with you the experiences of our transgender communities and how together we are creating a safer Nevada for all.

The media have a long and poor track record of reporting on transgender people, and the coverage surrounding Private Chelsea Manning has brought that lack of fair and accurate coverage into sharp focus. The coverage that we have seen thus far has relied on stereotypical images, contrived confusion over names and pronouns, and an obsession with surgery.

Examples include:

  • USA Today displaying a graphic that outlines several of the surgeries transgender women may elect to undergo, overemphasizing and sensationalizing the role of surgeries in the life of a transgender person when a transgender person’s legitimacy is not determined by medical procedures.
  • The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, NPR, NBC, Fox News, Reuters, and a host of other outlets writing articles that outline the “struggles” they face in referring to Private Manning as Chelsea or choosing a pronoun. More egregiously, The Washington Post, Fox News, and CNN still refuse to honor Private Manning’s preferred name and pronouns.
  • CNN’s Jake Tapper conducting an interview with a close friend of Manning while continually referring to Manning as “Bradley” and also referring to his guest as a “gay man” when she is a transgender woman.
  • The media continuing to disrespect and insult all transgender persons by using phrases like “choose to be a girl.” Shockingly, CNN panelist Richard Herman stated that Manning will “get good practice” as a woman in prison.
  • Fox News offensively teasing a broadcast segment on Private Manning by playing Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like A Lady).”

Transgender persons face tremendous levels of discrimination and violence. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, 53% of anti-LGBT homicide victims in 2012 were transgender women – most were transgender women of color. According to the report “Injustice at Every Turn” – the largest survey to date of transgender persons’ lives:

Transgender people experience unemployment at twice the rate of the general population, with rates for people of color up to four times the national unemployment rate.

  • 90% of transgender people report experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
  • 22% of respondents who have interacted with police reported harassment by police, with much higher rates reported by people of color.
  • Almost half of the respondents (46%) reported being uncomfortable seeking police assistance.
  • 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to 1.6% of the general population.

We at Gender Justice Nevada call on journalists and media outlets to cover all transgender people with the dignity they deserve as human beings. The Associated Press Style Guide states that when referring to a transgender person, “Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals..” GLAAD’s full Media Reference Guide on reporting on transgender people may be found here.

The following are commonly accepted guidelines for covering a transgender person:

  • Always use a transgender person’s preferred name.
  • Whenever possible, ask transgender people which pronoun they would like used. If it is not possible, use the pronoun consistent with the person’s appearance and gender expression.
  • Do not put quotation marks around either a transgender person’s preferred name or the pronoun that reflects that person’s gender identity.
  • Avoid pronoun confusion when examining the stories and backgrounds of transgender people prior to their transition. Try to avoid pronouns when writing about their lives prior to their transition. In Private Manning’s case, she may simply be referred to as Private Manning.

As we in Southern Nevada celebrate pride this September, and as we acknowledge Private Manning’s treatment by media, we implore you to report on transgender persons with dignity and respect. We at Gender Justice Nevada stand with you as partners in these ongoing efforts.

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