Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Transgender People In The Media - Media Transphobia and Proper Reporting Standards

Gender Dysphoria is a serious medical condition that causes a person to identify in every way possible with the physical sex opposite of what they were born. Past oversimplified terminology that has been quite well-meaning has said "trans persons were simply born in the wrong body". In this day and age, we now know more about this condition than we did in decades past.Up until recent times, just like homosexuality, the clinical working group at the American Psychiatric Association thought that trans persons were suffering from a serious mental illness. The APA has reviewed the evidence for and against this thinking, and has come to the conclusion that no such empirical evidence exists to support the notion that trans persons are mentally ill at all. The 5th generation of the APA diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders will list Gender Dysphoria only as a medical problem, not as a mental illness.

This author once worked for a transgender radio station Director who was born female, but identifies as a male, this is known as a trans*male or transman. Someone who was born male, but identifies as a female is properly called a trans*woman or transwoman. My experience working for a trans*man happened at a Canadian station and was quite literally the best experience I have ever had, and the station Director was a pleasure to work with and work for! Jules Sherred runs a rather creative, fun, and well known station called "The Look 24/7". Jules openly identifies as transgender.

Shortwave America originally had an audio show planned on this topic, but, that will come at a later time. At one time or another, all of us have either seen or heard a trans person on TV or on the radio. There are even transgender amateur radio operators! The Rainbow Amateur Radio Association  supports LGBT persons and helps provide a sense of community, advocacy, and fosters an environment whereby LGBT amateur radio operators and their supporters can enjoy the science of communications. Like other radio clubs, RARA offers operating awards to those licensed amateur operators who meet the criteria for those awards.

 Do You Have a Male or Female Brain?

Dr. Daphna Joel, Ph.d., has performed groundbreaking research that shows us the difference between sex and gender, and how the brain is structured in regards to sex and gender.  Professor Joel received her Ph.D. in psychology in Tel-Aviv University, and joined the faculty of TAU in 1998. Prof. Joel is presently the head of the Psychobiology graduate program at the School of Psychological Sciences, and a member of the Sagol School of Neuroscience.

Prof. Joel's research interests focus on understanding the involvement of basal ganglia-thalamocortical circuits in normal and abnormal behavior, using mainly animal models of psychopathology. More recently Prof. Joel has expanded her work to research questions related to brain, sex and gender, and in particular the complex interplay between sex and environment in the development of psychopathology.

Dr. Joel and other medical, psychiatric, and psychological researchers have shown us that a person can be born with what we see as either male or female anatomy, but there IS a difference between what we see and how a person is really born in regards to the separation of sex and gender, in that gender is in the brain, not the genitalia. Physical sex is only what we see, not how we experience gender. Biological chromosomes can be any combination of xx, xy, xxx, xxy, etc. While a person's genes may say they are male or female, biology science is striving to find out why someone born with what can only be explained as typically male or female chromosomes can literally NOT be either of these designations. Dr. Joel's research is one of many other discoveries that has paved the way for more studies to be done. 

Recent Wave of Transphobia At Radio Stations

On June 5th, 2013, the Sacramento Press reported on an incident that occurred at KRXQ Radio 98.5FM, also known as "98Rock", During a May 28th, 2013 discussion, show presenters Rob Williams and Arnie States read from a news article describing a male child in another state as being permitted to enroll in school as a female. States said he would harm his son if ever he found out his son identified as trans, and as the show went on, Williams and States took calls from listeners during which they bashed trans people with different slurs, accusing trans people of being attention seekers. 

Their third presenter on the show, Dawn Rossi, because disgusted and attempted to accurately educate her show co-workers on what it means to be transgender, saying, "Those that really have this, it is a struggle for them! It is heart-wrenching for them! They have always felt like a different sex! And they've never felt like themselves." Here is the audio from this show.

The two male halves of this show only defended their behavior and their on-air dialogue, never publicly acknowledging the harm they did. In response to the duo's refusal to act in a civilized manner and to hold themselves responsible for dangerous conduct, the following happened: 

"While it was heartening for us to hear that Rob Williams and Arnie States did not advocate for violence against children," GLAAD reported on their blog, "they also did not hold themselves accountable for their dehumanizing and defamatory words used to describe transgender children in last week’s show."

That didn't sit well with advertisers either. Shortly after Wednesday's show aired, the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group wrote an e-mail to GLAAD announcing they were pulling their advertisement-based support for KRXQ. "We found the segment to be offensive," a statement released by the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group read, "and as a result, we are pulling our Snapple advertising from the station."

This show has paid FCC fines in the past for "On-Air Indecency" in 2004, the show was fined $55,000.

Also on June 5th, 2013, Trans Advocate reported on a story originating on the SirusXM Satellite Radio provider Martine Rothblatt, a publicly "out" transwoman, bought XM satellite radio in 2008 and re-named it as SiriusXM. A show called "Lex and Terry" aired a segment during which they openly advocated for the cold-blooded murder of trans persons in their version of a defense for "Trans Panic". On Friday (06/03/2013), the Lex and Terry show began discussing this issue saying, There’s a teen that shot a tranny after finding out that it was a man after they had a little sexual encounter. A co-host responded, I don’t blame him. I would have shot his ass too.

Here is the audio from that show:

This show segment was badly timed, as there have recently been two violent hate incidents against two different transwomen, Coco McDonald and Ms. Victor Diego. Both of these women were attacked violently only for living in their true gender and sex.

Just prior to these incidents, Ramblin' Ray Stevens and his co-presenter, Lisa Dent were heard by their listeners on April 29th, 2013 going on an anti-trans rant during which Lisa Dent said she would "never allow" her child walk around the house in her heels, while claiming to be old fashioned. This rant was in response to public panic and false charges of child harm over Celine Dion disclosing that her 2 year old son loves to play around the house in her high heel shoes

Lucy Meadows and the Print Media Fisaco - Coroner Shames Media For Lucy's Death

Lucy Meadows was a School Teacher in the U.K. when she was introduced by way of a formal letter from her school to the parents and families of her school. The letter was clear that Lucy underwent a gender transition to include gender re-assignment surgery. "Mr Upton has recently made a significant change in his life and will be transitioning to live as a woman," wrote the head, Karen Hardman, in a letter that made headlines in the national press. Mr. Littlejohn, a reporter at the U.K. Daily Mail, ran with the story with great irresponsible fervor, creating what has been known as nothing short of character assassination. Lucy Meadows committed suicide, and a U.K. Coroner's Inquest found great evidence of shameful behavior by the media in Lucy's case. The coroner literally shamed the media in public. Shortly after Lucy's death, the town turned against the media with great anger.

Proper Reporting Rules For Transgender News Coverage

The Associated Press maintains a Style Book that lays out the proper reporting guidelines to follow when reporting on various subjects.  Transgender issues and the people that experience them are: trans identified persons, their friends, families, co-workers, fellow students, teachers / professors, etc.

The open transphobia in the media is one trigger that moves people with pre-existing culpability and prejudices towards murdering trans persons. When trans persons are violently attacked or murdered, they can be doubly victimized. GLAAD has this resource that gives all of us reporters an easy way to understand HOW to properly report on trans victims of crime, and can even be used to conduct common-sense everyday reportage of trans persons in the media spotlight.   

Recent Television Coverage

Society is becoming more and more educated in these times, and this has led to schools and even private family homes like yours or anyone else's, becoming even more supportive and attentive to their children. We now know that being born transgender is not uncommon and not unheard of. Katie Couric did a show this year that explored the lives of children who transitioned genders prior to their 18th birthdays.

International Media and Transgender Journalists

International Media Organization, Bianet, printed a piece about Turkey's FIRST Transgender Television reporter. "Activism is not only about demonstrating on the street. It is important to show that 'others' are also capable of doing meaningful things. Therefore, I am marching with my flag in the hand," Michelle Demishevich, Turkey's first trans television reporter, told bianet

Michelle Demishevich

Eden Lane is a reporter for her own show, called, "In Focus With Eden Lane"

Eden Lane
 The Huffington Post published an article about Eden, called, "Eden Lane, Transgender Broadcast Journalist, Discusses Her Career, Being A Role Model And More"

The ABC News Corporation recently saw the gender transition of their long-time reporter, Don Ennis from male to female, and now Don is Dawn. This article by Business Insider tells the basic details. 

Dawn Ennis
“Today I begin anew," she begins. "Please understand: This is not a game of dress-up, or make-believe. It is my affirmation of who I now am and what I must do to be happy, in response to a soul-crushing secret that my wife and I have been dealing with for more than seven years, mostly in secret." - Dawn Ennis

The story told by sports reporter, Bobbie Dittmeier, about her transition from male to female is not a rare set of details to hear.  Resources for those transitioning gender are not abundant, and those with a public spotlight on them face even harsher circumstances. The fact is that it is not uncommon for ANY trans person to attempt gender transition more than once, and finally be successful. 

Bobbie with her friend, Beth

Here is a quote from Bobbie: 

"I think things are a lot different than when I first attempted [ the transition ] 15 years ago," Dittmeier said. "I think the younger generation has less of a hang-up with things. I work with a lot of younger people, people in their 20s, and to my knowledge, [ being transgender ] has never been an issue."
Dittmeier and sportswriter Christina Kahrl, of Chicago, are the only two transgender sports journalists in the U.S.

Bobbie also says:

"People here have been very nice overall, but they don't fully accept me," said Dittmeier. She noted that many locals still call her Bob and use male pronouns when talking to, and about, her. "That doesn't particularly bother me, but it is a reminder," she said.

"One of my great disappointments, one of the definite things that I've learned since I've transitioned, is how little everyone else really wants to know about it. They don't ask questions. My family doesn't even ask questions."


Shezow is a cartoon series that has aired in Canada and Australia. The protagonist is a male child who cleverly turns into a female superhero. Comics Alliance has this piece on Shezow to introduce the U.S. public to the show concept. Comics Alliance says "Created by Obie Scott Wade, SheZow is the story of Guy Hamdon, a young kid who inadvertently takes on the mantle of his late aunt's celebrated superhero alter ego. Some in the media have dubbed it a "transgender" kids' show, because some in the media like to use transgenderism to try to provoke outrage regardless of the social cost, but as it happens SheZow is not about transgenderism at all. Guy is a boy who takes on a female cover identity. He does not become female. He does not identify himself as female. Crucially, he does not want to be female. He is defintively not transgender; he is, in his own words, a dude. He's a dude whose superhero identity has long hair and a skirt. Like Thor."

Media Reactions From The Far Right
Far right, religious, political groups such as "One Million Moms", who have much less than one million members, have knowingly parroted misinformation that is meant to stigmatize and shame those with a valid medical condition. Recently, O.M.M. went so far as to label gender dysphoria and gender confusion as a "sin" even though they privately realize, but will not publicly acknowledge that their beliefs should never be pushed on others or used to persuade the media from accurate reportage on transgender issues. The O.M.M. organization also realizes but will not publicly acknowledge that there is a conflict between their beliefs and what hard science shows us.

Their line follows that of the scientifically discredited repairative therapy. Here is that quote directly from the organization:  "Thousands of Christian counselors and pastors are available all across the country to help anyone who is struggling with any kind of sin including homosexuality, gender identity disorder, gender confusion or gender dysphoria." We have yet to actually see ONE confirmed medical problem that has been done away with by practice of religion. There are simply no confirmed reports of this happening.

Shortwave America went looking for any scripture that says anything about these issues being "sinful" just to be fair in this piece. When all the religious material is examined properly in its context, there are no such references to these medical problems as sin. What this proves, combined with the above statement from Comics Alliance is that far right groups such as O.M.M. are creating harmful propaganda that is fueling violence. 

Proper Reporting On The Gender Spectrum

Many people conflate being transgender with being gay or lesbian, also as seen with almost every case of bi-phobia and inaccurate comments on bisexuality, transgender people are NOT confused, and most trans people are straight. That is the vast majority of transmen are attracted to females, and the vast majority of transwomen are attracted to men. As highlighted above, GLAAD has a reference and the A.P. has a style book that tells reporters proper guidelines for gender spectrum reporting

When reporting about gay, lesbian, and bisexual people, it is important to remember that scientific advances have been made, and we know more today than we did a long time ago. Scientists have found epigenetic factors that may possibly be the "switch" that tells a person that they are gay. This is mentioned here to help separate sexual orientation from gender identity. As shown above in the section featuring Dr. Daphna Joel, sex and gender are separate from each other. This means that sexual orientation and gender identity are also separate. 

Transman = male pronouns: he, his, etc. 

Transwoman = female pronouns: she, her, her's, etc. 

Transgender names: the name a trans person uses IS his or her real name. Their birth name is of no concern to anyone for any reason. 

Anatomy questions: Would you like it if someone asked you about YOUR genitalia? So, don't do it to a trans person! 

Surgical status: again, none of anyone's business unless the trans person voluntarily discloses such, and even then, you keep it to yourself! Not every trans person wants or needs surgery. Some trans persons want and / or need surgery, but cannot have it for a long list of reasons mostly involving cost or medical problems that stand in their way.

Hormone treatment: again, none of anyone's business. Some trans people don't want or cannot have chemicals for a long list of reasons. 

Is it ok to talk about a trans person's past life in an article, audio, or video piece? The short answer is NO!

Is it ok to ask sexual questions, such as: well, how do you have sex? NO! Reporters do NOT ask these questions, it isn't any of your business!