Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Gender Identities Spark Controversies

Julianne Mobilian

                                   Image via queerstoryfiles.blogspot.com

The Conflict
When it comes to being reported in media outlets like newspapers or magazines, people who identify as transgender do not get nearly the correct recognition they deserve. In the recent and very eye-opening New York Times article, "'He'? 'She'? News Media Are Encouraged to Change" written by Christine Huaghney, she points out instances in which this behavior is becoming the norm and why some media outlets choose to represent people who are transgender as the way that person would like to be referred to, or why the media outlets choose not to.

The Debates
Each side offers a compelling argument. Transgender people want to be identified with their new identity the second they feel they have become that gender, not the second they have reconstructive surgery that physically declares them a man or a woman. The old saying, "Gender isn't just what's between your legs, it's what's between your ears too" really rings true here. Gender isn't just a physical state of being, it's also an emotional state of being, which news media outlets are having a hard time grasping in light of recent events. It should go without saying that transgender people should be referred to the way they want to be referred to, on their own terms, NOT the media's terms. It's a bit unethical to write a story about someone and then botch that person’s gender. Their feelings and desires need to be taken into some heavy consideration when a piece about them is being written.

On the flip side of the issue, media outlets tend to shy away from the subject altogether, rather than addressing it head-on. Many refer to a transgendered person as the physical gender that that person currently identifies with at the time of the story. Either that or they use gender-neutral pronouns. The latter seems to be the stance the majority of organizations are favoring. This is because, as they stated in the article, they don’t want to confuse readers, especially if it is someone who is famous or well-known within the news realm. It is a matter of providing continuity for their readers. They also don’t want to push buttons, as it is a controversial topic that has only recently come to light. It is their ethical duty to provide fluent and trustworthy news to their readers, so it is a topic that can be argued both ways.

The Decision 
Ultimately though, after reading through both sides of different arguments, I think that it should be up the transgendered person to decide how they should be identified, and not the media. It’s like stripping them of their rights and identity as a human being.

News media should not quietly tiptoe around the subject either. Using gender-neutral pronouns is pretty much a cop out. It’s a progressive century now, and the media needs to get with it. This article explains how violence inflicted on persons of the transgender community is worsened by the damage caused when reporters don’t specify the gender the victim slain identified with. It is belittling, especially in death, to not correctly identify the victim the way the victim would have wanted to have been identified as and, ultimately, remembered. Journalists have come a long way since the foundations of journalism, but there’s still work to be done. This website provides a great way for journalists to become more progressive in this controversial area.

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