Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Language of Gender

Meg Omecene

Society has come a long way in working on accepting those who lead a different lifestyle from the norm. The Pope just admonished Catholics for being so hung up on the gay rights issue, more athletes are coming out than ever, and perhaps the most successful talk show host in daytime TV is a proud lesbian. 

However, people still do not know how to talk about transgendered individuals. A recent incident in Pennsylvania showed just how badly the media are trained to handle such delicate situations.

The reporter does not use gender pronouns. The reporter is forced to use the subject's name over and over; it is evident that he does not know how to handle a situation with which he is not usually faced. 

However, as gender issues are becoming more widely talked about, it is only emphasizing how little people know how to talk about them to the masses. 

I think what that while there will be a cultural revolution regarding the language of acceptance, I think there needs to be a standard set, and then the media needs trained in it. When children with special needs were integrated into normal public schools, teachers were not just expected to know how to teach them. In a similar fashion, journalists should not be expected to know how to approach such a delicate subject.
In the case mentioned above, since the the boy is listed on his drivers license as being male, I do not think there should even be a question on how to refer to him. Legally, he is seen as a male in the eyes of the state, so why should he not be referred to as a male in the media?

However, in cases such as this one, lines like “When 11-year-old Wren Kauffman goes back to school this week, he won’t be hiding the fact that he’s actually a girl,” cheapen what could be a very moving and strong piece considerably. But how should a reporter deal with a subject who identifies as one gender, but does not live as that gender?
Wren Kauffman (above) is sparking the conversation about mesia 

Like The New York Times article says, the gender of a person should be the most clear for the readers. It does not make sense for an article about whether or not someone should run as a homecoming king or queen to use opposite pronouns. 

According to Suzanne Dietzel, Women’s and Gender Studies professor at Ohio University, it is proper to refer to someone as the gender with which they identify. 

However, while news has been slow moving about promoting acceptance of transgendered individuals, televisions shows have been active in trying to promote acceptance. In the Netflix hit "Orange in the New Black," a transgendered woman's struggle to receive her hormones humanizes news stories like this one:

(Video courtesy NBC)

The news is behind in this field, but by covering these issues, a culture of acceptability will be promoted.

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