Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Media and Its Lack of Understanding with Transgender Issues

By: Emily Mueting

It’s no secret that many people have a hard time understanding transgendered people. While gay and lesbian are now common in our society, as apparent with the laws and television shows, transgendered people are still a mystery to much of the public. People in the news media are no different.

There tends to be confusion when it comes to how to refer to trans people. This was apparent in The New York Times article on Bradley Manning, when he decided that he wants to be referred to as Chelsea. After deciding she was now Chelsea, Manning sparked a conversation among news media on how to refer to her. Among them, The New York Times and the Associated Press used gender-neutral references when referring to Manning and National Public Radio decided to refer Manning as Bradley. The Huffington Post did, however, refer to Manning as Chelsea and she.

Lack of Diversity in Newsrooms
It is clear based on research, that there is a lack of diversity in the newsroom. Nearly 90 percent of newsroom supervisors are White, and employment of minorities at daily newspapers is only 12.37 percent. When you see numbers like this, it is no wonder that reporting on minorities is lacking. That number was solely based on race and skin color, however. If there is that much of a lack of African American, Hispanic and Asian people in the newsroom, it is clear that there is most likely also a lack of LGBT in the newsrooms.

If the people in the newsroom were acquainted with transgender people, or if someone was transgender themselves, they would feel the need to refer to Manning as Chelsea, and while I understand the news sources would need an explanation as to why Bradley is now Chelsea, referring to the person by how they wish to be referred to is very important. No transgendered newsperson would refuse that right to someone. It is very clear that some news sources, including NPR, do not have diverse enough newsrooms if they do not feel obligated to refer to Manning as female.

Daytime Television
While daytime television is not typically considered news media, I do feel that there are aspects of journalism within daytime television, mostly when it comes to interviewing. Maury Povich spends many episodes in a chair with a person or group of people asking questions, and while it is for the entertainment factor, he does use a key journalistic practice. In this video, it is apparent that Maury also suffers when it comes to dealing with transgendered issues on his show, and it shows the lack of diversity on his staff.  If Maury had a transgendered person working for his show, I am sure they would have been opposed to a show where Maury asks the audience for their opinions on if the woman before them is by birth male or female. He also struggles when he asks if the woman is a man or woman. Obviously they are all now female, so in asking the audience, he is offending the woman on the stage (especially if she was born male and the audience is saying that she is a man).

Transgender is a relatively new idea to the public, and while it is difficult for many to understand, the news media needs to work hard to diversify newsrooms and represent this group in our society in a way that does not add shame or hatred to transgendered individuals.  

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