Opinions: Don’t call “her” a “he”

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

When the show Fox and Friends ran a segment on Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Manning of the leaked U.S. intelligence reports fame) two weeks ago, producers chose to introduce the story with Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks like a Lady).” This move sparked widespread criticism and anger at the insensitivity of the news station towards Manning’s announcement that she wished to be identified by her preferred gender.

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

CNN, which is considered more liberal than its Fox counterpart, has also misgendered Manning (and continues to do so) in their coverage of the release of the largest set of restricted documents ever leaked to the public.

The actions of both American media giants go against guidelines set forth by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which state that the media should refer to people by their preferred name and gender. Other media outlets have already switched to correctly identify Manning, but Fox and CNN are among those who continue to disrespect her wishes to be identified as a female.

This is an example of the unique challenges faced by the transgender community. While LGBTQ individuals all face challenges across the globe, the transgender community, in particular, has some of the most violent and deadly treatment directed towards them. This blatant show of inconsideration from a large number of media outlets demonstrates how the rights and treatment of the transgender community are not making the same strides towards equality as the rest of the LGBTQ community.

This is not to say that there have been no moves toward better rights for the transgender community. Just this year, the House of Commons passed a transgender rights bill. The Canadian Press also brought to light the story of 11-year-old Wren Kauffman’s transition from female to male, and how he has helped other students come to terms with their gender dysphoria. In Colorado, 6-year-old Coy Mathis won a civil rights case allowing her to use the girls restroom at school. However, it is a mistake to let these cases of triumph mask how much work is still left to be done.

The working rights and conditions for the transgender community are still an issue despite anti-discrimination laws. According to a report from Vancouver Coastal Health, 49 per cent of transgender people responding to a British Columbia survey reported needing employment services, and evidence indicated that transgender people who are “visibly gender-variant or ‘out’ as transgender” habitually experience discrimination in the workplace.

The Human Rights Campaign — the largest LGBTQ advocacy group in the United States — claims that 44 per cent of transgender adults are underemployed and are nearly four times more likely to have an income under $10,000. The Center for American Progress reports that 90 per cent of transgender workers have experienced, “some form of harassment or mistreatment,” on the job.

Violence against transgender people is also incredibly disproportionate when compared to the rest of the population. An American study revealed that about 50 per cent of transgender adults are survivors of violence or abuse, and 25 per cent have experienced physical, sexual or attempted assault.

These issues all stem from the fact that despite the laws, speeches, and support that people claim to offer the transgender community, the social behavior surrounding them has not yet caught up. Transgender people are facing discrimination across the globe for their decision to acknowledge their gender dysphoria, and the fact that a media organization won’t change that “he” to a “she” in their coverage shows how far they really are from them getting the rights they deserve.

The media has the power to push for positive change in the world, and when they make these careless, shameful errors it not only degrades the individual, but also acts as a dismissal of all the work that’s been put in to make the transgender community an equal part of society.



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