TransNewYorkTimes: A day late and a dollar short

The struggle within the lesbian
community on how to handle the growing number of gender queer individuals has
been going a long time now. It seems, however, through the soap-like Showtime
drama, The L Word, the New York Times has taken notice.
I feel this is yet
another time when I congratulate mainstream press or culture for a
mention of topics important to our community. And while this piece
does a remarkably good job of touching on a lot of the viewpoints in
ongoing gender debate, they lose credibility when they say things like:
"…Brandon Teena, a young Nebraska woman who chose to live as a man."
I realize it is a fine line deciding between self-identification and
community identification etc., which is why they may have chosen to use
the word woman, instead or any other more gender variant term. And yet,
Brandon Teena, even as someone who may not have been absolutely clear
about how he would like to be referred to in mass media, was a person.
And I think that is an essential portion of what some gender-queers,
such as myself, feel is lost in most discussions, let alone press. I
completely understand the power of identity in civil rights struggles
against things like sexism and homophobia. And do I wish more trans
people, as well as gay people in general, felt safe enough to come out
and help the cause of equality. But working toward a more fluid range
of gender-identification is not working against the goals of
lesbianism. It is working toward the freedom of people.

Addendum: It was pointed out to me that this small NYT sentence, not only identifies Teena as female, but also says that he "chose" to live as a man, implying that transgenderism cannot be innate. This, of course, goes back to the age old nature vs. nuture debate and I don’t think the Times would have consciously wanted to take a side on this. So this is, at best, poor wording, and at worst, incredibly insulting. Now, I may be being unduly harsh. And I don’t like to send people away from a discussion that could otherwise be fruitful by simply bashing mistakes individuals may make now and then before they learn better. But hey, this is the New York Times.

Addendum #2: This other response over at Proceed At Your Own Risk also brings up some great points about this article.

Comments are closed.