Sunday, April 26, 2015

Transgender news: What mainstream coverage is missing

Was Bruce Jenner’s interview with Diane Sawyer a game changer for the transgender community? I’ve been asking myself that question since I’ve seen the headlines. I can’t definitely say yes or no. Although I didn’t watch the much anticipated interview I’ve been following the media coverage leading up to it as well as the post-coverage. What's a positive take away? People are talking about transgender issues.

Since 2013, Google has seen a spike in the interest over headlines that include the term transgender. While some may not like this new attention, it also doesn’t seem to be an issue going away easily either. The narrative is slowly changing, but a negative takeaway is that mainstream media coverage still has too many conversations filled with ridicule and disgust towards transgendered individuals. There remains a lack of empathy and education about transgender individuals.

As a society we need to stop ignoring the “pink elephant” in the room and pretending the voices of transgendered people don’t have a place in American society. They do.
Since Bruce Jenner came out as a transgendered person, the issue has received more media attention, however, I don’t believe his story should be the new face of the community and shame on the media for trying to turn it into one.

Like America, the transgender community is diverse and multifaceted. I recognize that what Bruce Jenner has done in sharing his story was difficult and appreciate his openness and candor for sharing his story, but on the flip side, Jenner is in a position of power and his wealth affords him privilege that many in his community don’t have. It’s clear his wealth and privilege doesn’t eradicate discrimination and bigotry, but he can shield himself from it to a certain extent. 

I applaud Sawyer’s effort to put a human face to this issue. She’s helped to pivot the narrative. So much of the media coverage still sees transgendered individuals as a circus act that is meant to amuse and entertain like bearded ladies and other human oddities. 

What we’re still ignoring is the stigma transgender people face and how their problems manifest in the form of suicide, substance abuse or in the mental health arena. Main stream media ignores these stories. We’re ignoring the pain and the persecution they face. I thank Bruce Jenner for sharing his story, but his story is just of one of many. If we are to improve the narrative on transgender issues we have to hold the media accountable and challenge them to seek out diversity in thought as it relates to transgender issues.

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