Letter to the Editor: Associated Press mainstreams delusion
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As transgender issues become more prominent in the media, journalists have found them hard to address, as there is no protocol for reference to a transgender person. Most of this issue seems to come from the idea that addressing someone based on their gender identity rather than their biological gender is seen as a political statement, when that simply isn’t true.
Besides the psychological or moral implications some seem to be afraid of, there is no reason pronoun usage should be this hard. If my name was Abigail, but I asked you to call me Abbie, would you blatantly disregard my preferred name just because that’s not what it said on my birth certificate? It’s not a political issue, it’s not an insult to my parents because you’re not calling me the name they chose, it is you respecting my wishes of being called what I want to be called.
In reference to those who use plural pronouns (they/them/their) when referring to themselves as an individual, it shouldn’t be too hard of a transition for the rest of society as we do it everyday. An example would be “A journalist should be objective in their interpretation of a story.” By using the plural pronoun ‘their’ in reference to the singular ‘journalist’, I conveyed my point without assigning the journalist a gender like I would by using the singular pronouns he or she. Many English speakers do this and it is not hard to understand in context; it simply takes gender out of the equation.
Now we come to the heart of the problem. Most people who are not a fan of new gender ambiguity in journalism don’t seem to argue in defense of the English language, but in a moral or ‘scientific’ stance. I don’t think anyone would argue that most people’s genitals match that of their gender identity (these people are cis-gender). However, to argue that all humans do would be wrong and calling the idea of recognizing that not all people conform to traditional ideas of gender is not revolutionary, nor is it progressive. It’s an idea that society was built on.
All the way back to Mesopotamia, widely considered one of the foundations for Western society, there are texts referencing third gender priests who were believed to have magic powers and were revered by society. Many Native American tribes like the Mohave, the Lakota, and the Navajo, as well as Australian Aboriginal societies, have traditions of intersex or transgender people, sometimes called two spirited, born into their communities. To argue that this idea is progressive is wrong. It has been prevalent throughout society as it grew, however it has been ignored.
And when it comes to reporting, I believe that journalists should be as objective as possible, however that is currently not the case. There is a disregard of respect for the transgender community in the media as they are constantly undermined by the purposeful use of incorrect pronouns, the undermining of their mental health as people call being transgender a ‘condition’ or ‘delusion’, and the spreading of myths that transgender people are sexual predators, especially in the context of bathroom laws. However most of the time transgender representatives are just left out of the discussion of their own rights.
This graph shows how, when covering the Houston Equal Right Ordinance which stopped discrimination for a plethora of minority groups, including race, gender, and gender identity, there was no representation from Pro-LGBT groups on any of these channels coverage.
When referring to groups of people as not simply men and women, reporting becomes more objective because, like it or not, there are people who do not claim to fall under one of those two categories and pretending they don’t exist or attempting to silence them is not going to work this time. I had a kid in one of my classes ask me one time that if being transgender is really something you are, and not something you just choose, why is it there are so many more transgender people now than there were five years ago? The real answer is that there probably aren’t more transgender people now than there were then, now they’re just not forced to hide it. In the US, that is.
I am a patient person. But patience wears thin when you are waiting for journalists to acknowledge a fact that Mesopotamians recognized tens of thousands of years ago. The media is already biased against those who aren’t cis gender, objectivity is not there. To actually make reporting objective, the correct reference to those who are not gender binary is crucial.
Abbie Hall is a junior at Coppell High School and member of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.