As a gay man, I have come to understand that my sexuality is really none of anyone else’s business. As a member of the media, I have come to understand that everyone’s business is my business, including sexuality. There is nothing on this earth that could have prepared me for this level of internal conflict.
Coverage of sexuality is nothing new in the media. For decades, celebrities and other figures of high standing have used the media as a platform to educate and dispel rumors surrounding their sexuality.
Today, the focus has shifted from sexual identity to transgender individuals. For the most part, the coverage has been largely beneficial. Figures such as Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black,” Elite model and former “RuPaul’s Drag Race” contestant Carmen Carrera and transgender author and activist Janet Mock have all used their celebrity status in hopes to educate the public on what it means to be transgender; a topic that can be hard to grasp for some.
What seemed to be the beginning of an era of understanding gender fluidity was completely undone by a shoddy Photoshop job on an image of Bruce Jenner by In Touch Weekly. Jenner’s story should be treated with even more respect and dignity since he is such a large public figure. Apparently this was lost in the magazine.
With Jenner, and plenty of other trans celebrities, it seems the most common approach to their histories is talking about the actual process of transitioning. Even Katie Couric, in a 2014 interview with Cox and Carrera, asked the invasive question about the physical burden of transitioning. Cox responded by referencing the rate of homicide and suicide among trans people, highlighting that these rates are disproportionately higher among trans women of color.
In a 2013 study of hate violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities conducted by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), it was found that 72 percent of homicide victims within LGBT communities around the country were transgender women. The same study also found that transgender men and women were seven times more likely to experience physical violence when interacting with police compared to non-transgender people.
When celebrities come out as transgender, these are the sort of topics that should be discussed, rather than how hard transitioning can be. There should be a greater effort made by the media to educate the public about the institutionalized violence against the trans community rather than what amount of hormones is needed to turn a man into a woman.
So many great things are happening for trans people around the country who aren’t getting the recognition they deserve. A woman in Michigan was banned from her gym for complaining about a trans woman in the ladies locker room. Stories about parents supporting their children as they explore their gender identity are not uncommon on news sites. A trans man is in the running to be on the cover of Men’s Health magazine, which would make him the first to do so. All of these great achievements are undercut by the media’s persistent fascination with transitioning.
Ultimately, the media will report stories that are popular, as those are the ones that make the most money. While capitalizing off of the tribulations of trans people is primarily and most blatantly evil, in its own horribly twisted way, it is, in a sense, a good thing. Even five years ago, being trans was not only something that was entirely unacceptable, but was almost unheard of. The advancements that have been made towards coverage and acknowledgement of the transgender community have been staggering. However, if members of the media make it their business to know everyone else’s business, we should also make it our business to create a difference in the lives of those who live in the margins, not just those who can make us money.