Just last month, king of the Kardashian clan Bruce Jenner underwent a surgical procedure to shave down his Adam’s apple. According to Us Weekly‘s latest issue, the “weird” surgery is usually “part of gender-reassignment surgeries” and that Bruce “wants to have a more feminine appearance.”
They’ve pretty much concluded he’s transitioning. And, so, fine. If it’s true, it’s true, and good for Bruce. It’s not an easy process, and it takes a lot of courage, especially when you are part of a large family constantly in the public eye. If it’s not true, big surprise. They’ve got to sell gossip magazines somehow. But should it be done at someone else’s expense?
This time, a news magazine’s story was a disservice to us all — regardless of the story’s accuracy — and here’s why.
On the issue’s cover: “Bruce Jenner’s Weird Surgery.” Inside the issue, the story’s headline: “Shocking New Look.”
Shocking. Weird. Abnormal. Dysfunctional. Transgender. It’s all the same, right? No, it is not. But with headlines and stories and coverage like this, what else are we to believe?
The story joins a string of other faux pas concerning transgender issues. Recently, transgender activist and writer Janet Mock’s legitimacy as a woman was questioned by Piers Morgan on CNN. There was also Katie Couric’s interview with model Carmen Carrera and actress Laverne Cox, in which the talk show host overstepped personal boundaries and questioned her guests about their genitalia. Even MTV had to issue an apology after airing a “Jersey Shore” episode that the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) called “one of the most blatantly transphobic scenes aired anywhere on television in the last few years.”
In an email to MTV Act today, GLAAD spokesperson Rich Ferraro responded to the sensationalism with the following statement: “Like many viewers and readers, we’ve been troubled by an upswing in recent tabloid coverage that has skirted or gone over the line of exploiting transgender issues. Regardless of the person, or the veracity of the story, the process of someone privately realizing their own identity is something that should be respected, not treated as inherently shameful or bizarre.”
You see sensationalized celebrity headlines at grocery store checkout lanes, at the doctor’s office and newsstands everywhere. Stars and subjects of the cover page’s bold, neon lettering have mostly learned to brush it off (sometimes with a lawsuit). But when it comes to coverage on transgender issues, with the way current headlines are going, we need not stand by as readers and viewers and take it all in.
Janet Mock, in her new memoir Redefining Realness, said it best: “The media’s insatiable appetite for transsexual women’s bodies contributes to the systematic othering of trans women as modern-day freak shows, portrayals that validate and feed society’s dismissal and dehumanization of trans women.”
Let’s change that. Let’s all take a step back, hold those thoughts and take some time to understand our brave brothers and sisters fighting really hard to redefine realness. We can all do better — MTV and myself included.
Photos: (US Weekly)
What does 'transgender' mean? Learn more about the transgender community on GLAAD's resource page.
Support transgender rights with the National Center for Transgender Equality.