Another positive story of trans identity in the media

In seems there has been a recent spate of articles featuring trans folks in positive ways. It’s a really important departure from the past trend of only writing sensationalized articles, or worse, only writing about trans folks when the stories were crime related: murders, sex work, hate crimes. I’ve been happy to see trans stories portrayed in positive light. Or at least in a more neutral light.

The latest is a story in the Chicago Tribune, Finding Their Gender Identities. It tells the story of three trans people, of varying ages, races and genders and how they came to identify the way they do.

By most accounts it’s a great story. Let’s the people featured speak for themselves, doesn’t include sensationalist before and after photos, wasn’t spurred by an incidence of violence.

But one piece tripped me up about the story (progress is slow!), and my friend Vincent Villano who works at the National Center for Transgender Equality pointed it out on twitter:

Picture of a tweet that says: "Dear @chicagotribune: great story on #trans people today. Can you not put #trans in quotation marks, though? #lgbt"

These stylistic choices by newspapers and journalists might seem small–but it’s important to push for stories that accurately portray the community. Even something as minor as putting trans in quotation marks can encourage othering that just isn’t necessary, especially not in such a positive story about trans people.


The Daily Mail puts transgender people in quotes, reminding us we don’t exist

Telling our stories, winning on our issues

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  • Vaneeesa Blaylock

    Thank you Miriam. As you say, it’s great to have the “problem” of a word being in quotations. It is a lot of progress. And, exactly yes, while it is progress, and while it may not be intended with hate, putting a word in quotation marks really is a subtle yet powerful act of othering. I’m always a little bit crushed when I hear someone who appears to have a degree of tolerance use words like “just” or somehow other than “real” in reference to someone’s identity.

    • Badseed1980

      I agree! I’ve had moments myself when reading a generally positive article written about Pagans in a newspaper/blog/magazine, my optimism became frustrated when the writer referred to “self-described Wiccans,” or “self-described Pagans.” It seemed to say, “we’ll say nice things about you, but we’ll still make it clear that we’re not actually validating your identity as something outside your own head.” I can only imagine how much more frustrating that sort of thing must be to a transperson, whose fight to get such a fundamental part of hir identity recognized by the general public is so much harder.

      • Laurent Castellucci

        I remember the Pagan Educational Network spearheading a charge to get the AP style guide changed back in the 90s concerning Pagan and Wiccan, etc.

        I actually thought they had gotten it changed, though.

        I wouldn’t immediately blame the writer, in these cases. If the style guide is against it, then the editors and copy editors will change it no matter what they wrote.