The media are responsible for the spread of lies about transgender people, says the co-founder of the Trans Journalist Association.
Speaking at Leeds Trinity University’s Journalism and Media Week, US-born Gillian Branstetter, described how the media have damaged the transgender cause, as well as giving tips on how reporters can do better.
She explained how the media can contribute to the oppression of transgender people, including portraying them as dangerous, their medical transition as dangerous, or erasing the existence of trans people altogether.
When describing the UK media in particular, Gillian said: “The UK media has given into the most vicious instincts against transgender people.”
It is not just exclusive to the tabloids – even the so-called quality press have given a platform to those who are anti-trans.
Gillian said: “Most transgender people would prefer if they were not made controversial.”
In comparison, whilst occasionally mixed or sensationalised, the US media has given a “softer launch” to transgender people, for example Caitlyn Jenner’s appearance on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine.
Gillian then also provided ground rules for journalists to follow when reporting on trans issues.
For instance, her main wish was for reporters to tell the truth, rather than sensationalise for the purpose of a story.
“I don’t need reporters to be activists, I just need reporters to be right.”
The importance of this truth is that, rather than transgender people being dangerous, they are the ones who are threatened.
In 2020, 32 trans people have been killed in the US that we know of, she said.
Another point that Gillian emphasised was the accuracy of pronouns and identity, particularly when reporting on anti-trans crimes.
In 2015, 87 per cent of victims of anti-trans violence were either misgendered or given the wrong name.
Gillian compared using the wrong pronoun for a trans person as similar to misspelling a name in an article, describing it as “erasing someone’s identity”.
In the interview Gillian also highlighted current issues in the media such as the BBC’s impartiality guidelines apparently regarding BBC staffers attending LGBTQ+ Pride parades.
Gillian said: “There is a tendency to prioritise neutrality above all.
“What people often portray as neutrality is a white, straight, cis-gender male perspective.”
She then gave the statistic that 75 per cent of newsrooms are staffed by cis-gender males, questioning whether this is really neutrality.
“If you want the truth of what’s happening, you will benefit from as many perspectives as possible.”