This week, Pfc. Manning- sentenced to 35 years in military prison for giving classified documents to WikiLeaks- announced, “I am Chelsea Manning. I am female.”
Amidst issues of the availability of hormone therapy in military prison and gender-specific imprisonment, the media response to Chelsea’s statement has been disrespectful, and an example of how NOT to honor someone’s gender identity. In her statement, Chelsea wrote, “I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun.” Despite this straightforward, specific request, countless media sources have refused to comply, as Feministing points out that NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, the Boston Globe, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, Politico, the Telegraph, Reuters, and the Los Angeles Times all used masculine pronouns and referred to Chelsea as Bradley. Time for an apology!
There has been considerable outcry about this major media misstep (but props to the Guardian for getting it right), with reference to how this issue is tough. I actually disagree. Chelsea was actually incredibly clear in her statement- it might be tough for someone to start using the correct pronouns, but we know which ones are ‘correct’. Gender identity is about a person’s self-idenitification, and if specific pronouns are requested, we should honor their request.
Seems like reporters, editors, and newscasters could all benefit from reviewing this AWESOME resource: How to Respect a Transgender Person. Step one:
Respect their gender identity. Think of them as the gender they refer to themselves as and refer to them with their chosen name and gender pronoun (regardless of their physical appearance) from now on.
Sexuality educators- please review this resource and teach your participants to respect transgender people, and not mimic the mainstream media.
I should note that some news sources have actually done a good job calling out this mistreatment of the coverage, including Huffington Post and Slate.