Media Outs Transwoman

In his brand spanking new blog, Slag Heap, the man called Potter critiques media coverage of the recent rescue of Rebecca Hare from being ensnared in the Allegheny River.  Rebecca, who is homeless, had been staying along the riverside of the David Lawrence Convention Center and became trapped.  She was rescued thanks to an astute convention center worker who heard her cries for help.

Thankfully, she was unharmed in the ordeal.

What's yet to be determined is how the ensuing media focus on her identity as a transwoman will impact her well-being.  As Potter puts it:

Some reporters who covered the incident, however, were apparently still at sea.

The ensuing media hue and cry ranged from idiotic (referring to Rebecca as both a man and a woman in the same article) to the oh-so-obvious stupid (WDVE cackling about the price of a sex change versus the price of a home). 

What I think Potter missed is a pretty critical point, namely that Pittsburgh media outed Rebecca Hare as a transwoman.  However inadvertant, the bungling on the coverage of a story involving a person who happens to be a transwoman resulted in the entire region being informed of pretty intimate details of her life.  Details that, on the face of it, have pretty much nothing to do with the story of saving a person who was living alongside the Convention Center.

Or do they?

A research study from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force indicates that LGBTQ kids — yes, kids — are disproportionately present among the general homeless population.  It is not a big stretch to imagine that coming out to your family as trans might lead to being unwelcome in your home. 

Similarly, an adult transitioning might experience unwelcomeness at the workplace or even the loss of a job in states that don't protect people based on gender identity or gender presentation.  Loss of a job is a factor leading to homelessness.

An adult might experience similar unwelcomeness among family, even spouses, who aren't receptive to the news about their loved one.  Loss of a support system is a factor leading to homelessness.

An adult might also cope with societal transphobia by turning to drugs and alcohol, also factors leading to homelessness.

My point is that the reasons Rebecca Hare ended up living alongside the David Lawrence Convention Center may very much indeed be connected to her identity as a transwoman, but none of the media coverage was intended to explore that connection, was it?  Any follow up stories on the trans-friendliness of local homeless shelters, especially those administered by faith based organizations?  Nope.  We just get stupid jokes reducing gender transition to a sex change operation and comparing it with rising property rates. 

What if Rebecca's family doesn't know she's living as a woman?  What has happened to her since her rescue — is she okay?  Is she somewhere where she's being treated well?  Is she okay with the repercussions that everyone in the tri-state area knows she is a transwoman?

One almost thinks the Post-Gazette should pick up the tab for a safe place for her to stay. 

ps:  I have been in touch with people that have connected with Rebecca to ask if there's anything we can do to help her.  If you want to help, email me. 

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  • Living in a state that does protect workers based on their gender identity only means that the employer will have to find another reason to fire a transsexual employee. If it is an employment at will state, and the employee does not have union protection, it's not hard to make up a reason for termination (not that I endorse right to work for less states).

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