I tossed out some questions for the team to answer.
Trish – Marriage equality coming to Maine, Maryland and Washington, maybe because 2012 was the year when I got married (after years of thinking I never would). It forced me to think — what if I transitioned to female? I wouldn’t be allowed to marry my partner in Pennsylvania. Why do I get this privilege when my gay and lesbian friends don’t?And it also resonates with me because marriage only came to those states because of referendums … and while I’m glad same-sex couples are getting the right to marry, it also makes me angry that we’re voting on whether to allow other people the basic human right of choosing who they’re allowed to share their life with. There is something distasteful about allowing one group of people to vote on another group’s humanity.
Jen – President Obama coming out in favor of marriage equality. He is the first sitting president to support this publicly. He gives me hope for our future.
Sue – The President’s statement.
2. What three LGBTQ voices do you think are essential for us to pay attention to in 2013? Big, small, famous, local …
Trish – Phew. I don’t have a clear answer. Rachel Maddow continues to be one of the sharpest observers of American politics, but not because she’s gay — just because she’s scary-smart. On the other hand, I can think of a few LGBTQ voices who I’m tired of hearing about ….
Jen – I think GLAAD does amazing things to amplify LGBT voices and is always a great resource. I think Tammy Baldwin will be a guiding force for inclusiveness in politics. I also think Chaz Bono is blazing the trail (publicly) to the life of a transgender person and is worth paying attention to.
Sue – Trish, Jen and Sue. LOL. Actually, I am serious … the voice of local LGBTQ persons.
3. What LGBTQ issue do you believe is most often misunderstood by the media and or the general public? What are the consequences? How can we change that?
Trish – Gender identity and sexual orientation aren’t the same thing, and no one changes their outward gender presentation on a whim. I have never talked to a trans man or woman who underwent tens of thousands of dollars in expensive surgery and risked the loss of their family and friends so that they could sneak into the “other gender’s” bathroom, or because they were sexually attracted to themselves. The consequences are demonization and marginalization of trans* people, including our depiction in the media as sexual exhibitionists and potential rapists, murderers and pedophiles. Those perceptions are changing, and I think the only ones who are going to be able to keep changing them are trans* people of all stripes, who need to keep speaking out and not waiting for others to tell our stories … the “T” in “LGBTQ” needs to stop being silent.
Jen – From what I have experienced, people aren’t completely aware of the extremity to which we are denied even the simplest rights. For instance, all four of our children are biologically Alicia’s, so I have ZERO parental rights, medical decision making rights, school rights…..People seem surprised when they learn that. They just assume we have those rights.
Sue – I agree with both of your answers. There are many, too many, people who don’t understand than in most of Pennsylvania they can be fired for being LGBTQ. Or being perceived as LGBTQ. That’s boiling the issues down to a simple, powerful fact – and it is something we can address. Marriage equality wil not change this – being married does protect your job. And it doesn’t protect jobs of LGBTQ folks who aren’t married.
4. Do you have any resolutions? Care to share?
Trish – I started doing outreach this year … talking to small groups about being transgendered. I’m going to continue to do outreach in any way I can, and probably come out to more people.
Jen – One of my resolutions is to try to become more involved in political issues involving LGBT rights and help educate myself and others to become more informed and active voters.
Sue – I’m focusing on using social media more effectively, contributing to other sites and attending a few conferences to represent Western PA. But I also want to get more involved doing face to face volunteer work within the community. I miss that.
5. When you read LGBTQ media, do you ever SEE anyone who looks remotely like you or your family?
Trish – When I do, it’s often cringeworthy. Cross-dressers and trans* women especially are still generally played for laughs in the media, and media (including the LGBTQ press) generally doesn’t understand the difference between being a drag queen and being transgendered. A lot of trans* women face appearance-based bigotry. (Trans* men generally are treated a little bit better, maybe because it’s easier for them to “pass” — the corollary is that trans* men have their stories told much less often than trans* women.)
Jen – I think the media is getting better at portraying what LGBT families look like, but they still have a way to go.
Sue – Yes, to the extent that we are white middle class lesbians. I was pleased that GLEE had 9 LGBTQ characters last season (3) even though they were obviously dramatized for television. I don’t have cable so I’ve never seen many of the LGBTQ shows. My general impression is that white gay middle aged men and lesbians are incorporated more into the rotation of stock tv characters which is fine if the trend continues. But sometimes I roll my eyes when people start ranting that characters on soap operas are too gay (Felix on General Hospital) or there aren’t enough lesbians (The New Normal) … far better we focus on the outrageous, dangerous coverage and leave some room for the fact that it is television after all. There isn’t going to be a lesbian Roseanne anytime soon!
6. Accolades or fails on the part of local media (your local media) covering LGBTQ issues?
Trish – If local TV and radio had any shame, they’d be ashamed of their rush to judgment when it came to the trans* couple linked to the Pitt bomb threats. A lot of the coverage boiled down to, “Get a look at these two!” Outside of Pittsburgh City Paper, most of the other stories were just awful. As far as covering gay, lesbian or transgender stories at all, the Pittsburgh media still tends to wait until there’s some controversy — a state legislator tries to block some sort of protections for LGBTQ residents or an LGBTQ person faces discrimination. While straight or “gender-normative” people are featured in lovely “slice of life” features, we rarely read about or see a gay, lesbian or trans* person unless someone else is making an issue about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Pittsburgh news directors and editors, I think, still view LGBTQ issues as either distasteful or controversial — in other words, likely to attract complaints, which editors and news directors fear more than anything else — which is probably a reflection of the demographics of Pittsburgh and the people who work in its newsrooms.
Jen – In my personal situation the media covers some of my story, but quickly loses interest. The media was not cooperative with supporting Spirit Day. Also the local newspapers (Which happened to be owned by super conservatives) do not do much/if any coverage.
Sue – Pittsburgh media is horribly inconsistent which reflects a lack of commitment from management. Individual members of the media are often open to working with GLAAD or at least consulting the style manual, but management just ignored the issue. My favorite thing is when the individual reporters who make these blunders on air or in print get defensive and fall back on the “some of my best friends are gay…” excuses.
What are your resolutions?