Another Fail by the Post-Gazette on Coverage of Trans Issues

Richland School District will not allow Kasey Caron to run for Homecoming King because Kasey was identified as biologicaly female at birth.

School board solicitor Timothy Leventry says Pennsylvania law requires a person born female to have a physician certify a sex change operation and have her birth certificate changed to legally be considered male.

Kasey was diagnosed at a young age with polycystic ovary syndrome. Among other things, it can cause biological females to produce higher-than-normal levels of male hormones.

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That’s the AP reporting as published in the Post-Gazette under the headline “Girl who identifies as a boy can’t run for homecoming king.”

Here’s the Advocate with more details.

Kasey Caron is a senior at Richland High School in Johnstown, Pa., where he’s a well-liked student who also serves as an assistant drum major in the school’s marching band. Caron also happens to be a female-to-male transgender person, who was assigned female at birth, but now identifies, presents, and is recognized by his family, friends, and the state of Pennsylvania as male. Caron has also received nearly unanimous support from his fellow classmates, who want to see him listed on the homecoming ballot for king. 

But that wasn’t good enough for the school administrators, who told Caron and his family in a closed-door meeting that they won’t be taking any action on Caron’s request to run for homecoming court as the appropriate gender — the one that coincides with his presentation, his identity, and his driver’s license.

Now I wholeheartedly support those who are focusing on the school district and their ridiculous shenanigans over Kasey’s legal identity. He’s a kid for pete’s sake. And there’s plenty of precedent in other school districts to accommodate and support LGBTQ students.

But my focus is on the media. I think the refusal of institutions like the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to report these stories accurately and fairly does a great disservice to the community and reinforces the ignorance underpinning the school’s decision.

See how that works? The media plays an important role educating the community, raising awareness and helping us to understand our world. The Post-Gazette’s haphazard coverage of LGBTQ issues (especially trans* issues) make life harder – so much harder – for Kasey. Kasey wants to run for prom king, like kids do. His fellow students wants him to run. Like kids do. The kids get it. But Kasey’s going to graduate in a few years and head into a world in a state where he’s apparently not afforded equal treatment or protections. Can he get a job as a trans identified male? Can he find an apartment to rent? What about safety in the college if he goes in-state? Or access to medical care? Can he marry? Be protected from violence? Adopt children?

Can Kasey live the full and rich life he deserves? Not right now. And as long as the media insist on reinforcing the ignorance underlying prevailing discrimination and bigotry, it’s not likely things will change until Kasey’s classmates get into positions of authority.

So what’s specifically wrong with the PG/AP story?

– It violates the AP’s own rules on gender identity – Kasey identifies as male and lives as boy, so using femine pronouns is inaccurate, biased and violates their own rules.

-The reference to Kasey’s diagnosis of polycystic ovary syndrome is gratuitous. I’m sure the information was disclosed at some point, but to my knowledge no doctor has gone on the record saying “Kasey thinks he’s a boy but he’s really a girl because of this condition.” Seriously? Reinforcing “alternative explanations” in a five paragraph article is unfair. And it’s Homecoming, for God’s sake. Kasey’s medical history is something between him, his parents and his doctors. I can imagine that might be a factor when it comes to medication or surgery or other issues, but I am not a doctor so I don’t know. I do know that I have never heard of reproductive health issues playing a factor in Homecoming courts.

– Not challenging the statement that a sex change is required for someone to recognized as trans. Kasey’s drivers license states that he is male identified. That should be sufficient for Homecoming King for God’s sake. Does the PG support the idea that a 16 year old should have surgery to run for Homecoming Court? That’s ludicrous. And it denies the reality that many, many Pennsylvania youth are living their lives as trans* or genderqueer kids – and they need support, not discouragement. Not disparagement.

Maybe it was the AP who screwed it all up, but the Post-Gazette published the story. And they simply need to stop the haphazard approach to covering our community, our lives. There is no reason for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to continue refusing to adopt a media guide for LGBTQ issues.

The Post-Gazette is about to go behind a paywall, requiring the community to pay for digital access. If they want to remain relevant and connected with anyone under 50, they need to do a better job on these issues and give us an incentive to pay the fee.

We can read ignorance and bigotry for free, thank you.

#FAIL

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  • The privacy aspect of disclosing medical history of a minor is completely gratuitious (if not a HIPAA issue). The media coverage aspect is crucial. My headline for the PG would have been, “Johnstown School District Says State Drivers License is Insufficient Documentation of Gender Status”. Really, the story is about the school district, not this youngster.

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