On Tuesday, I was emailed by a reporter at the Post-Gazette who wanted to ask my take on Caitlyn Jenner’s transition.
I replied, that’s fine, I’m happy to help, but you have to understand that “Trish” is a pen name, not my legal name.
Oh, the reporter responded, my editor says we’ll need to use your legal name in the story.
I’m sorry, I told her, but I can’t do that right now, for family and job-related reasons. I pointed her to the GLAAD media guide, which suggests that transgender people should be granted a bit of leeway and anonymity, for their own protection.
I could have also noted that when the Post-Gazette writes about Meat Loaf, they don’t call him Marvin Lee Aday—or, even more relevantly, when they wrote about drag queen Sharon Needles winning “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” they referred to her as “Ms. Needles.”
And: When they wrote about the (then) anonymous blogger known as “PittGirl,” they didn’t insist on using her real name.
But that was then, this is now, I guess.
Besides, unlike Sharon Needles, I’m no TV celebrity, I’m just a garden-variety tranny.
“It’s a blanket policy on anonymity in quotes,” the reporter emailed back.
I wasn’t asking for anonymity, just to use my pen name. But I told her I understood.
And then I cried and got sick to my stomach, because I often feel like a fraud or a phony, and this entire interaction hit every one of my triggers.
I don’t feel like a man, but most days, people treat me like a man, except when I’m presenting myself to the world as a woman, in which case they treat me like a woman, but often know I’m legally a man. I feel like people are humoring me in both genders.
The example I’ve used is Kermit the Frog on a talk show. If Kermit the Frog is on “The Tonight Show,” Jimmy Fallon talks to him as if he’s a real frog—but all along, Jimmy knows that Kermit is really a piece of felt with a hand up his ass.
Anyway. Fast-forward to today. And the Post-Gazette has squeezed out an awful, horrible, fetid column by associate editor Jennifer Graham, which refers to Caitlyn Jenner as a “he/she” and says transgender people “would have headlined the tragic freak shows in carnivals of old.”
But don’t take my word for it: Charlie Deitch of Pittsburgh City Paper has deconstructed it nicely. He talks to the executive director of the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, who says Graham’s column is the worst response to the Jenner news he’s seen so far, calling it “mean-spirited and largely juvenile.”
I’m suddenly reminded of what Mike Royko once said about Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers: “No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped” in one of them.
And hey! Suddenly, I don’t feel so bad about not being quoted in the Post-Gazette!