Reprinted from Bilerico.com
This morning a friend contacted me to share her disgust hat a local radio program was doing a sketch bit about “trannies” – it seems that they were guessing the biological gender of a photo array of sex workers. Yep, that’s what passes for morning entertainment in Pittsburgh.
Before you ask, yes, I did contact GLAAD.
This isn’t the first offense. I’ve tangled with some of these entertainment professionals in the past, usually via social media when they use slurs like “tranny” “homo” or even “that’s so gay.” Typically, this results in their listeners attacking me, but I think its worth it. Now the on-air folks actually have engaged me without resorting to more slurs.
Their defense is typically “I have friends” or “I talk about on the air” or “If you knew me, you wouldn’t say that.”
Well, that’s the whole point. I don’t know you because you present yourself as a radio personality, not my new BFF. You are a character, perhaps a character being fleshed out and exploring these issues. Perhaps a character that doesn’t know any better. Perhaps a character who does indeed have gay friends (it is typically “gay friends” realistically.)
But slurs aren’t open for public opinion polls. When I as a member of the LGBT community engage you in a discussion about the topic, why doesn’t my opinion at least compare to the opinion of your friends? Rest assured, I can bring more people to the table who have strong opinions on the use of “tranny” and your friends would be on the losing side of that numerical equation. So why not listen to me and consider that maybe your “gay friends” aren’t giving you the whole picture?
This happens with mainstream media, too. When I’ve questioned media reporting on LGBT issues, I have had trained and seasoned journalists respond “If you knew me …” Again, I don’t need to know you to expect professionalism when it comes to your work. I know you are a journalist so inform yourself on the appropriate terminology.
Radio personality or field reporter, you don’t get a pass because you “have gay friends.” If anything, that’s even worse because your ignorant floundering is doing real damage to your friends. Using the term “tranny” reinforces stereotypes that create lethal situations for my friends living in Fayette County, Pennsylvania where they can be fired for being transgender. They can also be treated poorly by law enforcement and have little recourse. Defending the word “faggot” as some sort of endearment or valid critique of a person’s character defects contributes to the general public perception. Congratulations – you just validated the reason “It Gets Better” continues to be relevant.
But that doesn’t really matter. You don’t get to decide. Decency, respect & professionalism should determine your on-air/broadcast conduct. I know a morning show, especially one that glamorizes “freaks,” may have non-traditional standards, but there should be some standards. LGBT youth living under Pittsburgh bridges and sleeping on exhaust grates near the churches in downtown Pittsburgh should give you pause.
Ask them what they think. Do they have the luxury of listening to your show when they are being hustled out of the shelter for the day? Or hoping to find a “friend” so they have a place to stay? Or hoping they have bus fare to the local community center’s teen night so they can feel normal for a few hours.
Ask them and their “gay friends” Take a few moments to look up the GLAAD Media Guide (there I did it for you) and see if
Let me be clear. Mocking transgender men and women is not okay. And the 9.9% of Pittsburgh’s LGBT population who aren’t “your friends” are listening.
BTW, it isn’t helpful when your listeners tell me that *their* gay friends also validated your slur. Or explain that having a disability is the same thing as being gay so they also get a vote. In what reality …
Update: I’m actively looking for inappropriate and offensive media coverage, including entertainment shows. And I am politely reaching out to dialogue about the issue. I am also notifying GLAAD. No more. The media has to grow up and take professional responsibility for providing accurate coverage on issues that are potentially fatal to children. There is no excuse for “sexual preferences” or labeling a crossdressing man as “crazy” when you have NO FACTS. There is no excuse for using the word tranny ever. You all know better. You are professionals being paid to do a job and some of you are incredibly highly educated. There’s no excuse. Sexual preference v sexual orientation is not the same thing as black v African-American. If you disagree, let’s talk.
But first, go to the GLAAD Media Guide. Experienced people put this together to help you when you face a story that is unfamiliar. Use it, don’t default to what you think is acceptable. And don’t hand me crap about what the NYT does … do you want to be the next city with a dead 15 year old because of bullying in the schools? Guess what journalists – your credentials as a friend to the gays goes the window when you report on crossdressing in a way that demeans people.
But the worst offenders are the editors and producers. The journalists at least RESPOND when I contact them (well some of them.) But the higher ups don’t seem to care. Maybe they have gay friends, too? I bet they don’t have gay friends who work for GLAAD.
But let me share this — you log on the Facebook and Foursquare and see that a perfect stranger has labeled your HOME as “Hag Bag HQ .. all whores and dykes welcome” and then try to get those social media sites to address it. Ask your gay friends if they want their families to have to deal with that. How about doing a story on that? Or a story on the fact that so many corporate web filters automatically block gay and lesbian sites, even legitimate medical research sites, because those are considered “bad words”? Or how about spam filters blocking the email address pghlesbian @ whatever.com ? We can’t communicate because our words are considered bad. I bet none of those companies block the lottery site and see what damage gambling does.
I challenge one media outlet (Steel City Media? Essential Public Radio?) to engage with GLAAD on a training. Set the bar high so maybe when I’m asked to support AFTRAC negotiations, I’ll be more willing.
And stop with the “I have gay friends” excuse. Its pathetic, it reflects poorly on your friendship and I don’t think that counts as credible sourcing per journalistic standards. I have a friend who think he can heal cats based on plumbing principles. I don’t cite him when I write about my cats. If I did, I would be WRONG.
This is an opportunity to do the right thing. Contact GLAAD. Read the guide. Report responsibly and advocate with the editors and producers who want you to use “tranny” and so forth. Be a real ally to your friends. Don’t drag them into your capitulation to homophobia in your professional life.
If you want to talk with this locally, I’ll work to make that happen. I can put together a conversation with experts, not bloggers I assure you, who can talk about the power of these words and the appropriate ways to describe these situations AND the right people to call when you need professional advice. They’d be more willing to take a call at 10 PM than have to invest hundreds of hours of therapy dealing with the aftermath. Our community is willing to its part.
BTW, Dan Savage wants to meet Elizabeth Santorum’s gay friends who support her Dad. Or at least support her working for her Dad.
I’d like to meet the “gay friends” of Santorum who are hiding behind power & privilege right here in Pittsburgh. I know who you are because your so called friends out you on almost a daily basis to me, but no one will go on the record so apprently you have clout (or you make donations.) But your Republican cronies despise you for supporting Santorum. So it won’t be long. I’d love to chat off the record about what is going thru your mind.