6.9.11 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
Comments: 2

SteveBlanchardHeadshotI sat in on a transgender town hall forum in St. Petersburg to hear what the T-community had to say about LGBT organizations and services available to them. The experience was enlightening and I reported on it in a recent issue of Watermark.

I have been an advocate for trans-men and trans-women for several years now and I admit there is still plenty about Gender Identity Disorder I just don’t understand. I can also admit I’ve made mistakes when covering that component of our community.

While I have educated myself through discussions with transgender and transsexual friends, research through online sources and personal interactions with specialists in the field, it’s safe to say that I will never fully understand how a person believes he or she is born into the wrong gender. It’s the same for a straight man who cannot understand my attraction to other men. But I can offer my compassion.

We will never truly understand a person’s point of view completely because it is impossible for us to see things from his or her perspective and that reaches beyond the LGBT community.

After the story ran I received a few e-mails expressing concern over a quote from a trans-man in the audience. According to those e-mails, my notes differed from what the person said. I cautiously tried to explain what my hand-written notes said to no avail and shortly after learned some were appalled and insulted by me defending my notes. I was then told that a retraction/clarification wouldn’t get the job to correct the injustice.

So all I can offer is my apologies for misunderstanding.

In short, Gender Identity Disorder is just that: a disorder, not an illness. It’s a medical condition. A lot can be said for one misplaced or misheard word.

The relationship between gays, lesbians, bisexuals and our transgender neighbors is strained, to say the least. Too many gays and lesbians see transgender people only as performers who do numbers on the stages of popular nightspots. But transgender people are in all aspects of society they are doctors, lawyers, bus drivers, police personnel, teachers and more.

Many transgender people understandably don’t see themselves as part of the gay community because they are not attracted to the same gender. It’s a tricky and complicated relationship. The LGBT alphabet soup doesn’t always embrace everyone and I’m learning that the hard way.

We recently ran a cover story on Gina Duncan, the first transgender president of Orlando’s Metropolitan Business Association. We received one and only one letter commenting in a positive way on the depth and scope of the article. After my recent error, I received an ongoing chain of letters denouncing me and Watermark’s coverage of the T-community. The disappointment was obvious and my journalistic integrity was questioned.

As most journalists know, if you hear nothing, your coverage is fine. If you get a flood of contact from readers, you royally screwed up.
It’s safe to say I screwed up. By describing GID as an illness rather than a medical condition, I offended the very group of people I try so hard to equally represent in these pages. Many trans-people are on the offensive and read coverage closely and I know why. I can only imagine the frustration transgender people feel when they hear repetitive mistakes regarding pronouns, classifications and diagnoses.

I can also personally relate to the frustration of covering the T-community as a non-transgender person. Many trans-people have been mistreated by the press before. Others are stealth and therefore don’t share their stories with anyone while lamenting there isn’t enough coverage of transgender issues in the press.

As we continue through June Pride Month and commemorate the New York Stonewall Riots of 1969 and the beginning of the gay rights movement, we should also invite our transgender friends and neighbors to recognize our advances with us as our advocates. If the transgender people among us do not always feel a part of the gay community, then it is up to us to invite them in.

My hope is that misunderstandings in the future can be resolved and used as building blocks to improve relationships and continue the fight for equality for everyone as allies, no matter which letter of the alphabet is most relatable.

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