why i refuse to link to stories about trans kids on @GirlsLikeUsNews
March 1, 2013
@rebelwolf on twitter asked me the other day why I won’t link to stories on trans kids – you can read some of my responses at the link.
I figured this deserves a full post. Mostly because this really fucking matters. A lot.
From my tweets there are two main reasons why I cannot stand the recent media fascination with trans children.
First. The media simply cannot be trusted, and you simply need to look at any story about a trans adult ever written, to tell stories about trans people with anything approaching respect or dignity.
[general TW for all the news stories I link to in the rest of this post. they will likely all feature dehumanizing and violent stories about trans women or trans kids]
Look. When we have the new york times writing a sensationalist story about Lorena Escelera, who died in a suspicious fire, yet the story cannot help but focus on her body and her personal effects, her birth gender, and all manner of completely unnecessary details that do not relate to the fact that she died in a suspicious fire. Now, the new york times was called out heavily for this seriously dehumanizing story. Great. But it hasn’t improved its reporting. Not even a little.
We also have the guardian.uk constantly and consistently giving a platform to raging transmisogynists and providing story after story that is just… gross.
And these are the stories that are told about trans adults. These are the stories the tell about our dead. There is no dignity here. No respect. No real understanding that trans feminine people are people (I should stop generalizing here, I only really read news stories about trans feminine people).
I have read some of the stories about trans kids. Are they any better?
They still generally fail to see these children as vibrant and complex human beings. Many of the stories will spend far too much time discussing the ‘impact’ that these children have on their parents (as if they are burdens, as if they are heroic for traipsing about the media showing how ‘understanding’ they are).
Second. That these stories and experiences are intended to be the ‘learning’ material for cis people. That somehow, the bajillion stories of murdered trans woman have zero impact, and that a cute 6yo will manage to convince cis people that trans people are human.
This is exemplified in this story explicitly calling trans kids educators (you can also read my response).
Children are not now nor should they ever be conceived as educational props for cis adults. This attitude, more than anything else, disgusts me for how fundamentally is reveals that cis people do not see us as human beings.
It is also incredibly short sighted. Because, unlike many people in the media, I can’t help but think about these children growing up. And what will happen to their lives with this increased scrutiny. Visibility for trans people, especially trans women of colour, is rarely a good quality.
(and if you seriously cannot distinguish between making trans issues and concerns visible from making the people visible, you should, starting now, slap yourself in the face for every single time you’ve thought that people’s bodies are the appropriate battle ground for a movement)
Speaking of the future, and this leads me into a point masterfully highlighted by Janet Mock recently, the media has been pushing and normalizing damaging trans narratives. Not just the ‘wrong body’ trope, but that, beyond belief, that identities are more stable than they are, this is the ‘born this way’ trope. I’ve no doubt that these children are who they say they are.
But this intense media focus will also reduce some of their future options. Because. People do change over time. And this is okay.
The normalization of this narrative goes further, however, since it further serves to create a fictitious divide between those people who knew at age 5 and people who may not know until they are 85. Part of the amazement that accrues around these stories is that these children are so sure and confident about their genders and who they are (even though they are no more sure than any other kid). It creates that True Transsexual narrative where, in order for your identity to be valid, you should have known since you were a zygote.
There are likely more reasons that aren’t occurring to me now.
But I’m still left with these questions:
- What purpose do these stories serve?
- Who benefits from these stories?
- What can children say that adults haven’t been screaming about for years?
- Who is profiting from these stories?