This post and editorial by GLAAD is both right on the money, and really off the mark at the exact same time. While I may get blasted by some for this post, I’m just going to put it all out there, and look forward to the comments.

Kylan has dreamed of competing in the Miss California USA pageant since she was 11 years old. Ideally both hosts would have focused their questions on her dreams and aspirations, and on her courageous decision to be the first openly transgender woman to run for Miss California USA. Instead, Robinson’s questions in particular focused on the tired old issues of surgery and whether or not Kylan is a “real woman.” As transgender stories become more and more common in mainstream media, GLAAD hopes that journalists and talk show hosts can move beyond questions about surgery and “when did you know.”

Guess what everyone, if you are any person and you are going to be interviewed on television (or the radio, or other media), get ready to be asked whatever the interviewer wants to ask. Chances are, if an interviewer is going to ask a question, then that interviewer isn’t the only person wondering the answer. Transgender is very much not understood by the general public, and the way to get trans understood better is for trans persons to be willing to answer questions even stupid ones as well as those which fall outside the narrative that you want to be creating.

I know a fair number of trans persons, and I have a ton of questions about their surgery. I have a ton of questions about their transition process, and why they made the choices they did at any one point or another. Not because I think it is right or wrong,but because I want to understand them.

It is easy to say that this one interviewer on TV ought to know better. But that is exactly the point. The reason this person is interviewing on TV is all about the viewing audience, and guess what many of them want to know- want to understand- And, more importantly, need to understand.

I am not defending Robinson, as if she did nothing wrong. I am saying that her asking the “wrong” questions and being corrected in real time on the show is important. It is modeling good stuff. So rather than find fault with her for her asinine comment about “men being at an advantage,” praise the show (and Cooper) for correcting her, and pointing out that Kylan is not a man. You may wish that lesson was already taught and understood, but guess what- it isn’t. These are basic ideas that must be reinforced as the general public becomes more accustomed to trans persons.

You can call Robinson’s questions “tired and old,” but they are only that to folks who are far more advanced than the general public when it comes to understanding trans.

I especially want to mention the comment about “pain and surgery.” This is so not idiotic in my book (yes, you may disagree with me). It is normal- if we are trying to understand another- to draw a parallels or some basis for understanding. For a cis person, the trans person may seen like them except that they had surgery. For those in the know, it is far more than a physical alteration and that the surgery simply allows a person’s outside to match their inside. But for the less aware cis person, they think surgery, and surgery connotes pain. Pain with physical surgery is a point of familiarity, a place from which to begin to understand difference.

I can’t understand how or why GLAAD would want:

both hosts would have focused their questions on her dreams and aspirations

The very notion of “her” is what most individuals don’t understand, and until more efforts are made to educate about gender, sex, and identity, the general public will remain clueless and ignorant.

It can be said that for a trans person, the need to keep going over the basics is tiring and bothersome. And it shouldn’t be every trans person’s responsibility to educate the masses. If you want to just live your life, then fine, go for it, but stay out of the media. If you are going to be a front runner and ground breaker, then it comes with the territory, that stupid, old, tiresome questions will come up and you will need to use the opportunity to educate and reinforce. For the record, it wasn’t that long ago, that anytime a gay man came out, he would have to answer some silly question about wanting to be a girl. ┬áThe general public doesn’t know what it doesn’t know, and so, education is important.

 

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