In Their Own Words: LGBT Advocates on the State of Transgender Issues

Eight leaders in LGBT advocacy give their thoughts on what 2013 meant for transgender rights, and what 2014 might bring.

BY Parker Marie Molloy

December 26 2013 5:00 AM ET

Making the Media Safe for Trans People
Dani Heffernan, a media strategist at GLAAD, and part of their Transgender Media and Education Program team.

HEFFERNAN: Our work this year has spanned a wide range of media and issues, from working on grassroots campaigns to weighing in on entertainment images, and working with local and national news outlets to correct problematic coverage of transgender people and issues in broadcast, print and online news.

At GLAAD, our Transgender Education & Media Program works to educate cisgender LGB people, as well as mainstream Americans on transgender people and the issues that impact our lives, and also to combat anti-trans images in the media in a way to set a standard that anti-trans words and images are not acceptable.

In November, GLAAD partnered with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) on a campaign to repeal a discriminatory Medicaid regulation in New York that bans trans and gender non-conforming people from accessing necessary health care. The campaign included videos, which have been viewed almost 100,000 times online and that call attention to the lack of transgender inclusiveness in healthcare in general, as well as a petition targeted to New York State specifically. That work will continue into 2014, and we plan to bring the message forward that transgender people are being denied medically necessary health care, and that this needs to change.  
 
Though there is still much lacking in fair and accurate representation of transgender people in the media, seeing Laverne Cox on Orange Is the New Black and the media she's been doing around her role have brought more focus to issues facing transgender women of color, and to trans people who are incarcerated. We plan to use the positive reception that Laverne and her role have garnered to push for more storylines about trans people that go beyond the old stereotypes of trans people being ‘victims’ or ‘villains’ and paint a more accurate picture of who our community really is.
 
Unfortunately, we've had to spend a lot of time reaching out to reporters to correct offensive coverage of transgender people, mostly transgender women of color, who were victims of violence. We have a resource called Doubly Victimized: Reporting on Transgender Victims of Crime, but even with this tool, we too often come across reporters who are resistant and need to be told why they cannot be disrespectful because of who the victim is. This type of reporting extremely harmful and hurtful, and — as a media organization — we plan to continue to push outlets to treat trans people with dignity and respect.
 
Showing support for trans youth is also important. GLAAD worked with Smith College students, led by transgender teen Calliope Wong, to bring greater media attention to their campaign calling for an end to the college's discriminatory admissions practices towards trans women. Calliope later became a GLAAD intern and Smith students worked with us and with Calliope to show that the student population at the school accepts trans students.
 
GLAAD worked with the family of Coy Mathis, a transgender child from Colorado, to bring attention to her story and the discrimination she faced at school. A Colorado judge eventually ruled in favor of Coy and against the bias shown by her school district. We were able to get Coy and her parents mainstream media attention, most notably on the Katie Couric show, which helped them to tell their own story firsthand.

Tags: Transgender

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