Janet Mock’s advice to media: “See trans people as people”

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/02/06/janet_mocks_advice_to_media_see_trans_people_as_people/

Mock talks to Salon about coming of age as a trans woman in Hawaii, her new book and trans issues in the media

Janet Mock has written a memoir about growing up trans in America, but as she says, it’s also more than that. “Redefining Realness” is book about race, about identity, about sex work, about reading. It’s also a testament to the power of community. In a time when trans people of color are disproportionately likely to experience discrimination and violence, Mock found a community of trans women in Hawaii who helped her forge her own identity, and who showed her that this forging was possible. Now she’s building a community herself, with her book and Tumblr and Twitter presences that encourage others to share their stories.

It’s an effort that feels especially important when many in media seem unable to represent trans people’s stories without sensationalism — on Tuesday, CNN’s Piers Morgan asked Mock if any of her past partners had “run a mile” when they learned she was trans. Mock declined to comment specifically on the Morgan segment, but she spoke to Salon about beauty, the media, and her advice for families of trans youth

Caleb Hannan’s piece in Grantland, which outed a trans woman, has been heavily criticized, as has Katie Couric’s decision to ask Laverne Cox about her genitals. Do you have any advice for mainstream journalists covering trans issues?

The first would be to see trans people as people. I feel like there’s a layer of really deep-seated internalized dehumanization of trans people and their bodies. That creates a kind of separation between the journalist and the trans person they’re speaking to, this separation that would never happen if they didn’t know the person was trans. You wouldn’t ask a cisgender women about their genitals. Is that something Katie Couric would ever ask someone, beyond a medical issue? It’s our cultural idea that trans people are not really people, they’re objects that we objectify and gawk over. I feel the same way about stories about trans kids; we talk about children’s genitals on TV constantly. Because we’re trans, our bodies are open for inspection.

Especially in that Grantland piece it seemed like there were so many different layers of things that were conflated with each other, a need to suss out her background because it seemed like something was iffy or off — the need to suss out the con artist aspect as well as the “falsity” of her identity as a woman. When we tell trans women’s stories, we see it as, “She’s deceiving us, she’s not really who she is.”

For journalists, it’s a matter of allowing trans people to declare who they are. The big thing for me is self-determination, being able to define ourselves for ourselves and for journalists to take that. Because journalists themselves can’t see trans people as who they say they are, that bias is shown through their writing.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/02/06/janet_mocks_advice_to_media_see_trans_people_as_people/

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