It is with cautious hesitation that I write about the negativity currently being directed towards transgender people by the government of the United States. I feel concerned that by sharing my thoughts, I may be forcing people to revisit recent hurtful news headlines and thereby give more power to their negative impact. There is a part of me that wants to stay quiet and ignore all the detestable comments being punched into Twitter from a certain smartphone in Washington, DC. After all, being a Canadian, I am somewhat removed from the White House – 3725.4 km, to be exact. I am grateful as a citizen of Canada, under the current government, my right to exist is not being challenged.
All that being said, I don’t believe borders divide or differentiate the transgender community and therefore, in some way, we are all impacted. I have realized that over the last few weeks while I was quietly absorbing these headlines I was also unconsciously falling into a negative cognitive sinkhole all too familiar to me. This recent spotlight on transphobia has had me once again feeling ‘different’ and somehow ‘less than’ what a powerful figurehead believes as ‘normal’. I have heard from my friends in the US and read their concerned Facebook posts, leaving me anxious, worried, and feeling helpless to make life safer for them. It is reasonable, then, to say that I have been impacted by these recent news headlines.
In the last two weeks I have been reminded that we live in a highly connected world and the barrage of headlines, debates and hatred are not hindered by the border between our countries. The thousands of kilometres of distance does not stifle the spark that ignites challenging conversations in the coffee shops, schools, and office buildings throughout our country. It doesn’t make others less likely to inquire about my perspective on this news and ‘how I feel’ about the fight to ‘define transgender people out of existence’ in the United States. As if there is some elegant statement or worldly perspective to make this statement something other than a direct attack on an individual’s human rights. The distance between us provides little assurance to the uncomfortable ‘Could this happen here?’ thoughts rolling around in our heads. Finally, it certainly does not provide protections or qualifiers to soften the potentially negative impact for those still weighing the risk of coming out in our country.
Considering all of this, I have come to believe that it is really important that I speak up. I suspect that I am not the only one in my community that may be feeling impacted in some way by all of this recent news. I, therefore, want to be vocal and try to provide a gentle reminder to all LGBTQ2+ that you are not alone. Regardless of anything that anyone in this world says, any new headlines that you digest, I am here to say that you exist and you always have.
I also want to share some perspective on how we might all choose an educated perspective allowing us to ensure that the news we take in is both accurate and representative.
Many years back in my career I had the opportunity to participate in media training to help me be better prepared to provide a news interview if the opportunity presented itself. The company hired a retired CNN correspondent to help teach us the science of media. One of the most important lessons I learned was an insight into what media is looking for to maximize the success of their story.
Simply put, reporters look for a current issue facing a person, community, province, country etc. and carefully assess the distance between the protagonist and antagonist on that issue. The further these two opposing forces are apart, the more interesting, enticing and sellable the news is. Taking this further, by using carefully worded headlines, elegantly stitched quotes and the right publishing timing the media can intentionally work to push these two rivals even further apart. The result? A bigger story, more sellable, more ratings, more website hits and more shares. Why is that important? Because this allows them to sell more advertising and consequently make more revenue.
I am not at all inferring that the negativity and offensive political declarations of the last month are fictitious. It is happening, it is definitely hard to see and to hear and we need to remain vigilant to challenge any attack on anyones fundamental human rights. Rather, I simply want to reinforce the reality that the news stream on this subject, and most others, is negatively biased and one-sided which can leave us feeling lacking in allies and support. Therefore, I want to emphasize to anyone feeling worried, anxious or alone, that millions of people in this world validate you, and admire, cherish and respect your existence. We are all here and sometimes you just have to work harder or listen more closely to hear us.
You exist! You always have, and you will always have the support of the LGBTQ2+ community and allies. Standing strongly with you instead of against you, our supportive voices will, unfortunately, rarely make headlines.