For as liberal and political correct as everyone perceives the mainstream media, they sure seem confused when reporting on transgendered individuals.
When news broke yesterday that Donnie Hendrix aka Viva was arrested a second time for illegally injecting silicon into clients without a license the resulting media fumbles of how to refer to her were just embarrassing.
Natalie O'Neill profiled Hendrix for New Times back in March. She had been taking female hormones and living as a female since her teenage years, but when she was arrested and convicted for pumping silicon into patients without a medical license (a woman was killed by a botched injecting), she was forced into a Broward male prison, and denied estrogen.
There she was attacked and gang raped by three fellow inmates. Her breast implants were torn, and eventually the medical staff cut her breast implants out with a pair of scissors. After her release she decided not to restart estrogen.
"People ask me if I'm a boy or a girl," she told New Times. "And I tell them I'm neither."
So, yes, the gender identification here is murky, however Hendrix prefers using female pronouns. Sure, we are referring to a convicted felon re-arrested on the same charges, so maybe you're thinking, "Why should we care about some criminal's feelings?" However society's misunderstanding of the issue leads to tragedies like transgendered inmates being gang raped and mutilated by doctors.
The Herald's David Smiley used male pronouns in his original story on the case, but today in an expanded story he used female pronouns. The original story also uses the term "transgender man," --also used by other outlets-- a term usually reserved for men who were born genetically female.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal uses the term "transvestite," which is used in modern terms mostly to identify men who dress as woman, usually, but not always, for entertainment or sexual reasons. Most transgendered individuals would cringe at being called a transvestite.
I'll even have to parse our own reporting, which uses the terms "transexual" as a noun, when most in the community use the term as an adjective.
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There's some leeway here. It doesn't seem that Hendrix ever tried to legally change her gender in anyway, and a reporter who's getting their information from police who use male pronouns can't be faulted too much, if at all, for using them in their copy.
Of course, not everyone, like this blogger, happens to have friends who are involved in transgendered rights (I know one person who prefers to be referred to as "it." I still don't totally understand it, the concept not the person, in this case. See what I mean?), but choosing your words correctly isn't that hard. The real question is whether or not the media will correct themselves in future reporting.
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