Crossing the Line? Reporting Transgender

Networking group Women in Media WA held an event examining the representation of transgender people in the media. The event was held at The Dominion League in Northbridge and featured a panel with both professional and personal knowledge on the trans community. Louise Pratt, a former WA senator, spoke of the challenges she faced when her partner was forced to transition in the limelight due to Louise’s position. Tina Ross transitioned in 2012 and was brave enough to tell her story. Dr Rob Cover from UWA, author of “Queer Youth Suicide, Culture and Identity: Unbelievable Lives?” shared his expertise in gender.


Key Terms

The three terms you should familiarise yourself with when writing about gender diversity as a PR practitioner or journalist are ‘transgender’, ‘non-binary gender’ and ‘intersex’. If someone is transgender it typically means they identify as a gender that is different to the one assigned to them at birth. People with a non-binary gender or gender queer do not see themselves as exclusively a man or woman. Gender is fluid for gender queer individuals. Intersex means that biologically a person has both male and female characteristics whether it be their hormones, chromosomes, internal reproductive system or external genitals.

The Problem

In the past trans people were seen as ‘freaks’, the butt of the joke and in some cases even dangerous. Dr Rob Cover gave the example of the serial killer in the 1991 film ‘Silence of the Lambs’. Whilst Rob said there has been significant change in the past 5-7 years there is definitely still room for improvement. Many public relations practitioners and reporters are well meaning but can unwillingly perpetuate negative stereotypes.

  • Objectifying transgender people in an attempt to increase listeners, ratings or readership.
    Hayley Davis who facilitated the discussion gave the perfect example of this exploitation in the media coverage of the murder of transwoman Mayang Prasetyo. Mayang was killed and dismembered by her partner. The Courier-Mail chose to run the headline “Monster Chef and the She Male” with an image of Mayang in a bikini and repeatedly mentioned that she was a sex worker. Though the Australian Press Council deemed the story offensive and a breach press standards it illustrates we still have a long way to go.
  • Only showing the challenges to being trans and the “struggle with no end”
    Dr Rob Cover spoke of the danger of only presenting the negative side of being transgender. He said people are likely to commit suicide when they feel they don’t belong and they cannot see a future for themselves. This highlights the medias responsibility to show diverse representations of trans people, that it is not all doom and gloom, so the trans community can see how resilient they are. Dr Rob Cover praised the Amazon TV series ‘Transparent’ in their depiction of a strong, resilient, caring transwoman.
  • Not including a trans voice in the discussion of gay rights
    Louise Pratt expressed her disappointment that trans people were often left out of coverage on issues such as gay marriage. She spoke of several laws that are prejudiced towards the trans community that are often not bought into the public sphere by those working in PR and journalism such as the fact that an individual has to have major, invasive, irreversible genital surgery to be covered by the anti-discrimination act.
  • Asking members of the trans community inappropriate questions
    Louise Pratt said she felt stressed and traumatised by some of the stories that were reported on her and her partner. Louise made it clear it was not acceptable to ask someone about their genitals and encouraged those working in the media to make their interview subject feel comfortable.

The Solution

  • Positive gender diverse role models
    Tina Ross communicated her wish that she had known about transsexual US tennis player Renée Richards when she started to struggle with her gender. She recalls thinking “Am I the only one? What’s wrong with me?” Tina said she would have liked to have seen more role models who were not in the sex industry. Dr Rob Cover said he would like to see more representations of trans people in the media where they are not just pigeonholed for their gender.
  • Educating both children and adults about gender diversity
    Tina Ross commended programs in schools that educate children on gender diversity but emphasised the need to inform adults on the trans community. The panel said before we can change representations of trans people in the media we need to change how people think.
  • Being fair and ethical in producing content on transgender individuals
    Respect people’s history and pronouns and make use of the numerous resources available on gender diversity. Tina Ross explained for some trans people talking about their past can be very upsetting so let them guide the conversation or focus on the person they are today. When it comes to what people prefer to be called Tina said the safest thing to do is simply ask. The panel also suggested putting the number to QLife at the end of articles featuring a transgender person.

    The contact number for QLife the counselling and referral service for the LBTIQA community is 1800 184 527.

Europe for Beginners: What I Wish I Knew

It’s been a couple of weeks since I embarked on my month long journey to Europe, during the break. With high hopes and dreams, I remember tossing and turning over all the different opportunities that I will face over my time there, the people I will meet and the memories I will create. I originally thought it would end up like the movie Euro Trip, but it proved to be something much more than that.

Today, after reviewing my time in Europe, I want to share with you my experiences (the appropriate ones…) and maybe even give you all a few tips on travelling Europe.

  • You’re going to get lost!

I don’t know if this is obvious to everyone else, but it wasn’t to me. I like to think of myself as a well-rounded navigator who can follow a map. Hmm, turns out maybe I’m not! The streets of Italy and Amsterdam will have your mind spinning in circles, wondering if you just saw that guy on the street trying to sell you a ‘selfie stick’ just five minutes ago. The truth is, you’re probably lost. But don’t get too worried, take it as an adventure, and when you get the chance, maybe check with someone for directions!

  • Always check the weather in advance

So… I wish I listened to my mother on this one. I went to Europe late June through to the end of July. All I can say is I wasted a lot of space in my bag with unnecessary jumpers, jeans and beanies! Although my Mum gave me a good stern warning, I still didn’t listen. Instead I listened too many of my friends who told me it would be cold in the European Summer, sorry Mum! SO always have a bit of a check on google for rough weather forecasts of the locations you’re heading too.

  • Money! Money! Money!

Money, we all love to have it and sure, we all hate to use it sometimes. But money makes the world go around… and it keeps you travelling. So, please, make sure you have enough. Budget for all your travels appropriately before you get over there, way too many times I saw people frantically calling Mum and Dad back home begging for a couple hundred dollars to keep their trip rolling!

  • Be prepared to make lifelong friends

When I was talking to other friends about their experiences in Europe, time after time I was told, “you make the best friends, you’ll see how hard it is once you have to leave them”. I thought, “Ok, yeah, possibly it’ll be a little hard, but I’ll only know them for a month so how hard could it be”. Well, as my friends all said, very hard! Many nights were spent hugging and drinking until 4-5am in the morning wishing new friends a safe departure and reminiscing on the times you had together during your trip. Also, remember many hours will be consumed whilst intoxicated, planning trips to meet with one another in alternate locations around the world, always!

  • Push past the hangover!

Now this isn’t for the faint hearted, you have to be strong to follow this tip. After the morning spent out on the town until 5am saying goodbye to your new friends, you might not be so keen to wake up at 8am to start your day and get outside and continue your explorations. All I can say is, I’m sorry, you have too. There is no time to waste when you’re away, so either your friend, or the creepy guy under your bunk in your hostel will wake you up eventually. Just drink lots of water, and keep on pushing!

  • Take every opportunity you get!

Last but definitely not least… Way too often I saw people backing down from a challenge, not facing a fear or missing out on an awesome opportunity, please, don’t be this person! It’s an amazing place with so many incredible things to see, and no one wants to go home with regrets. So do everything you set out to do and make it a trip filled with memories and experiences that you can share with everyone for the rest of your life!

So, ciao, au revoir, auf Wiedersehen, adios!

Make the most of the life you have and make it something special to remember.

// Luke Duff.

What not to do as a Journalist during Interviews

I was vigorously reading my uni textbooks yesterday (see translation: I was scrolling through my news feed yesterday with my uni books pushed aside) when I came across an interesting video. I study journalism as well as PR and after watching this video I was so irritated and angry I didn’t know what to do with myself.

I was so close to commenting on the video when I thought no I’m better than this. I don’t comment on videos that already have millions of offensive comments.

No, I’ll just write a whole blog post about it instead.

The video was the cringe worthy interview between model-turned-actress ‘Carla’ Delevingne and US morning show Good Day Sacramento, discussing Cara’s most recent movie ‘Paper Towns’ which premiered July 21st

So here are 3 things you should not do as a journalist during interviews, credit to the crew from the Good Day show.

  1. Do NOT come into an interview unprepared.

Not the best start to an interview if you don’t even know your interviewees name. You could probably expect them to seem a bit ‘irritated’ if you show up knowing little to nothing about them as the female anchor mistakenly had done for this interview, referring to Cara as ‘Carla’.

No matter whom you’re interviewing whether it’s a manager of a restaurant or a well-known model/actress… you MUST do your research prior to the interview.

  1. Do NOT ask stupid questions.

Well that’s an extremely obvious one but apparently not to the hosts of Good Day. I mean if you’re interviewing a movie star who was one of the main characters from a movie based on a book then… I think they might have read the book! Cara sarcastically answered that no she had not read the book or even the script because that’s what they may as well have asked her.

So as said in point 1 do prior research to avoid asking questions that you should already know the answer to… or in this case just use some common sense yeah?

  1. Do NOT taunt your interviewee.

Telling your interviewee that they seem a bit irritated will probably not render a good response as one of the hosts discovered on the show.

Cara did seem rather irritated though but that was probably due to the rude comment made by another host that told her she didn’t seem as excited about the movie as she had in previous interviews.

She admitted she was emotionally and physically tired after months of hard work and the movies premiere the night before (probably hungover too, give her a break!)

Not everyone you interview has been in an interview before; it’s your job to make them feel comfortable with talking to you in order for them to give you fruitful answers.

And no matter who it is you’re interviewing, as one of my lecturers repeated several times before to us BE POLITE. It’s not that hard.

So there you have it, seems pretty straightforward hey? Trust me from personal experience (even as a second year student) it actually is very straightforward.

As always practice makes perfect… except of course for the Good Day hosts I guess.

Watch the video here; Video

/ Zoe Keenan

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