Bruce Parker

Out Magazine's Transgender Issue

Filed By Bruce Parker | March 17, 2008 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: F2M, ftm, gender identity, Out, Out magazine, sexual identity, T Cooper, transgender, transmen

I am much more likely to read Time or Newsweek instead of Out. I tend to enjoy political news and the current obsessive presidential campaign coverage more than white gay male focused pop culture articles. 173_150.jpgHowever, I heard that the April 2008 issue would be their transgender issue so I couldn't help myself. I bought the issue. Before I get into it any more let me say I really appreciate and applaud their effort and overall it was pretty enjoyable.

After the jump I talk about the first few pieces in the issue and will try throughout this week to talk about some of the other articles that dealt with transgender issues. I will also repost the short resources lists so that they are available here as well with some commentary of course.

Letters from the Editor

Aaron Hicklin, Editor in Chief, deserves kudos for not only agreeing to do a transgender issue but for being honest about the struggles he and the magazine staff had throughout the process. I found it interesting and refreshing that he openly admitted that no one on the staff was transgender. I would point out to him that it would be prudent to admit that this information is true only as far as he knows or that they had openly admitted. I like that he talks about growing more and more interested in the content as they were going through the process of generating it.

T Cooper is a transgender writer based in Manhattan and brought a lot of experience to serving as guest editor of the magazine for this issue. I don't envy him the work that he must have done to get it in the shape that it is in upon publication. I appreciated that in T's letter from the editor T mentioned that it was peculiar that gay men still didn't really get the difference between sexual identity and gender identity.

The Money Shot

On page 29 of the magazine they have a section titled "The Money Shot: The Cost of Trans." This section included prices for razors, cosmetics, surgeries and such. What struck me as weird about it is that of seven things named with prices only one is relevant to transmen (breast removal surgery or ace bandages) but there is no distinction or explanation made between transmen or women in the feature. Weird and probably pretty confusing for folks who are being exposed to these things for the first time.

That page also included the statistic from the Transgender Law Center that in San Francisco 75% of of transgender people do not have full-time employment.

Everyone should go out and buy the magazine and write letters thanking Out for covering transgender issues and individuals even if it had a slightly tokenizing and sensationalistic feel to it.

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I'm with you on not usually reading mags like Out or the Advocate for pretty much the same reasons. I'm happy to hear that they had a trans guest editor and I also don't envy his task.

Coming up with content that will be entertaining to the mag's readers and also fit their format while not being too sensationalistic toward the trans experience would be difficult. We're (trans people) also a pretty tough crowd to please sometimes. :)

I could be totally off on this (like I said, I don't read Out) but wasn't the "Money Shot" feature discontinued after some controversy a little while back? Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong magazine.

Thanks for the review and I look forward to your next installments.

A transgender issue without a transgender person on the cover. For a magazine called Out? Wouldn't that be like Time putting Tom Hanks on the cover of an issue devoted to out gay men?

No thanks - I think I'll save the money.

i have to agree with kathy...that is a pretty sad commentary on a "progressive" magazine. WTF? there are so many accomplished trans men and women....

I checked my local Barnes and Nobel and Out is not in. I have to wait for Out to come in before I can get Out. Sounds too binary for my taste.

FWIW, the survey from the Transgender Law Center should be treated with care. What it really said was that 75% of those who responded, were unemployed/under-employed.

Which is horrifying and something that needs to be fixed -- but due to the way TLC recruited for the survey, they mainly heard from a particular segment of the trans population, one that's the worse off.

Again, not to ignore those folks, but careless use of these sorts of statistics does lead to a stereotype about "trans people as victims."

When we should also be recognizing the successes as well. I personally know at least a dozen trans women and at least one trans man who transitioned with the full support of their employers. But these people also have advantages -- well-educated, transitioning later when they'd established careers, mostly white -- that the folks in the TLC survey generally didn't -- which is something else we need to look at.

Y'know, I have to say I'm a little tired of being asked to thank various so-called "LGBT" media for remembering we even exist. Where have they been on our issues for the entirety of their existence before now? Why should they be thanked for publishing one obviously poorly-researched special issue on trans-relevant topics, when anyone who's actually read this magazine knows full well they'll be going right back to pictures of bare-shirted gay men and topics of interest exclusively to the monied gay male elite next month?

The nineties are over. We have our own media now, and much of the media which defines itself as LGBT actually walks the walk more than once a decade. If a magazine like Out wants to earn my interest and purchasing dollars, they'll have to do far better than treating transpeople like the oddity of the month.

I agree with Rebecca. For gods sake, it's 2008 - why in the hell should we be still having to thank LGBT media for acknowledging that we exist? Of all people, it's these folks who should know better - so when it has, as Bruce puts it, "a slightly tokenizing and sensationalistic feel to it", forgive me for not rushing out to thank them.

Chris MacDonald-Dennis | March 17, 2008 7:32 PM

I have never thought of either Out and The Advocate as progressive magazines; I am not surprised that they have a trans issue with no trans people on staff. Like Kathy, I think I'll save my money...

I think that not buying the magazine because of one person's review is not a fair evaluation of its content. If you actually read it, then you can make accurate comments. I plan on reading it, so I can tell them specifically where in the magazine they screwed up. I'll leave the rest of you to your uneducated guesses.

Monica: I'm not about to go out and buy a cissexual magazine just because they deigned to remember we exist once in a while, and I'm cynical enough about such an effort that I'll take someone else's word on it if they call bullshit. If magazines like Out want my money, they can remember the T more than once every two or three years.

I agree with your feelings on that part of how they screwed up. If they decided this is the year to once again talk about transgender people, then I want to read the ways they cover us and comment on those, too. They already lost a lot of points for making us the "flavor of the month." I want to see how many more points they will lose by making a mockery of our lives between the pages. "Don't judge a book by its cover?" Save your money and I'll do the reading for you. Deal?

I love that so many people here are just bitchin' (typical of comment boards, generally), but as a regular reader of Out, I disagree that the editors are just paying lip service to trans readers... there are frequently trans personalities in its pages, but regardless, the issue is not targeted at trans readers but at gay men and others who need some enlightening, though from the righteous indignation here, clearly most of you need some too. C'mon, get enlightened.

As for Rebecca, read the damn issue before deciding it's poorly researched, or don't proffer an opinion. I've never met you, but if I decided you were dumb and ugly sight unseen, would you consider that fair?