Editors' Note: Guest blogger April Rose, a Two-Spirits author, speaker and raconteur on all things trans, lives in New Mexico where she is currently developing a website that will implement her desire to educate people about living with integrity and authenticity in their chosen gender As one of the most passionate and prolific unknown writers of the Two Spirits variety, she spends her spare time roaming the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with her two dogs and her soulmate of twenty-nine years.
Confession: I've been doing it for years and it hurts more every time I do it. No, it's not masturbation or any other painfully gratifying form of self absorbing behavior. In fact, it's much less satisfying than any of those other things you may now be fantasizing about.
I'm referring to the venerated independent news program called Democracy Now, currently broadcast on Free Speech Television. For at least ten years I have been waiting with bated brain for some morsel, a mere smidgen of a reference to the plight of America's invisible minority - the transgender population.
Many years ago when I still believed in the power of the press, I held out hope for an independent news broadcast that would disdain the lives of the rich and powerful. In the early days of Democracy Now, I theorized that the act of monitoring the show over time would yield a percentage of coverage relevant to transgender issues. I am apparently too optimistic. Now it seems that even the power of the independent press, which was once synonymous with the power of the people, has been usurped.
A visit to the Democracy Now website proved revealing: A search for sex and gender related terms, beginning with the year 2000, showed 538 instances of the word 'gay', 175 instances of 'lesbian', thirty-four results that mentioned transgender and nineteen results for 'LGBT', all but one of which were exclusively gay related. Last and apparently least in the eyes of the progressive media, the subject of transsexualism ranked the lowest with a dismal five stories.
No, it's not a typo, I counted five stories on transsexualism over a period of more than a decade, of which two were repeats of the transgender related stories.
Another story was an interview of Michael Eric Dyson including brief mention of the need for inclusion of the GLBT community by the church. Dyson's point of view was contrasted by another article, from 2008 that described Pope Benedict XVI's case of extreme homo/trans phobia. The earthshaking, yet quasi-compassionate sounding headline appeals to not one but two darker aspects of the human consciousness, fear and the pride of ignorance: Pope: Homosexuality Could Lead to Self-Destruction of Human Race.
And last, a blurb about the former city manager of Largo Florida who was fired for beginning a gender transition on the job: City Officials in Florida Fire Transsexual City Manager.
My point in mentioning these stories is to expose their inherent banality and complete lack of a rational, humanistic approach to an emerging phenomenon that means life or death to so many people whom I refer to as the 'invisible minority' -invisible because of the violent enforcement of sexism as it frames the gender binary. There are actually two subsets of this socially reinforced invisibility.
The most familiar of these two groups, ironically, are transgender people who live lives of stealth, whose goal in life is simply to 'pass' as a member of their innate, internal self-identified gender out of the very real fear of the violence that often accompanies judgment and condemnation. Comprising the rest of this 'invisible' minority is the countless number of humans who repress the expression of an alternate gender identity out of the very real fear of degradation and ostracism
Not only do these crimes against minorities rarely see the ink of major news outlets, according to the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, culpability by mainstream news agencies for the ongoing persecution of TLGB people spills out in random waves over a broader section of the populace
Inaccurate hate/bias crime reporting can unintentionally support a blame-the-victim strategy. Personal assaults and criminal acts may only involve a single victim, but perpetrators often intend them to send a message that LGBT people are legitimate targets for abuse, harassment and violence. (In fact, the victims of some anti-gay hate crimes are heterosexuals who are thought to be gay. In 2008, 9% of all victims reporting anti-LGBT violence to the NCAVP identified as heterosexual.)
The Devil in the Details
On November 20th of each year, the transgender community holds a vigil celebrating the lives of predominantly transgender people. The commemoration is known by the TLGB community as the Transgender Day of Remembrance, completely ignored in the archived pages of 'Democracy Now' or anywhere else, is a peer collaborative effort to ...
...memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder in 1998 kicked off the "Remembering Our Dead" web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Since then, the event has grown to encompass memorials in dozens of cities across the world.
A review of the website The Transgender Day of Remembrance, dedicated to creating a heightened awareness over the hate crimes, is a daunting experience. The cumulative numbers no doubt under-report the grim stats. Yet they remain very disturbing from a humanist perspective. From 1970 to November of 2009, 305 people were murdered here in the United States for the fatal error of being unique in their personal expression. America, ever competitive in all forms of endeavor, can be proud of its hate, for in the entire world there were only 276 hate murders for the same period. Although, the similarity of the global figures are suspect due to a myriad of inhibiting religious and cultural implications of reporting hate crime, the grand total of people murdered for the mere expression of gender alternatives globally was 581.
No Rest for the Wary
Hate is like a mutant virus that thrives in the darkness of societal bigotry. Nurtured in the infected test tube of the nuclear family, it poisons the heart of all who allow it into their system. Hate toxifies the mind with the bitter rhetoric of societal condemnation, so often based on fear-mongering and a perceived threat to the male dominant hierarchy. Yet the persistence of hate motivated crimes against the transgender community is consistently ignored by this show, Democracy Now, that proclaims to support democracy.
We need not look very far at all for a recent example. During the week that I wrote this post, the news comes that Uganda is on the verge of making homosexuality and transgenderism a crime punishable by death. This story like so many others received no mention by mainstream media... or Democracy Now's Amy Goodman.
The blatant omission of this very newsworthy story speaks loudly about this culture's lack of concern for human rights and begs the question "Why?". Why are we as a global transgender minority consistently ostracized and marginalized by a purportedly progressive media whose archival programming reveals it to be, more accurately, moderate or slightly to the left of center? Sadly, we are left to guess at the answer. But we can safely deduce that this fatal omission lies in the mentality of those who make the programming decisions - and typically, they lack the courage to speak their truth.
The act of omitting the coverage of rampant, widespread hate crimes against any group, especially by so-called progressive media news outlets like 'Democracy Now', is tacit complicity in the application of oppression, period. It is analogous to the act of witnessing a murder from a distance, and using that distance as a rationale for doing and saying nothing that might implement justice. With the inherent power of the media to influence public attention in the 21st century, the act of non-reporting indirectly condones the suffering of a vast global minority.
For all my years of faithful watching and listening to'Democracy Now' I have eagerly anticipated a show about democracy, small 'd', whose stories focused on human rights abuses of the transgender minority populations of the global culture. For a brief, shining moment, with the emergence of the Free Speech Television Network, I allowed myself a thread of hope. Yet the genre of programming that I have long envisioned has not arrived - neither in mainstream, nor alternative culture.
The question remains , if not 'Democracy Now' for transgender people, with innocent lives at stake... can we afford to wait for "Democracy Someday"? Amy, why have you forsaken me?
Amy Goodman did not respond to requests for comment.