By Lisa J. Keating
I’d like to bring to the surface and discuss the real life damage that occurs because of the type of reporting on gender diversity by Fox News and other conservative media outlets. Who really gets hurt? The kids who identify as cisgender boys and girls? No. I believe it is a broader, more negative impression.
The influence, status, and privilege that media organizations such as Fox News enjoy, gives permission to people and religious organizations to further discriminate against those they deem unworthy or less valuable than themselves.
I want to be upfront and transparent about my own specific personal bias towards Fox News because while it helps fuel my passion for a call to action for change, it doesn’t weaken the argument. I find the commentary, as a whole, to be degrading, elitist and deliberately antagonistic. No group or individual is spared from their “mean girl” tactics; teachers, any non-Christian religious organization, young African American males, women, rape victims, immigrants, climate change, equal rights, marriage equality and LGBTQ rights. No group or person that differs from their limited ideology about America is spared from the Fox News gang mentality of degradation.
Since I’m in the business of advocating for gender non-conforming youth, bully prevention, and youth leadership, I’m addressing the elephant in the room; the bully that is Fox News. Now with any bully, the first step is to identify the behavior. Tap Root Theater, based in Seattle, WA, teaches students the 3 R’s: Recognize, Refuse, Report.
We’ll begin with Recognizing the behavior. A few weeks ago, Carlos Maza, LGBT program director for Media Matters, wrote about the cause and effect conservative media has on creating safe schools for transgender students, highlighting Fox News’ coverage of a school district in Lincoln, Nebraska. The Lincoln School District distributed educational material from the website for Gender Spectrum providing steps schools can implement for more inclusive classrooms and learning environments (enters Fox News).
Gretchen Carlson said during a segment on her show, “Don’t kids have enough to worry about right now? Now we’re going to confuse them even more – right before puberty, by the way – to not call each other what the majority of the population really is, and that would be boys and girls. Once again, this is pandering to outrageous over correction of a society addicted to making sure we take care of the .001 of the population instead of the masses. I want to be very clear: I am not against transgender people or transgender kids in any way, but to make an entire population start calling each other “purple penguins” because maybe one child in the entire school system will turn out to be transgender is crazy.”
Okay, can you recognize the intimidation and exclusion in Gretchen’s statement? Do you see how transgender people are marginalized by her (assuming Gretchen’s preferred pronoun is she) views? Did you notice that there is an assumption that there “might be ONE” transgender child in an entire school district? How about the insinuation that this information is confusing to kids, especially before puberty? Additionally, I’d like to know who’s in this “majority” population Gretchen is referring to. I wonder if she’s been to my town.
Now that we’ve recognized the bullying behavior let’s move onto the next R, Refuse. I am refusing to allow this type of reporting and dialog to go unnoticed. If I’m not willing to stand up and say something how will other people get the courage to do the same? Lead by example, right?
When LGBTQ youth are not allowed to be treated with the same respect and rights as straight, cisgender students it puts them at a higher rate of physical risk. Just ask Tiffany Morones-Suttle, whose son, Michael, attempted to hang himself in their home this past January because he’d been bullied for liking My Little Pony. Michael might have made a different choice had his school had an accepting climate and culture. He might not be in a wheelchair and be able to tell us his own story firsthand.
The final step is to Report. Who am I reporting to? Well, you I guess. I don’t know who else to tell. And I need your help because I can’t do it alone. This bully has too much power to be influenced by one person. I understand that it may feel impossible to get them to stop treating people so badly. Maybe it’s like an abusive relationship that will never end.
If we speak up together, our collective voices get louder and louder. We can support one another while sending a message that we aren’t going to allow Fox News to continue degrading and humiliating people they don’t like or approve of any longer. Let’s look at what recently took place in Berea, Kentucky.
On October 22, Silas House wrote a piece for The New York Times about Gay Rights in rural America. Earlier that month the City Council of Berea, Kentucky voted 5-3 against an ordinance banning discriminating against people for their sexual orientation or gender identity. House wrote, “The equality divide we face is no longer between red and blue states, but between urban and rural America. Even as we celebrate victories like this month’s Supreme Court order on same-sex marriage, the real front in the battle for equality remains the small towns that dot America’s landscape.”
The correlation that we must recognize, is that as adults we set the context that trickles down to our youth. The City Council of Berea not only set a legal precedent to discriminate against Berea LGBTQ citizens; they made the legal path to extend that discrimination to children, too. It becomes a grey area. Back to Fox News, are they breaking any laws by reporting inaccurately and with prejudice? No, they are not. The First Amendment keeps them cozy and safe, legally. Ethically and morally is another matter and that is what I am challenging.
At a Lincoln (Nebraska) school board meeting former city council woman, Robin Eschliman, protested, opposing the educational material for more inclusive schools and classrooms, using the argument that gender fluidity is a political view. The byproduct of her protests (and a further campaign to discredit Gender Spectrum from Fox News) was that the Lincoln school district removed the educational fliers from Gender Spectrum.
I can guarantee you that my child has no political views, let alone political ones regarding gender expression or identity. No child does and that is an uneducated opinion about the complexities of gender that directly interferes with the efforts of organizations like Gender Spectrum, Welcoming Schools, TransActive, Gender Diversity, The Michael Morones Foundation, The Trevor Project, GLSEN, and Trans Youth Family Allies.
Fox News is targeting a vulnerable population. These children have no way of defending themselves against a giant media organization spreading misinformation, lies, and ones that condemn organizations who’s mission’s are to spread awareness and education.
As Gretchen said, “maybe one child in the entire school system will turn out to be transgender”…maybe it’s just one. Isn’t that life worth protecting?
Join me in signing this petition to protect trans and gender non-conforming kids from reckless and irresponsible reporting. Let’s use our voices to create a safer, more educated environment for them to grow and become successful people. Everyone should have that right.