Yesterday one of my kids said something snarky about someone and then said, half-seriously, “I’m a terrible person.” I responded jokingly with, “You get it from me!”
But it’s not a joke, it’s the truth, and it’s not just from the genetic material I passed down. My kids have learned a whole lot about life from watching and listening to me, and that includes how I talk about other people when those people aren't around. It’s sobering to realize how directly my lack of right speech influences my kids
After watching Russell Brand’s awesome video that calls out the media, particularly TMZ, for their completely disrespectful and crass coverage of the speculation about Bruce Jenner, my thoughts went to how the media influences what we think is acceptable to say. It’s time for the media to take responsibility for what they say and to be educated in how to talk, write, and portray transgender people. Perhaps starting by reading this article: It’s time to learn how to write about transgender people. But also by giving trans people the opportunity to tell their own story when they are ready, as Inside Edition did for Zoey Tur.
Speculating about someone’s gender is not right speech. It’s not respectful and it is often just plain mean. I remember the Bones episode where a visiting scientist from Japan gives no indication of their gender identity. Many of the characters spend the entire episode trying to get the scientist to slip up or out themself. It was disrespectful and it bothered me. (Season 4, Episode 22.) We don’t get to decide someone else’s gender, but we also don’t get to out people, or decide when Or If someone should be out. It should go without saying that we don’t get to decide how anyone else expresses their gender identity. However, the media seems to have missed that memo and feels it is their place to comment on how long a man’s hair or fingernails should be, and what clothes and makeup a man can wear. As in, guyliner is o.k. and getting madeup to be on camera is fine, but don’t you dare go wearing lipstick on a daily basis, unless it’s black and matches your guyliner.
When someone does come out we can offer our acceptance and support as their ally. If people choose not to be out we can avoid stealth shaming and speculation. There may be people you talk to everyday who are transgender and you don’t know it. You don’t need to know. Remember, those people are listening to what you say and they hear what jokes you laugh at. What we say says a whole lot about who we are and what we support. If you’re like me, it’s time to focus more on thinking before you speak. Now if only the media would do the same.
The links from above in case you missed them:
Stealth Shaming, What it is, why you shouldn't do it, and how not to.
Bruce Jenner's Gender Identity: What Should We Think, Russell Brand
Chopper Bob (Zoey Tur) discusses transition from man to woman
It's time to learn to write about transgender people
Ducky Barnes encourages you to think