Telling, not exploiting a story
The month of January is barely half done, and yet there have been some major news stories about the lives of trans people.
There was the story of Cece McDonald, a transgender woman who was imprisoned for 41 months after stabbing a man who attacked her. McDonald was imprisoned in a men's institution - even though she does not identify as such- but was released after 19 months. Orange Is The New Black's Laverne Cox had been championing McDonald's cause for quite a while, and McDonald's release could not have come at a better time.
The reason is that Cox had just been a guest on the Katie Couric show. Along with guest Carmen Carrera, Cox took the opportunity to discuss why it is inappropriate to focus on one specific part of the experience of some transgender people: namely, the state of their genitals.
As it happened, within days of the Cox/Couric/Carrera interview, a story I had been working on for a few months for Vice was published. The story detailed how more and more transgender people are accessing crowdsourced funds to help pay for costly sexual reassignment surgeries, or SRS.
In an op-ed I later wrote for Daily Xtra, I confronted the issues around discussing the lives of trans people. It is often too easy to exploit the subject of a story, rather than simply tell it, especially when one can justify a certain line of questioning - and exposing - by stating that "a general audience would not understand." It's too easy to limit not only the scope of the story, but the breadth in which a writer can tell a story. And when we as journalists do this, everyone loses.