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Where is Laverne Cox? On the cover of Time.
May 31, 2014 9:07 AM   Subscribe

After the controversial decision last month (previously) to leave actress and activist Laverne Cox out of their "Time 100" issue, Cox has become the first transgender person to grace the cover of Time magazine.
posted by The Gooch (37 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Unsurprisingly, they did a pretty terrible job on the article.
posted by Juliet Banana at 9:11 AM on May 31 [3 favorites]


This is FREAKING awesome! We are seeing change happen in our lifetimes. The battle isn't over yet, but this is real progress.
posted by arcticseal at 9:11 AM on May 31


Unsurprisingly, they did a pretty terrible job on the article.

Oh my god several times I had to stop reading that post about having several times to stop reading the Time article because I was getting so upset.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:39 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


As someone who does work in the field of trans rights, yeah, there are some issues with the article. But you know what? It's a GREAT article. It's accessible to people who may not know Cox or anything about trans people. Maybe it's not the most sophisticated way to present that information, but I thought it was great that it was a cover story at all. There are lots of hater responses (I just read one on the National Review) website, and good for Time for trying to educate their readers.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:58 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


In related news the ban on Medicare coverage for gender reassignment surgery was lifted yesterday.
posted by get off of my cloud at 10:06 AM on May 31 [21 favorites]


I would like it if there were an additional woman who also did a whole bunch of fantastic activist stuff and also went around being an inspiration to folks and her name would be Shirley Cox

That's all. As you were -
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:17 AM on May 31


Definitely far from perfect but I am so glad this is happening; my awareness of trans* issues and trans* rights has increased exponentially since my time reading Metafilter and with that the understanding that this is so, SO important, and seeing that awareness reflected in more mainstream areas (like magazines sold in my grocery store) is super awesome. This can't happen fast enough.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:24 AM on May 31 [4 favorites]


It's accessible to people who may not know Cox or anything about trans people. Maybe it's not the most sophisticated way to present that information,

Isn't that precisely the problem? If you're writing for a clueless audience, then the importance of doing things like not gratuitously using previous names is only heightened. You can maybe be forgiven for being cringe-inducingly simplistic, but you ought to be able to be expected to clear the names and pronouns bar.
posted by hoyland at 10:29 AM on May 31 [9 favorites]


I am glad she's on the cover, Laverne Cox is a beautiful woman. I will probably never be, but I am glad a beautiful trans woman can make this possible for the rest of us. She is knocking down barriers with dignity and grace. I have learned a lot from her about how I can do better at explaining my own situation to people in a way that does not have to resort to fighty language, yet can still be said firmly.

/me hugs everyone
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:00 AM on May 31 [9 favorites]


(from Juliet Banana's link)
In another paragraph they explain how gender and sex are different, and how understanding this is how we are able to understand trans people. They say “sex is biological, determined by a baby’s birth anatomy; gender is cultural, a set of behaviors learned through human interaction.” Then later, when talking about trans people taking hormones, they use “biological females” when talking about trans men and “biological males” when talking about trans women.
I'd like to think of myself as an ally but I get tripped up by this stuff too. I get that "John was born a boy but is taking hormones to become a woman named Jane" is problematic on a number of levels but the majority of people will understand what is meant. What is the best way to actually phrase that? Can someone rewrite the sentence for me? How, precisely do you phrase that a person who was born with a penis or vagina is now taking hormones to (become? develop as?) a person of the (opposite?) gender? sex? Argh. Sorry I'm an idiot.
posted by desjardins at 11:56 AM on May 31


"Jane is on hormone therapy".
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:08 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


I guess I am trying to say the boy part doesn't really matter at all.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:09 PM on May 31 [3 favorites]


Assuming that it's not ambiguous who you're talking about: "Jane is transitioning.", "Jane is a trans woman.", "Jane has begun hormone therapy." (if hormones are genuinely relevant). "Jane is medically transitioning." (if the medical part is genuinely relevant, but the specifics aren't). If you're talking to someone who really isn't getting it, the phrase "assigned male [or female, as applicable] at birth" has come into vogue to avoid the 'born a boy' thing. So something like "Jane is a woman who was assigned male at birth." (Or "When she was born, people thought Jane was a boy" for kids.)
posted by hoyland at 12:09 PM on May 31 [18 favorites]


I guess I am trying to say the boy part doesn't really matter at all.

For people who have no trans understanding, it does matter. You need to explain it.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:15 PM on May 31 [6 favorites]


There's a difference between clarification of confusion and the starting point being "born a boy!!!11!!".
posted by hoyland at 12:27 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


So something like "Jane is a woman who was assigned male at birth."

I guarantee that would lead to confusion with many people I know. I can see them saying: How could she be a woman if she was "assigned male at birth"? Were the doctors blind and stupid?
posted by desjardins at 12:43 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


I'm glad to see that Time magazine has recognized that trans civil rights are an important issue, and Laverne Cox an influential spokeswoman! That said, I read the beginning of the article not hidden behind Time's subscriber paywall, and found this in the first paragraph, describing an audience for a talk by Cox: "Boys carrying pink backpacks kiss on the lips, while long-haired ladies whose sequined tank tops expose broad shoulders snap selfies." This was supposedly illustrating that the audience defied gender stereotypes, but seemed to me to be an embodiment of stereotypes about trans people that just made me roll my eyes. Not that I don't love cute transguys, or women with broad shoulders, but . . . woo. Trans women are narcissists in prom dresses, and trans men are bronies!

@desjardins, you can easily say, "Jane is a trans woman," and if someone really can't grok that, just say, "she was assigned male at birth, but is now living in her identified sex."
posted by DrMew at 12:45 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


If talking about writing a news article or something about specifically someone going through the process of aligning their physiology to their gender identity, then I suppose it is important to discuss the "born as" part, but it's important to understand the mechanics of how gender is "assigned as at birth" based on sex parts, when really, gender has nothing to do with sex parts at all besides what we make of it in our heads, which isn't to say it's meaningless, it has meaning, very real meaning and those meanings take on many many forms that fall WAY outside the "penis=boy vagina=girl" binary construct.

By separating the gender identity from what's between your legs, it ceases to be important to automatically assign the socially constructed aspects gender (roles, performance and expression) based upon testes or ovaries. This is not a problem that is specific to trans identified people. Anyone can have a problem with the socially constructed aspects of their self-identified gender.

However, for some, but not all trans people, we decide it's time to take the medically necessary steps to saying "My gender identity is (woman|man) as much as the the next (woman|man)." This is an example of how gender identity is based upon something other than testes or ovaries.

So what you literally have in these cases, is a woman with a penis. It's not a boy penis, it's a girl penis. I can share with you all the delights of hetero PIV sex and how fucked up it is for me if you'd like the gory details.

Minor derail: When you meet a cis gender woman whose gender identity aligns with the sex parts and the hormones and all that, you don't ask her if she's begun hormone therapy or if her vagina still works.

Some trans people (not all) are medically aligning their body's physiology to their gender identity to more fully experience their gender identity. They are not boys with boy parts or girls with girl parts deciding to "become women" or "become men", they already ARE the gender they say they are and their attempts to pass are two-fold, First, to align the internal body chemistry to deal with internal distress and second, align the external constructs to help them gain acceptance and validation.

Going back, they were girls being told they had to be boys and and boys being told they had to be girls and struggling to not fuck up by performing the social aspects of whatever gender the world expected them to be.

Therefore, If you are a girl doing your thing and someone says "There is jane riding a skateboard and shredding OMFG" Jane feels better than if you say "There's used-to-be-john skating on a skateboard". It erases the womanhood Jane is living.

It matters for non trans people to understand how trans people generally experience distress in life, but once you understand that the "assigned at birth" gender is really the mistake being corrected by the trans person their "AAB" gender is really not a useful part of the discussion at all. It's more like "I'm trying to move beyond that, can you please let me?".
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:09 PM on May 31 [8 favorites]


I guarantee that would lead to confusion with many people I know. I can see them saying: How could she be a woman if she was "assigned male at birth"?

"It's really pretty simple: Jane's a trans woman. The doctors looked at her when she was born and, based on what they saw, put a gender on her birth certificate as a best guess, as they did with you. Jane doesn't identify as male, however, and is now taking steps to bring her official documentation and her appearance in line with her gender identity."
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:10 PM on May 31 [5 favorites]


And my example doesn't even begin to discuss the various shades of grey in between. I don't mean to exclude anyone by focusing on "girl|boy" it just makes the explanation easier.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:15 PM on May 31 [1 favorite]


Laverne getting on the cover of Time is like the exact karmic opposite of Sterling getting $2bn for being a racist misogynist.
posted by chavenet at 1:26 PM on May 31 [2 favorites]


I am so happy to see that popular magazines like Time have people like Ms. Cox on the cover. For a while I felt that Time was becoming irrelevant and their latest cover stories did not do much to encourage any interest in me. In some ways I am afraid this is how a major force in media attempts to be hip and cool when the readership slips, but in another way I am very happy that this is how a mainstream media product feels it can reach the average viewer. My hope is this is not a one time thing to gain new readers, but rather an effort (based on careful investigation) to show what the young people of today expect to see represented in their media.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 4:23 PM on May 31


I'd like to think of myself as an ally but I get tripped up by this stuff too. I get that "John was born a boy but is taking hormones to become a woman named Jane" is problematic on a number of levels but the majority of people will understand what is meant. What is the best way to actually phrase that?

I found that phrasing things as, "So and so is taking steps to be accurately perceived" shifted both where the burden of error is (on people who don't respect what people present as their gender identity, be it male, female, or something else) and sidestepped a lot of the nasty "so and so is pretending to be" implicit assumptions that can come along with "passing" or "transitioning" while including the fact that this went on long before Jane was in a position to act on her own behalf.

So I would say that as, "Jane is taking steps to be accurately perceived as a woman" if Jane was beginning to transition and people were confused, and I'd say nothing at all if Jane was seeking surgery of any kind because she gets to decide who knows about that.

I think it's hard for some people to imagine what it would be like to feel "off" in some physical, unending manner; since I identify very strongly as a woman/girl, I've tried to imagine what it would have been like to be raised as a boy, and to have bits where bits shouldn't be, and get yelled at when I sensibly wore skirts instead of pants. It's not a perfect analog, since I'm gender congruous, but it was how a friend of mine described being forced to act like a girl for so long before he could be more widely perceived accurately (his circle of friends always sort of knew, though we didn't have the language for it, but he often ended up having to pass as female with family and suchlike when he was a child, teenager, and young adult).
posted by Deoridhe at 6:23 PM on May 31 [7 favorites]


I have known an individual from this individual's childhood, who has always been male. Now this individual is grown and took the steps to present as male, and be who he has always been. There is no nightmare story, his family is as American as apple pie, a sweet life, the daughter they gave birth to, has always been male, now he is a young man. I wish for him all the happiness a life can bring, for he is, and has always been, a being of joy. It is funny I have not yet talked with him since he became a man, the last time I saw him, he was still biologically female. I'm still in the awkward stage about the whole thing, though this is something that has always been. I watched him grow up.
posted by Oyéah at 9:15 PM on May 31


It's pretty much always a good idea to avoid the "biological female" or "biologically a male" phrasing, for a lot of reasons.

- it suggests that there's some sort of immutable overriding maleness or femaleness about them that negates their chosen gender identity

- it just gives fodder to the OMG I'M SORRY BUT IF YOU HAVE OVARIES/GONADS/WHATEVER I'M JUST GONNA GENDER YOU HOWEVER I WANT BECAUSE *SCIENCE* assholes, which we unfortunately have a lot of on Metafilter - I'm so glad threads have stopped devolving into this, but this attitude was definitely a huge thing for a lot of people to get over

- why does biology matter? there are a million different conditions that can cause someone's hormones levels to not be at the most healthy-for-them mix, there are a million conditions that effect the chromosomes; why do we only consider it the defining criteria for someone's identity if they're trans and/or intersex?

Like has been suggested, "assigned at birth" is much less problematic.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:19 AM on June 1 [2 favorites]


And Oyéah, that was not a comment in response to you talking about your friend that you obviously care for very much, that was in response to desjardins query much earlier in the thread.
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:23 AM on June 1


Yeah, and even though people think they're being some kind of "technically" or "factually" correct, they're really not. There is no One Binary "Biological" Gender Marker That Works For Everything. Biological can mean endocrine system. Biological can mean genital configuration. Biological can mean secondary sex traits. Biological can mean metabolism and fat distribution. Biological can mean chromosomes that nobody knows. All of these not only may be variously interpreted as "male" or "female" in different states, but generally work in a spectrum (or a set of several discrete-but-more-than-two). So often when people say "biologically male" they aren't being more specific, they're just taking one biological factor arbitrarily (usually they don't know which one) and using it to get the wrong gender floating around in conversations about a trans person.

(Also not a response to Oyéah.)

I hope to pick this issue up sometime today.
posted by Corinth at 7:40 AM on June 1 [5 favorites]


Kevin D. Williamson's anti-transgender rant featured in the "Chicago Sun-Times"

Laverne Cox is a woman—and publishing transphobia is a disgrace to us all
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 7:57 AM on June 3


Chicago Sun-Times removes grossly inaccurate op-ed and apologizes
We try to present a range of views on an issue, not only those views we may agree with, but also those we don’t agree with. A recent op-ed piece we ran online that was produced by another publication initially struck as provocative. Upon further consideration, we concluded the essay did not include some key facts and its overall tone was not consistent with what we seek to publish. The column failed to acknowledge that the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have deemed transgender-related care medically necessary for transgender people. It failed as well to acknowledge the real and undeniable pain and discrimination felt by transgender people, who suffer from notably higher rates of depression and suicide. We have taken the post down and we apologize for the oversight.
posted by and they trembled before her fury at 3:51 PM on June 3


Upon further consideration, we concluded the essay did not include some key facts and its overall tone was not consistent with what we seek to publish.

And, yet, oddly enough, we not only sought to publish it, but actually published it. Weird, huh? We have no idea how that happened. None whatsoever.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:06 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


I've heard rumors run through journalist friends that they were using a little-overseen automatic system for republishing articles. I don't believe it excuses them; I think it's proof positive that they were fucking up by not overseeing and evaluating the articles more closely.

The Sun-Times also published a really fatphobic review of a local hot dog restaurant in the past week, and when the inevitable backlash came, the author doubled down on his personal blog, got even more offensive, and said that his article has been reviewed by two editors who both expressed concerns about the problematic nature of his comments but ultimately allowed the article to run without the offending paragraph (that has absolutely nothing to do with reviewing a restaurant) edited out.

Listen, I'm all in favor of hard-hitting, controversial journalism. But is some whiny middle-aged white male bigot making completely unsubstantiated claims about how fat women are gross and trans women don't exist journalism? Why the hell is the Chicago Sun-Times paying money to these people and giving them publicity? Why are these kinds of articles waved through every editorial evaluation they're willing to give?
posted by Juliet Banana at 5:56 PM on June 3


Controversy should reach forward, not back./
posted by shakespeherian at 6:08 PM on June 3


I guess I'm bothered about the idea that the Sun-Times can play this off like a one-time oversight instead of a dedicated effort to become a prehistoric, irrelevant media dinosaur full of gross grandpa opinions.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:33 PM on June 3


I'm bothered not only by the fact that they ran it in the first place, but that they're now covering it up instead of owning up to it and making amends. The "we try to present a range of views" bullshit doesn't fly when it comes to blatant -isms and -phobias.
posted by Corinth at 8:09 PM on June 3


Regarding terminology, I've heard people suggesting the terms "gender-affirming" or "gender-conforming surgery".

Of course, the times I've heard it, it's been part of a discussion that included "and why exactly are the details of this person's medical history a matter of public interest?" Whatever surgery an individual has or hasn't had would seem to be one of the less important aspects of who they really are. And basic respect seems to lean towards not asking people intimate personal questions without good reason.
posted by Lexica at 9:40 PM on June 3


I've heard rumors run through journalist friends that they were using a little-overseen automatic system for republishing articles. I don't believe it excuses them; I think it's proof positive that they were fucking up by not overseeing and evaluating the articles more closely.


That's possible - but it's also the case that transphobia gets waved through by editors all the time, primarily because of the lack of diversity in editorial, and those editors are then caught on the hop when their more diverse readership responds with horror.

It happened at The Observer in the United Kingdom, when a transphobic piece by career contrarian Julie Burchill led to a garment-rending post by the reader's editor that identified a failure of editing at every level, but did not actually explain why it was signed off and waved through, because it simply could not be explained. Likewise at Grantland with "Dr V's Magical Putter" (previously), where the entire editorial board waved through a story that treated its (deceased) subject's trans status as a crazy plot twist, where it never occurred to any of the thirteen (IIRC) editors who looked at the piece to show it to a trans person, or ask a trans person about how it felt to them.

That's partly just cisgender entitlement, of course, but it's also, consciously or not, an assessment of risk and resource. Until very recently, there had never been any adverse consequence for misrepresenting or mistreating a trans person, or the trans community, in the press. So, if you have a finite amount of time to spend, why would you spend that much of it worrying about the feelings of a group with literally no power to affect your publication's circulation or brand? Your entire culture is telling you not to value trans people, so it's not surprisingly that your totally cisgender editorial staff don't really look hard at this stuff.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:04 AM on June 4 [2 favorites]


How to Dehumanize a Trans Person in Three Simple Steps
posted by Corinth at 11:18 AM on June 4


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