Media’s New Mania: Transfixed by Transgender

Back to school is an exciting time of year – new classmates, new subjects, new books, new gender and a new court-invented right to use the boys or girls room, depending on how you currently “identify.”

Welcome to the brave new world of “the next civil-rights struggle.” From a California law decreeing that any student has the right to use any gender-specific restroom and play on any gender-specific sports team he or she (or she or he) wants, biology be d**ned, to LGBT activists counseling network honchos on more sensitive TV portrayals, transgender is all the rage among liberals and media types.

The campaign to normalize gender confusion relies on emotional appeal. The media present “adorable” “transgender” 6-year-olds or teen couples who transitioned genders together. Or, for a child still unsure of his or her gender, lefty sites like Huffington Post and Slate enthusiastically recommend transgender children’s cartoons and transgender kid camps where little boys dress as “princesses.” It’s all part of the effort to “loosen the reins of gender expression,” as NPR put it.

At the adult level, CNN’s Anderson Cooper spoke with a transgender ex-SEAL “Warrior Princess” who advocated for transgender soldiers, while The Washington Post promoted “new hope” for transgender public bathroom use. The New York Times and the AP have decided to call convicted traitor Bradley Manning “Chelsea” (with all the matching pronouns) simply because he declared he wants to be a woman named Chelsea. 

And no effort to force the public to celebrate “alternative” sexualities would be complete without ABC, CBS, and NBC giving viewers stories of transgendered “normal” people leading “normal” lives – except for the “unique challenge” of transitioning into the opposite sex.

Downsides? Consequences? Differing opinions? Don’t be silly. The accounts of rallies defending marriage between one man and one woman are censored. The stories of entertainment media redefining the family don’t break into the mainstream.

As the same-sex marriage debate proved, the media ruthlessly shut down dissent when they find a pet cause.

The Focus on Children

It was Bloomberg.com that latched onto 6-year-old Coy Mathis – a boy pretending to be a girl who won a Colorado case to use the girls’ school bathroom – and declared it “the next civil-rights struggle.” The article even divulged why it was easy to take up Coy’s banner: “Part of the reason Coy’s story has so transfixed America – part of the reason she got an interview with Katie Couric – is that she is adorable.” Meaning that androgyny is easier to pull off in grade school. 

The International Business Times and The New York Times, presumably also taken with Coy’s lack of 5 o-clock shadow, accused Mathis’ school of “discrimination.” Buzzfeed hailed the “victory.” Several other organizations picked up the report, from The Huffington Post to CNNABCCBS, and NBC acknowledged Mathis – but only online.

In a similar case, liberal Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak has been hyping 6-year-old Tyler (once a Kathryn). Dvorak insisted Tyler was like any other little boy, claiming, “His home looks like a house with a son. Karate gear, soccer balls, cars, trucks and pirate swords abound. At school, he’s a boy. Plain and simple.” The New York Daily News tacked on, “he’s never been happier.”

Even the new royal baby failed escape the escalating trend as The Independent Journal Review noted (sarcastically) twelve tweeters who challenged his gender: “How imperialist of the royal parents to declare their child a ‘boy’ just because he has male genitalia?!” Unfortunately, the Tweeters weren’t being sarcastic.

Of course, if the future King senses he may be a princess (or queen), Slate.com has helpfully pointed out transgender kid camps (and, for their elders, transgender centers) as a resource for “parents who don't have a gender-confirming 3-year-old who wants to wear high heels and prefers to go down the pink aisle in K-Mart and not that nasty dark boys’ aisle.” While at camp, kids can take a break from bending their own genders to catch a transgender children’s cartoon where a boy transforms into a girl with superpowers in order to save the world.

Parents who are reluctant to let pre-pubescent children make decisions that will impact the rest of their lives can turn to HuffPost Live for a “Gender Myth Busting” session and the reassurance that “it’s only to children’s benefit to break down gender stereotypes.” Then it’s easy to parlay their “Princess Boys” into transgendered children’s books and fawning “Today” show interviews.

But it wasn’t just confused kids who got the “isn’t-that-adorable” treatment. The media could be counted on to ooh and ahh over transgender relationships, no matter how weird the story. Louis Davies and Jamie Eagle who made headlines for refusing to marry until the completion of their gender change surgeries. 

Arin Andrews and Katie Hill proposed an alternative model: a teen transgender couple sharing their transition together. Gay.net wasn’t the only site to find them the “cutest couple ever.” The two of them were meant to be, according to “The Huffington Post,” and, “might seem like your typical young couple, but their love story is unlike many others.” The New York Daily News acknowledged the “teen lovebirds,” whilst The Daily Mail dubbed them “sex-change sweethearts.”

Networks Push Positivity

As they are wont to do, when ABC, NBC, and CBS news shows covered transgender from January to August they fell over themselves trying to sell its normality.

ABC squeezed out a report of 11-year-old Jazz, who confronted “a unique challenge,” during “Good Morning America” on Jan. 18, 2013. Barbara Walters reported on the boy-turned-girl and defined the condition, explaining, “being transgender is not a phase,” and even the parents knew “since she was very young.” Walters noted Jazz’s normal routine, from playing on a girls’ soccer team to using the girls’ bathroom. And of course there were Walters’ usual fluff questions: “What part of being transgender hurts you the most?”

From NBC came the second story. The “Today Show,” on May 3 reported on Jennifer Finney Boylan, a dad-turned-mom who composed a “poignant” memoir to commemorate his conversion to a woman. NBC’s Willie Geist noted how the “dramatic transition” transformed into a “unique journey.” He sympathized with Jennifer over the “fascinating story,” and assumed, “You obviously agonized over this. This was not easy for you but in the end you made the decision that you had to do this for who you were even if it risked your family.”

CBS joined the gang August 13 during the “Evening News with Scott Pelley” when California passed a bill requiring public schools (K-12th grade) to allow youth to select sports teams and bathrooms based on their chosen gender identity. News correspondent John Blackstone interviewed 18-year-old Logan Henderson, a she-turned-he, and sympathized, “It wasn’t easy” with Henderson’s bathroom situation but concluded, “You’re making the best of it.” To his credit, Blackstone also spoke with Brad Dacus, founder of the conservative Pacific Justice Institute for the rare media alternative opinion on concerns from wrestling teams to shower rooms.

The Media Absurd

You can tell a group has broken into the modern American mainstream – no matter how small its numbers or arcane its interests – when it becomes a grievance group or a market segment or both. Transgender has clearly achieved the first, all the more so since CBS execs huddled with GLAAD activists to discuss more positive portray transgenders. (The Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” includes a former fireman in doing time in a women’s prison). They achieved the second with a Time Magazine article on transgender product marketing.  

And then there’s Miss Universe 2013. The pageant altered the rules to allow the transgender contestants because, as Deadline put it, “Let’s face it: this could make ratings soar.” Miss USA’s first transgender contestant sent shockwaves through the media this year by “braving” the swimsuit round, while transgender competitors surfaced on “America’s Next Top Model” as well.

But The Struggle continues. To the chagrin of the Huffington Post, even President Obama failed to include transgender pre-teen rights during the special interest shout-out fest that was his second inaugural speech. CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke with a transgender ex-SEAL “Warrior Princess” who stated that “there’s a lot of [transgender people] right now” in the military who should be allowed to live as they want. CNN Money went in a tizzy over the challenges for the unemployed transgendered. In June, the Washington Post and the AP uncovered the tyranny of the government’s insistence on rigid male-female categories, publishing a story on “‘outdated' ID cards that tell the truth about the real gender, not the 'transgender.’”

But there are some causes for encouragement, and they’re mostly in the public toilet. Back in 2008, The Washington Post hyped “new hope” for transgender men using the ladies’ bathroom, when a Maryland court blocked a ballot initiative and denying transgendered persons the right to choose which bathroom to use. More recently, a lefty blogger conference boasted gender-neutral restrooms and called for the transgender to be allowed to “pee in peace.”

Not to worry; the federal government is on the case. The Obama administration pressured a California school district to allow a transgender girl to access boys’ restrooms – and even sleeping quarters. There was also the $1.35 million grant to examine transgender U.S. military service.

The states and municipalities have been busy as well. New York claimed it’s first openly transgender politician running for city council. A new D.C. transgender law allows birth certificates to reflect an individual’s gender identity. Schools aren’t quite as happy with the transgender spread as they confront upcoming lawsuits and threats concerning bathroom rights in states such as Maine and Florida.

And California is leading the way. Lawmakers approved and California Governor Jerry Brown signed what ABC.com named “historic” (ABC.com) and “groundbreaking bill” (Huffington Post) forcing schools to acknowledge chosen genders. Leading up to the “breakthrough,” transgender high school junior Ashton Lee made the news for sending nearly 6,000 petition signatures to Governor Brown in support of the bill, in an effort “to bring equality and protection to transgender students,” according to the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

The law isn’t without critics. Dr. Michael Youssef, Ph.D. and founder of Leading the Way,suggested the mandates are child “brainwashing” in an email to CMI, writing, “This is an important issue that belongs in the home. And taking it away from the parents and placing it into the hands of the government is a giant leap into the abyss of child abuse.

“We need to pray for a spirit of repentance,” he explained, “to fall upon the lobbyists who are resorting to a new low by pushing their agenda on five-year-olds. For children who often don't know who they are until their late teens, to give them a choice of whom to shower with is beyond the pale of human decency.”

Language Abuse

As with any liberal leftward social push, the first casualty is the English language. Accordingly,

the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorderschanged in May the definition of transgender to “gender dysphoria” and removed "gender identity disorder" from the mental health issues list. 

In August, when convicted traitor Bradley Manning announced he was now “Chelsea” and decreed that “starting today you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun,” The New York Times and the AP readily complied. Before he’d taken a hormone even bought a wig, the man behind the largest ever leak of classified U.S. military intelligence got two respected news organizations to abandon reality. In an email, an AP editor said the agency “will henceforth use Pvt. Chelsea E. Manning ... in accordance with her wishes to live as a woman.”

At least that’s an understandable reaction when presented with an individual who insists he is a she. It gets weird when you start inventing language.

With a silliness that used to be confined to liberal arts graduate seminars, NPR recently noted the necessity to “loosen the reins of gender expression” and recommended “zee, zim, zer” instead of the outdated terminology “him” and “her. ”

But made-up language is all the rage on the gay left. Outlets like The Advocate labeled children and adults who identified with their actual biology as cisgender – or “non-trans.” As Basic Rights Oregon (BRO), explained, “Referring to cisgender people as ‘non trans’ implies that cisgender people are the default and that being trans is abnormal.” The BRO, formed as an organization “to sustain and strengthen Oregon’s LGBT rights movement.” But the language is creeping in from the fringe, gaining use at The Huffington Post and even TIME.

The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, a non-profit aiding trans communities, also suggested the term “gender galaxy” in “Trans 101,” highlighting, “One way to picture gender is as a gender galaxy – a space with an infinite number of gender points that can move and that are not hierarchically ordered.”

Brave New World

The normalization of transgender is probably a done-deal. The left has declared it a civil rights issue and the media – news and entertainment – have their marching orders. Fresh from their victory on same-sex marriage, they’ll employ the same tactics.

Trans characters will be turning up in your favorite sit-coms, and ribbons will appear on awards shows. Look forward to a parade of “Princess Boys,” Chelsea Mannings and Miss/Mr Universes, all with a poignant story and all scrambling to sort out their restroom accommodations.  

Katie Yoder
Katie Yoder
Katie Yoder is Staff Writer, Joe and Betty Anderlik Fellow in Culture and Media at the Media Research Center