NPR's Diane Rehm Show Reprises Time Magazine's 'Transgender Tipping Point' Narrative

National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm Show devoted a unanimous hour on Monday to the transgender “struggle for civil rights.” The guests were three transgender advocates and Time magazine writer Katy Steinmetz, author of Time’s magazine's cover story on “The Transgender Tipping Point.”

Rehm asked Steinmetz hopefully about the alleged new frontier of civil rights: "Do you believe society is at that tipping point of acceptance?"

STEINMETZ: That was a tough cover line to choose because it's hard to know whether we really are a tipping point. But I think if you look at it issue to issue, in some ways we are at a tipping point and in some ways we're just beginning. There may be people out there who have never heard the word transgender before. But certainly that shift where people are encountering transgender people is happening. And a lot of them has to do with public figures. Chaz Bono, Chelsea Manning, Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, these actresses or public personalities that all of a sudden are in a spotlight that wasn't there five or ten years ago.

And when people see them leading healthy lives, Laverne Cox being an Emmy nomination for Orange is a New Black, they start to think, okay, maybe this is something I need to know more about. And I think that shift is happening.

The other guests were Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equality and Aiden Key, “a gender specialist at the Gender Diversity Group. He works with public and private schools, K through 12, to create gender-inclusive learning environments.” Both are transgenders. The other gender-conforming guest was Dr. Julie Eastin, a psychologist with Chase Brexton Health Services.


Rehm asked Time’s Steinmetz about the size of the transgender population:

STEINMETZ: I spoke with Susan Stryker, who's a leading academic on transgender issues at the University of Arizona, and she pointed out that if you phrase the question do you identity as transgender, you get about .5 percent of the population.

But if you ask it more broadly, is there something about being a man or a woman in society that you don't feel really matches up with yourself, you may get something closer to 10 percent.

REHM: Wow.

STEINMETZ: And the outlook seems to be changing on a lot of levels. There are school policies that are changing. There are nondiscrimination measures thaare being passed, but there's still a long, long way to go.

REHM: Of course....And did the people that you spoke with -- were they happy to speak with you about their experiences or were they reluctant?

STEINMETZ: I think both. A lot of advocates for transgender rights feel like the best thing they can do for the movement is to live visibly and to tell their stories. And to let other people who might read them know that they're not alone and there are other people like them. So they want to put that out there. But at the same time, nothing could be more personal.

And a lot of people who've been through painful divorces or have had their kids taken away from them -- and who know that people are going to ask about what's in their pants, even though that's an issue that they would like people not to concentrate on -- are a little bit reluctant. I mean they are really opening up and sharing something that most of us would never imagine sharing with another person.

Now that have “someone's who's encountered someone else who's living as transgender -- and Laverne Cox, the actress from "Orange is the New Black," calls these "possibility models."

These are people who show you that, hey, maybe I can live this life that I've either been telling myself I can't live or shouldn't live or other people have been telling me because here's someone who's doing it. Again, that's not universal, but it's very common.

See how the media agenda and the transgender agenda are exaclty the same: build maximum “visibility” toward a “tipping point,” and exclude any and all opponents unless they neatly fit a convenient narrative of hate and bullying. Rehm also encouraged Steinmetz to explain how to be accepting of a new world of gender relativism:

REHM: And, Katy, there is one issue that I think a great many people who are listening to the program might question, and that is authenticity. And the authenticity of the individual who transgenders and whether that person is really who he or she says he or she is.

STEINMETZ: A really safe rule -- if you want to come at this from a point of being accepting -- is look at the person in front of you and ask them. You know, ask them, you know, tell me about yourself. How do you identify? There is a lot of tension here between -- do bureaucracies, for instance, who control whether you have male or female on your passport or your driver's license, are they in charge of telling you whether you're male or female? Or is it your own personal experience and do you let that entirely guide it?

The new California law, for instance, is entirely based on gender identity, regardless of any sex that's on official records. And very much defers to a person's individual feelings. But it's different for every person and it's safest to just let them tell you where they are.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis