The Coming Storm: “Controversial” Transgender Stories

October 1, 2013

In the coming year, as AB 1266 goes into effect in California, be prepared to read a lot of stories like this:

Local Transgender Student Provokes Mixed Reactions

Leanne Suter at KABC-TV Los Angeles writes about the “controversy” surrounding news that a transgender elementary school student in Glendale, CA would begin attending school presenting as a girl.

The story goes on to talk about how one parent, Rochelle Mazel, opted to keep her kids home from school on Monday, “afraid the situation at school could be too chaotic or confusing for her children.” She later states that she wishes the school would have provided a psychologist for the benefit of the other students.

Another parent, Natalia Selway, was quoted as saying, “it would be a lot of questions that would be hard to answer, and I would prefer not to deal with this.”

These parents don’t seem to realize that the reason your children go to school is to gain an education. “Too confusing” and “hard to answer?” Maybe. But Selway’s quote, “I would prefer not to deal with this,” is a summation of the attitudes of the ignorant.

A core component of being a parent is the ability to answer the tough questions, to enlighten your children instead of leaving them in the dark. Selway and Mazel are failures in the field of parenting, choosing to shield their child from developing a healthy worldview, and instead remaining as in the dark as their parents. I feel sorry for these children.

Other parents, of course, voiced their concern over which bathroom the transgender student would be using. It always somehow comes back to the bathroom, doesn’t it?

This is a prime example of why California legislation AB 1266 is so important. It takes so much bravery on the part of this young trans student to do what she’s doing. We need steps in place to prevent parents of cisgender children from throwing these students under the bus, from trying to change school policy through pulling their own students from the classroom.

Obviously, the goal of such pseudo-protests is to gin up faux damage allegations, claiming that the only way to protect their own children would be to pull them from school, denying them an education. In the mind of these parents, it’s not their own fault for pulling their child from school, it’s the transgender student’s.

I have to ask, if we were in the times of Brown v. Board of Education, would these parents keep their kids home, fearing that it might be “too confusing” to explain that some people have different colored skin other than their own? Would these parents pull their students out of an advanced mathematics class for fear of the information being “too confusing?” Would these parents homeschool their kids for fear of them finding out that the earth revolves around the sun?

News media, stop bowing to close-minded bigots like Natalia Selway and Rochelle Mazel. Stop treating the existence of transgender people as a “controversy.” There is nothing controversial about transgender individuals. We exist. We’re people. Stop treating us as a debate topic and start treating us like humans.


6 Responses to “The Coming Storm: “Controversial” Transgender Stories”

  1. doubleinvert Says:

    “A core component of being a parent is the ability to answer the tough questions, to enlighten your children instead of leaving them in the dark.”

    Precisely! Even if the answer is, “I don’t know,” parents don’t have the luxury to shy away from tough questions.


  2. Dawn Ennis Says:

    I agreed with everything up to your condemnation of “the news media” for what one web producer wrote. You would prefer that she not define this as a controversy, and present this Trans girl’s private struggle as equal to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.

    I for one do think this is about civil rights, and we who are transgender have much to learn from that very long, painful struggle that still goes on in parts of this nation. But to the racists then and now, separatists, whites-only advocates and klansmen, treating “colored” people as equals — or at least as well as they wished to be treated, as human beings with rights — it must be said, that was controversial. Why would you think that to not call it a controversy will make it better?

    Remember, this web producer is writing primarily for a Cis audience. This isn’t a Trans advocacy site, and it’s not pro-Cis either; the site’s aim is to present both sides of an issue and allow the reader to form his or her own opinions.

    So why flame the entire news media for doing journalism? Because we’re right and those fear-mongering knuckleheads in Glendale are wrong? Well, we are, and they are, but those are our opinions. It’s not Leanne’s job to pick sides. Imagine it was? And she picked THEM? Perhaps that is how you feel? But representing opposing views, even a stupid, Neanderthal point of view, is how people like Leanne and I earn our living. Full disclosure, I work for the company that owns Leanne’s website, but I don’t know her. When I spotted this article yesterday I chose not to give it wider attention (which is one of my jobs, to find stories) primarily because the child’s family requested privacy and KABC honored their request; good move for them, bad move for me, because I can’t tell her story effectively and sympathetically without her and her parents. And also because I didn’t see anyone in that story being as eloquent as you were on defining this not as an accommodation but as a civil right. Leanne needed more of that, to be sure.

    And yes, I just knew the bathroom issue would get a mention, and look forward to the day that old gray mare finally is retired, hopefully sooner rather than later!

    I, too, would like to see more Trans-friendly journalism and I have worked to at least help Cis writers and producers avoid terms and expressions that are hurtful or negatively portray transgender people to the majority Cis audience. We need to do more of that work; it’s an uphill battle.

    Let me end this as I began: I do agree with almost everything you wrote, and you are indeed a helluva writer. But I don’t think the entire news media should be expected to shoulder your criticism or have to address your complaints, just as it wouldn’t be fair for YOU or any Trans person to be criticized, judged or put on the spot because of what reportedly happened to someone else, like me for instance, especially if a report about that person contained a ton of factual errors, and was built around a private email that included her own hasty judgments and erroneous conclusions, possibly brought on by dissociative amnesia. Imagine being that someone else… Imagine being me… And I declared I wasn’t Trans? Then some bozos concluded from that declaration that doctors can make a transgender identity vanish by somehow making trans people forget who they are? That would be terrible! Especially since I know for a fact that I am without doubt transgender, as sure as my name is Dawn Stacey Ennis.

    NOTE: I reserve my right to privacy and warn that my comment cannot be reprinted, reported, reposted, published, transmitted or broadcast, in part or in its entirety without my express written permission. This right is reserved to me alone and serves as a notice of legal action to any and all parties who are found in violation of my rights as set forth herein, for all purposes, in perpetuity. -DSE

    • Parker Marie Says:


      1.) Why do I act like it’s “the whole media?” Well, for one, because it pretty much is. This was just a single example of what is a near constant string of disrespectful articles about trans people in the mainstream media. Want more examples? I write about it all the time. Here: http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/206956/erasing-my-identity-how-the-media-screws-transgender-people/ and here: http://huff.to/1fHfTAm two more examples. Satisfied yet? How did yoir employer, ABC handle Chelsea Manning coming out? By misgendering her and goimg against AP guidelines. Well done.

      2.) Why would it have been better if this wasn’t treated as a “controversy?” For one, it’s not a controversy. Parents being ignorant or bigoted (it has to be one of the two) is not a controversy. Is it a “controversy” if someone screams racist nonsense at people of color? Do we then say yjat the existence of people of color is controversial? No, we don’t.

      3.) What does this outlet “not being a transgender advocacy site” have to do with this? You understand that all outfits should report on trans people with respect and not gin up fake “controversy” that has two sides, right, Dawn (sticking with the name this time?)?

      You chose to come up with bizarre stories about your transition, causing harm to all transgender people in the process. I really don’t think you have a leg to stand on when it comes to this topic.

      • Minder Says:

        I’m sure this will be a shock to you, Parker, but “misgendering” a transgender person is not the apex of all possible human oppression. The single-minded focus on this sort of thing makes you (and many other similarly obsessed vocal TG people) seem repellantly self-absorbed and solipsistic. Not only that, but it avoids naming the real source of physical danger against trans people, which happens to be male violence. Pretending that men will stop beating, raping, and killing transwomen if only everybody would call trans people what they want to be called is a misdirection of energy at the very least. The trans community needs better mouthpieces.
        As for your apparent beef with Don/Dawn, I thought identity politics are what trans is all about these days! How do you reconcile chastising D for flip-flopping on the gender identity, yet are clearly very upset that everybody didn’t immediately begin referring to Chelsea Manning with his preferred name and pronouns. In short, why does Manning’s declaration suddenly and magically make him a woman, but D does not get the same magical identity ticket? This is a serious and sincere question, by the way.

  3. lifeafterdawn Says:

    So it’s been almost a week. You didn’t answer Minder’s question, and I only saw your response to my comment just now. You already made a point that it was on the long side and you’re right. But I didn’t write to engage in a personal attack or expect one in return. I read your blog because the issues are interesting and the writing is excellent. We can agree to disagree.

    I’m not here to engage in an argument nor do I owe you or anyone a defense or an explanation of anything. It’s my life. Why are you changing the subject to make this about me? This is not about me. Others chose to make my private life news, not me. And as for Chelsea Manning, not only did I lead the charge to make sure our platforms were consistent in reporting her name and her gender, our website abcnews.com was singled out by the Washington Post for getting it right. Just so you know.

    I look forward to reading your reply to Minder.

  4. lifeafterdawn Says:

    OH, and Dawn is, and remains, my legal name.

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