Monday, June 23, 2014

I only like Erasure when we're talking about Andy Bell and Vince Clarke

     Periodically, I rage and seethe about the lack of representation of people like me, and like my partner, particularly in The Washington Post.  Growing up in the metropolitan DC area, I started reading the Post well before my tenth birthday.  I probably have written about this elsewhere, but it bears repeating, in a world where newspaper readership continues to plummet, I have been reading the print version of the WaPo for over 30 years.  One would think that might classify me as the kind of reader the WaPo would cater to, but this is not so.  Perhaps because I am not a millennial, they have no interest in appealing to me as a reader, or they think I can be taken for granted as a reader, since I've been reading them even as the content decreases in their paper and the price goes up.  The only reason I've been reading them for the past 3 years is because I live in a home where someone else pays for a daily subscription.  In my previous residence, I cancelled my subscription in disgust at their lack of coverage (and respect) for many of the topics that interested me.  I primarily rely on the Post these days for their local coverage, and in that, they often fail me as a reader.

     Their coverage of local women's sports is pathetic, their coverage of local universities that don't have big time football or basketball teams is pathetic, and I'm not talking about their sports coverage of local universities.  Their coverage of LGBTQ issues is dominated by assimilationist gays and lesbians, and privileges marriage equality over all other LGBTQ issues.  They refuse to publish anything that promotes even the tiniest Health at Every Size approach to health and weight (other than a few years ago two brief interchanges with Dr. Linda Bacon).  They even have a long-running weekly feature in their Real Estate section where they profile a different neighborhood in the DMV, and the neighborhood that I grew up in (and my mother before that) has never been featured.  To top it all off, they messed up part of my father's obituary  (he was a Potomac native, not an Olney one).

     Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the Washington National Cathedral for their Pride service, which included a sermon by guest preacher Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge.  Rev. Partridge is the first openly transgender priest to give a sermon at the National Cathedral, preaching from the same Canterbury Pulpit where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his last sermon.  In addition, Rev. Partridge is a colleague and friend of my partner, Mycroft Masada Holmes (and a friend of mine), so we were doubly excited to attend this service, since Mycroft has not seen Cameron and other transgender leaders in the Episcopal Church since zie moved to Maryland 5 months ago.  The occasion was covered by all four local TV newscasts (channels 4, 5, 7, and 9).  The event was also covered by the other main daily newspaper in DC, The Washington Times, but was not covered at all in The Washington Post.  The lack of coverage by the Post is appalling and inexcusable.  

     I don't have a problem with The Post covering the types of LGBTQ stories that it chooses, as marriage equality and assimilationist gays and lesbians are part of the fabric of LGBTQ life.  However, I believe they should be covering other types of LGBTQ life, particularly those that fall under the B,T, and Q part of the acronym.  When it comes to gender identity and expression, if the majority of local coverage of transgender issues is of the violence done to transgender people, then they're doing it wrong.  I am grateful that they are covering crimes committed against transgender people, and doing so in a way that shows they're taking seriously the issues of violence that affect transgender individuals.  However, there is so much more to the transgender community to cover.  The Post also provided some useful, but not complete, coverage of the recent legislative work in Maryland to pass the Fairness for all Marylanders Act, which added gender identity and expression to Maryland's existing anti-discrimination law.  What is often missing from the WaPo's coverage are the stories of our region's transgender individuals, and their lived experiences, their day to day lives and the culture they are creating.  Rev. Cameron Partridge's sermon is just one of many facets of the world transgender individuals are creating for themselves, and when esteemed media sources like The Washington Post choose only to focus on the legal facet of transgender lives (whether through the political process or through criminal acts), their erasure of transgender existence in its full and wonderful state does another kind of violence to full equality for all human beings in the US.

     I have long ago accepted that I will never see someone representative of myself in the pages of the Washington Post.  I'm sometimes resigned to that fact, sometimes angered by that fact, but I never ever think it is justified.  The omission of Rev. Dr. Cameron Partridge's sermon at the Washington National Cathedral, the erasure of transgender, gender variant, and queer people from the pages of The Washington Post and other major news sources, can not stand.  I'm hoping to use this space as a place to mark these erasures, to speak out against the lack of representation of people like me, like my partner, and of many of the people we hold so dear, and to document the vibrant worlds those of us resisting these violent acts of erasure (or those of us at the ponderous boundaries, if you'll indulge me) are creating every day.  I am glad to know that others are doing this work in many useful and skillful ways, and I am glad to follow in their wake.