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Representations of transgender in the news

2009 February 16
by Laura Blankenship

My friend Barbara sent me this interesting story about a reckless homicide case.  The main actor in the story, a woman named Christine Newton-John, happens to be transgendered, which has absolutely nothing to do with the case, but a good couple of paragraphs were dedicated to her gender reassignment surgery.  I have to wonder if her status as a transgendered person was known and if that’s why the case was under such scrutiny.  It just seems odd to mention.

Barbara sent the following letter to the editor:

On Saturday February 14, PD reporter Michael Sangiacomo penned a story about a tragic death of an elderly Geauga County man (“Transgender Woman Pleads Guilty in Husband’s Death by Excessive Exercise”).

The circumstances of James Mason’s death are indeed sensational and troublesome.  But did we, as a readership, need to know about Christine Newton-John’s medical history as part of this story?
These irrelevant and totally unecessary details transform the sad and unfortunate demise of Mr. Mason into a salacious affair. The PD does not routinely include this kind of information when reporting on other confessions to crimes. Why now?

One can only wonder how such reporting will affect Ms. Newton-John’s sentencing, or how the choice to include this woman’s personal details will affect the public’s opinion of the many –other– community members who lead honest and decent lives, and yet who don’t necessarily fit the body into which they were born.

Biased journalism such as this makes the world a more fearful and dangerous place for everyone.

For shame, Plain Dealer.  I expected better from you.

What do you all think?

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