Election

Letter: Misgendering Candidate Was a Dehumanizing Action

Editor’s note: Although the article under discussion was not published by Village Green, the authors of this letter asked that we publish the letter as it relates to local candidates and elections.

To the Editor:

Today, an article was published in TAP into SOMa that repeatedly referred to a local political candidate with incorrect gender pronouns, and was patently offensive. It lacked a basic understanding of the implications of the act of “misgendering” a transgender, gender fluid, or non-binary person. Misgendering refers to calling a person by a pronoun that is not consistent with the pronouns that they have chosen for themselves. It also can be used to imply that someone is a gender that they are not. This is a dehumanizing action that has been used in a variety of ways including to reinforce gender roles, to humiliate the person to whom one is referring, or to question if a person’s biologically assigned sex “matches” the gender with which they identify.

Deliberately misgendering a transgender person is an act of psychological violence against that person, their community, and other transgender and gender fluid individuals who may read or view that article. Psychological harm can occur when transgender folks are repeatedly misgendered, and it demonstrates to younger transgender people that their gender identity and self-identification are not to be respected.

Misgendering contributes to a culture in which hating and disrespecting transgender people is normalized, and this can add to the all-too-frequent violence against non-binary, gender fluid, and transgender people.

The article in question repeatedly referred to a local political candidate as “she/her/hers” when this candidate clearly stated to the reporter that their preferred pronouns were “they/them/theirs.” In the article’s title, the preferred pronoun was placed in parentheses as if to question its validity. Other areas where the author clearly disrespected the candidate include:

  • Opening of the article indicating the candidate is gender questioning: they are not.
  • The phrase “came out” is in quotes, which diminishes the experience.
  • The use of the phrase “such folks” to represent LGBTQ members of the Maplewood/South Orange community – this is othering.
  • A reference to a TIME Magazine cover story drawing attention to the romantic preferences of transgender people when the candidate specifically stated that they did not wish to this topic to be included.

Though this article was quickly retracted and edited, the damage was done to those of us who saw the original version of the piece. Using the correct pronouns and not questioning the validity of such is an easy and respectful thing to do.

Furthermore, the focus of the article was exclusively on the candidate’s gender preferences, and did not discuss the candidate’s experience, platform, or the campaign. This candidate deserves an article focused on their experience and their platform, not their sexuality or gender identity.

All Maplewood and South Orange candidates, in fact all people, deserve to have their gender and other aspects of their essential identity correctly, accurately, and respectfully reported in the local media. Anything less than this is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

We rely on our local news sources to report the news accurately and without bias or prejudice. This article failed to meet that standard. We demand a public apology to the candidate, and reassurance that mistakes such as this will not happen again. Even an apology will remain an inadequate response to the pain and harm that this has been caused both to the candidate and the larger community, but it will continue this important conversation.

Sincerely,

Jan Kaminsky, North Jersey Pride

Nina Essel,Melissa Renny, Shannon Kirk, Susan Bergin, Kasia Piekarz, Khadijah Costley White, Administrators, SOMa Justice: Addressing Race and Inequality

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