On: "Transgendered Woman Murdered, Online Commenters Take PD to Task "
I came to the Scene's website to find your contact information because the reporting on Cemia Dove's murder finally gave me words to articulate why your question #15 to Dan grated on my nerves. So I was quite surprised when I clicked on your name to have not only the questions to Dan pop up, but a your take on the insensitive way in which the Plain Dealer reported on Cemia Dove's murder. (Cemia Dove is, according to her friends, her chosen name).
A few years ago, my high school sweetheart sent me an e-mail that closed with these words: "OK, I've re-read this 40 times. Now, I think I'll take a several deep breaths before I hit the "send" button... ;)" The reason for the angst, these cautious words, gently packed in lots of disclaimer padding in case I wasn't ok hearing them: "I'm transgendered. As in somewhere definitely on the "pink" side of the continuum of gender." That, it turns out, was a major understatement. But at the time, aside from a few very trusted people, she felt she would carry her secret to the grave. As we reconnected more deeply I learned bits and pieces of the life that - even in high school - she felt she had to hide from me. One of the things she shared is that one of the few female things she let herself do, as a closeted trans* woman, was wear underwear that felt right to her. So I try to imagine the terror it might have caused her in 2010 when she published her first book under her birth name if she had ever worn women's underwear. But the harm goes beyond the terror someone who is actually trans* might feel at being asked that question, to the message that question gives both closeted trans* women and those who feel safe ridiculing them. Questions like that question are the grooming for the treatment Cemia received at the hands of the press. Had Cemia been born with a female body, no one would have repeatedly described the undergarments she was wearing when she was found. They are completely irrelevant to the story - particularly on the third telling. No one would have described her as oddly dressed. But things like having a big laugh with Dan about the possibility of him wearing women's underwear till the soil for the disrespectful way Cemia was treated partly because of what she was wearing. People with male bodies don't wear women's underwear, or if they do there is something wrong with them. I'm not blaming you for this particular reporter's treatment of Cemia, but treating trans* people's lives as a joke does contribute to an atmosphere in which trans* lives are valued less and respected less than the lives of others. Generally I found your questions to Dan (and more so his answers) delightful. His refusal to take himself seriously, even when he has just been given this hoity-toity job, is one of the things I find so charming about him. I just wish Question 15 hadn't been in the bunch, or that Dan had had the presence of mind to respond as Colin Powell did on behalf of President Obama to all those folks who kept accusing him of being a Muslim, "Would there have been anything wrong if I had?" Nancy Reeves
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