COMMUNICATIONS AND COMMUNITY
by Melanie Yarborough
It's all about....communications. E-mail, web pages, chat rooms. Television and radio talk shows. National magazines and local group desktop published newsletters. Hardcover scholarly books and quickie tri-fold brochures. The internet. These are all technologies which the transgender community has been quick to adopt and put into use.
Communications and the TG community was the subject of recent panel at California Unity. All three panel members were exceptionally qualified to talk on the topic: Joanne Roberts, publisher of Ladylike magazine and Creative Design Services. Jean Marie Stine, editor of Transgender Tapestry, and Cindy Martin, publisher of Transgender forum.
"The modern transgender community is as much a product of the internet as it is of the conventions.....it brought this community to critical mass," asserts Joanne. It has enabled many closeted or distant individuals to be instantly in contact and become a spur to action. Once people start to talk and find out about each other and national issues, it's a short step to organizing meetings, lobbying actions or protests.
Judy, an audience member, asked why the gay community seems more visible than the transgender community. Jena opined that today a larger percentage of gay people are "out" now, but they weren't 20 years ago. They gradually built up national organizations and engaged in intensive lobbying for anti-discrimination legislation on a state, local, and national level. Cindy adds that the transgender community is in many ways still a secret society-and if you're inaccesible, you're not going to get covered. "There has to be a reason for a journalist to come and talk to you, there has to be a hook". Joanne adds that we're still a collection of secret societies, but that we're starting to develop a political consciousness.
Another question asked was "Does the media make a distinction between crossdressers and transsexuals?". The panel was in agreement that while the community itself made a major distinction between the two, the mainstream press tended to lump them together. One ironic observation of Joanna's was "Crossdressers have the money and transsexuals have the time". While they may have different priorities and focuses, they do have commonalities in basic civil rights and protection from discrimination.
Lynda, a psychologist, inquired about the sensitive topic of pornography and TG publications. Jean Marie pointed out that until recently, the only people who would distribute TV literature were adult book stores. "Historic circumstances forced us into an uneasy and inappropriate alliance". Joanne also admitted that unfortunately, Sex sells. However, the TG media now has the job of providing an alternative to provide magazines people can keep on their coffetable at home and be able to show their families.
Jena Marie also points out that while ethics in journalism is importnat to many in the TG community, most mainstream journalists themselves show no ethics when covering the T-community. They'll say antyhing to hook a reader and make a buck.
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