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November 2, 2009

Seventeen Magazine Calls Transgendered Teen a LIAR!?

Apparently the November issue of Seventeen magazine has a transphobic article in it so people have started a letter campaign about it. We're way too old to be reading Seventeen magazine so we didn't notice the original article and the campaign has already been going on for a few weeks... but think this issue is important enough to be passed on.

Apparently the November issue featured a story entitled "My BOYFRIEND turned out to be a GIRL!" (You can check out the full article at the Facebook event page here.)

From the original call-to-arms on Facebook:

Rather than use this opportunity to educate readers about transgender issues, it never once even uses any terminology (well, unless you consider the slur "he-she") but instead furthers the common transphobic assumption that someone who's gender does not match their sex assigned at birth is a deceptive liar and even compares them to perverts, drug addicts, and older dads trying to get someone young w/o disclosing their parental/age status.

Now it's definitely annoying the way the author misuses pronouns and misunderstands exactly how the whole transgender thing actually works but in her defense, she's a teenager who probably is ignorant about trans-issues so it's almost somewhat forgiveable. However, the adults who run Seventeen magazine should've known better (or at least should've done some research!) Instead of using the story as an opportunity for tolerance and education, they've sensationalized the whole thing. The title alone says it all - not that her boyfriend turned out to be transgendered, but a girl! According to Seventeen, men who were born female aren't men at all.
What's really disturbing is that they're sending the message that transgender or gender queer people are "liars"... and they're sending this message to young, impressionable teens. Yes, Derek may have left out a few things and twisted a few truths, but the implication of the article is that he was "pretending" to be male instead of identifying as male. Trying to make your outside match your inside and being too afraid of rejection (or worse) to discuss it openly isnt "lying".
And it certainly isn't comparable to the other "betrayals" that Seventeen added to the section, like cheating or drug use.
It's unfortunate that he didn't feel comfortable/safe enough to be completely open with her. But whose fault is that? If there was less transphobia and discrimination then perhaps more teenagers (nay, more people of all ages) would be willing/able to discuss transgender issues openly. The author ended her story with the claim that she would have "stayed with him if he'd been honest":
I loved him that much. But the fact that he lied to me for so long when I'd given him my secrets, and my heart, was unforgiveable. When you love someone you love all of him. But it was Derek's lies that really broke my heart.
I don't completely believe her. If Derek had said he used to be "Dana" when they first met, I don't think she would've given him a chance at all; when the information came out (after she was already in love with him) she felt betrayed that he lied. When exactly would've been the perfect time to reveal this information?
An article like this will only make it even harder for the next teenage boy who is "really a girl" to open up to his friends and family. (Both by teaching readers that they're liars and by shaming any readers who are transgendered themselves.) We admit that we're not exactly experts on trans-issues, but it doesn't take an expert to know that this article is messed up.
Please write a letter to the editor of Seventeen and send it to:

Heather Baror
Reader Comments
Seventeen Magazine
300 W. 57th Street, 17th Floor
New York, NY 10019

Or email it to: mail@seventeen.com
Let them know how you feel about the article, its implications, and trans-issues in general. (The campaign is asking for an apology in one of their next issues.) The more responses they receive the better, because we need Seventeen and magazines like it to know that the right messages need to be sent about trans-issues. (Find resources for more information about transgender issues: here.)


Bunny said...

please post this to sexgenderbody I think a lot more people who read that blog would be really interested in participation against this article. Thanks!

Gemma said...

Wow. Just... wow.

If I had read something like that in a teen magazine when I was at school, I would have gone completely apeshit crazy.

In fact, I might just do so anyway.

I hope none of the girls reading that were born physically male, because to read something aimed at you which tells you you're a freak is awful. I felt bad enough when teen magazines made fun of nerds and goths, I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to have something so integral as your gender identity made into something shameful.