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Nov. 10, 2014: Journalistic Integrity

November 10, 2014

Interesting article from Rueters about the move toward amending birth certificates of transgender people: http://news.yahoo.com/u-transgenders-welcome-easier-path-altering-birth-papers-141104868.html. Well-written. But a couple of statements look inaccurate, or at least incomplete, to me:

First, the article refers to “a growing movement that views gender as a complex, mainly mental phenomenon in which a person’s external anatomy is no longer the overriding factor.” I wouldn’t say it was a “mainly mental” phenomenon. That makes it sound like gender dysphoria is a psychological issue, and (this article does mention this later) the American Psychiatric Association recently changed its findings on that matter. It’s a physiological phenomenon; and physiology is about what’s inside the body, as well as (and, I believe, even more so than) what’s outside.

The article also refers to “a 2008 survey of more than 7,000 transgender people,” where “only 20 percent of trans women said they had had surgery to remove their penis and testes….” This may be accurate, but it’s incomplete. The male genitalia are removed, but parts of them are reconstructed to create female genitalia. (Mara showed me a video of an actual bottom surgery that also included computer imaging of how it’s done. Made me cringe a little to see it.) This article makes it sound as if the male-to-female bottom surgery consists only of a penectomy and an orchiectomy.

As a journalist, I know how critical accuracy and completeness are when writing an article for publication. It’s a matter of journalistic integrity. When those two elements are missing, it opens the door to misunderstanding and misinterpretation — especially by people who are, in this case, transphobic.

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