- I am a transmasculine reporter who reports on transgender health in the US.
- I started testosterone the same day the US passed its first trans medical ban.
- Reporting on issues that strip me of my humanity is difficult, but I’m fighting for my community.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
On April 6, I began hormone replacement therapy to treat my gender dysphoria, a common mental health problem for trans people. It was a huge step. My body has been an acute source of anxiety and pain since I hit puberty.
Knowing the appointment could be long and arduous — much like the entire year it had taken to get the medication — I’d taken the day off of work. After the testosterone was in my veins with a bandaid on my thigh as proof, my partner and I decided to have a celebratory drink around other queer people. I live in New York City, so we sat outside The Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the modern queer liberation movement, and mused about gender over rum and cokes, occasionally pausing to watch the drag show in the park across the street.
The celebration was short-lived.
Three hours after receiving my first dose of testosterone, Arkansas became the first US state to ban gender-affirming treatment, like hormone replacement therapy and puberty blockers, for minors. In disbelief, I sat outside the bar, scrolling through the horror show on Twitter. Eyes still glued to our phones, we quietly asked the waitress to bring us tequila shots instead.
Just a day earlier, I wrote a piece when Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson vetoed the bill because of its “extreme nature.” But that wasn’t enough to stop Arkansas state legislators from overturning his decision and passing it into law.
As a reporter covering trans issues day in and day out, I’ve grown accustomed to devastating turns legislation can take. But “reporter” isn’t the only aspect of my identity. As a trans person covering this beat, what I report often can’t be separated from my own humanity.
Violence at the legislative and interpersonal level is nothing new for trans people
I’ve been covering trans issues since I came out in 2016. Over the five years I’ve reported on my own community, I’ve had to develop a certain kind of thick skin about the problems that impact us.
The Arkansas news cut deep, but it’s important to understand that while anti-trans legislation is big news right now, state violence has always impacted trans people, particularly trans people of color. The trouble is, issues that impact Black and brown trans bodies rarely make the front page headlines.
One of the stories that brought me to tears happened in early 2020. I was fresh on the health beat and looking for trans-specific stories to report on when I saw the headline. A trans woman named Alexa Negrón Luciano had been brutally murdered by a group of men in Puerto Rico for using the women’s restroom.
Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images
As the months went on, more and more names went on the list of trans people murdered in 2020, mostly trans Black and Latinx women, some as young as 17. It was an epidemic within a pandemic that few were reporting on, with the exception of queer-specific media.
Each name added more fury and more despair. These were people who looked like me and members of my community. And yet, as with many stories centering trans people of color, it’s hard to get people to pay attention.
It’s crucial to have trans storytellers telling the stories of our community
The mainstream media tends to rediscover our pain every six to eight months, like clockwork. It’s treated as news, rather than an ongoing crisis, which makes it all the more crucial for trans people to tell trans stories.
A common question I get as a trans person covering my own community is if I truly believe I can be objective in my reporting. The answer is complicated.
I don’t believe there is such a thing as an objective storyteller. All of our personal experiences deeply influence the way we see and interact with the world around us.
What I do know is that, as a trans person who has had to interact with the medical system and the US government for my entire life, I have an intimate understanding of these issues no cis person will ever have.
In the last week, as cis people asked me about these pieces of legislation, I’ve found even the most well-intentioned of allies can have deep misunderstandings of trans medicine and trans issue.
From misgendering to believing trans children are getting gender-affirming surgeries regularly, the average cis person has very little knowledge of what trans healthcare looks like. This is what makes it crucial to hire trans people to tell trans stories.
It also ensures that mentions of trans people aren’t just about our pain. Publications have an obligation to hire storytellers who grasp our full humanity and belong to our community. We know how to capture moments of joy, love, and power.
Focusing on the triumph of trans activists, the power of our artists, and our ability to support ourselves is so important because it reflects a more complete story. It prevents the reporting process from feeling predatory and exploitative, and instead makes it a platform to uplift unheard stories.
The toll this beat takes is difficult, but for me, it’s the best way to serve my community
NurPhoto / Getty Images
This job isn’t all rainbows and queer liberation.
In recent months, I’ve found myself letting my phone die on the weekend or after work, just to avoid the onslaught of legislative violence, if only for a moment.
It often feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders because I work in a newsroom with very few trans reporters. If I miss a news hit, I wonder if anyone will care.
Though I’ve worked to let go of that feeling of sole responsibility, it still haunts me, particularly at night when I have nothing but the moon and dim Twitter homepage as company.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this, as many folks marginalized by the existing structures of oppression in the US feel a similar weight.
But what makes the nights spent awake and wondering worth it for me is the feeling that I’m fighting for my community in the best way I know how to.
My task in the struggle for trans liberation is helping document our history. I’m not going to throw the first stone at the next Stonewall. But I sure as hell will be one of the many with a camera and pad of paper to credit whoever does.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.