Katie Couric and the Transgender Community

23 Jan

Katie CouricI need to thank my friends Nel Ward and Jodi Sisson, both of whom have amazing voices for social justice, for inspiring me to write this story.  I have always appreciated Katie Couric, never more than when she interviewed Sarah Palin. Couric was one of the very few who actually approached Palin as a journalist, for which I will always be grateful. Sadly, this story brings up many questions for me around Couric’s intent and impact on the targeted transgender population.

Katie hosted  Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) and model Carmen Carrera. While there was a little space for each woman to talk about their current respective projects, Couric seemed unpleasantly focused on genitalia and sadly kept showing pictures of Carrera in bandages — a constant reminder of surgery. What a sad loss of the opportunity for Couric to have demonstrated some solidarity with the transgender community. Can we focus on “hearts not parts?”

What was lovely was how Laverne Cox handled the interview.  She was exceedingly gracious and did a marvelous job of highlighting her activism within the LGBTQ community. Brava!

I don’t want to judge Couric too harshly here. I don’t presume to know the workings of her heart. I am trying to give her the benefit of the doubt and allow for: perhaps she was trying to set the stage for Cox and Carrera to educate the general population around transgender issues and how transgender people have to navigate the world very differently from cisgender people. I hope this was the case, and that Couric was just clumsy in this attempt.  Cox does a marvelous job of addressing the bizarre focus on genitalia:

That preoccupation…objectifies trans people and then we don’t get to deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans people’s lives is that so often we’re targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community and our unemployment rate is twice the national average…When we focus on transition, we don’t get to talk about those things.

Perfectly stated. Again, I will challenge us all to focus on Hearts Not Parts! Ms. Couric, if I have in any way misrepresented you, I welcome your feedback.

Sadly, we have more concrete evidence of transphobia, which Cox addressed, in Louisiana. Councilman Ron Webb of Shreveport, LA said: “The Bible tells you homosexuals are an abomination” adding that he “does not socialize with LGBT people,” in his opposition to a bill that would protect LGBT people from discrimination. Webb was using his bible as a weapon to justify his bigotry.  Fortunately, Pamela Raintree, a transgender woman, addresses Webb in a most eloquent way and causing Webb to withdraw his opposition:

“Leviticus 20:13 states, ‘If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, they shall surely put him to death,'” Raintree began. “I brought the first stone, Mr. Webb, in case that your Bible talk isn’t just a smoke screen for personal prejudices.”

Well done, Ms. Raintree!  Fortunately, here in Portland, Oregon we have several organizations that support transgender people, including TransActive, which supports transgender youth.

12 Responses to “Katie Couric and the Transgender Community”

  1. Central Oregon Coast NOW January 23, 2014 at 7:24 am #

    Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.

  2. Nancy Campbell Mead January 23, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    We should focus on the heart with everyone. Doing otherwise objectifies people. Thank you for eloquently pointing this out Michael. And, thank you for giving a “plug” to o ne of our favorite organizations that does so much for kids, Portland based TransActive. We miss you on the advisory board!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt January 23, 2014 at 7:46 am #

      Nancy, thank you for your kind words. If I find more time in the next coming year, I may rejoin the advisory board.

  3. Jueseppi B. January 23, 2014 at 7:52 am #

    Reblogged this on The ObamaCrat™.

  4. Steve January 24, 2014 at 7:41 pm #

    Boy is that councilman missing out! How bland his life must be not to have LGBT friends! Poor fellow! Hope 2014 is a year for him to come out of hate and into love!

    What I do thank Katie Couric for is making transgender issues more real to people who might not otherwise have known. However, for me everything has changed this past year — I’ve become much more sensitive and protective now that I have transgender friends. And, more tenderly, remembering the Transgender Day of Remembrance — and the naming of just a fraction of those dear transgender folks who died or were murdered simply for being who they are. Too, too much pain when love would work better!

    And why do some people find such pleasure in using the bible for harmful, hateful purposes, when there’s so much good/better in it — love, mercy, grace, acceptance, justice, kindness, care and concern for others?! Warms my heart more than the hateful uses…

    Oh, Michael! SOOO grateful for your helpful “pointing” to these vital themes…sincerely!🙂 Steve xo

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt January 24, 2014 at 8:35 pm #

      Stephen, what a lovely comment and a lovely appreciation of Katie Couric! Peace, Michael.

  5. trp2011 January 29, 2014 at 10:31 pm #

    Michael, thank you for your thoughtful response to this situation. You have covered the issue beautifully. Hopefully, your considerations will help others to understand the importance of appreciating diversity.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt January 30, 2014 at 6:31 am #

      Nel, thank you for your inspiration and for helping me use kindness while trying to understand what Couric was trying to accomplish during the interview.

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