The Advocate Misgenders Trans Woman

by Cara on June 18, 2009

in assholes, bigotry, discrimination, gender, LGBTQ, media, trans, transphobia and trans misogyny

It’s pretty well known that the Advocate, while billing itself as an LGBT news publication, doesn’t exactly give trans issues a whole lot of coverage at all.  But taking a look at this latest move, one almost has to wonder whether silence is preferable.

A man and woman named Jason Stenson and Kimah Nelson got married in NY state.  Why is it news?  Because Kimah is also trans.  Which means that outlets like the NY Post are reporting that the two have “duped” the state into certifying a “same-sex” marriage, and that the state is also claiming their marriage is not valid.

So how did the Advocate respond?  By fighting back against the misgendering of Kimah Nelson and demanding better, more respectful reporting?  By admonishing the state for their declaration that Kimah isn’t a woman?  By just ignoring it entirely?  Or, by perpetuating the misgendering themselves?

Sadly, if you guessed the last answer, you’d be correct.

According to Tobi at the Bilerico Project, the article originally referred to Kimah as a man and used male pronouns to describe her.  When they received a bunch of complaints and updated the article, they didn’t bother doing so properly — instead, they took out the male pronouns and opted for no pronouns at all.  (I was unable to find cached copies of either of these versions — if you have one, let me know.)

Now, on at least their third version of the article, the Advocate is at least using female pronouns, but is still favoring her male name, referring to the marriage as “same-sex,” using the construct of the couple “fooling” the state officials, and objectifying Kimah with wholly unneeded and gratuitous discussions of her genitals and descriptions of her personal appearance:

Even as the New York senate continues to spar over marriage-equality legislation, the New York City Clerk’s Office feels it was fooled into certifying a “same-sex” marriage for one couple, reports the New York Post, which published the couple’s photo on its front page on Sunday.

Hakim Nelson and Jason Stenson were married in a ceremony at the clerk’s office on May 26, 10 days after obtaining a marriage license at the office.

Nelson, who goes by the name Kimah, hopes to have sex-reassignment surgery one day. Stenson views Nelson as a woman and does not consider himself gay.

Nelson, 18, and Stenson, 21, said that when they applied in person for the license, Nelson used a state benefit card that lists her sex as female. The clerk did not ask her about the male-sounding first name — Hakim – that appears on her identification. She wore an orange dress and white leggings, with her hair falling at her shoulders.

Seriously.  That’s the updated and revised version.  When I first clicked on the article, it was the version I found.  I thought it was what people were complaining about, and that they had good reason to be complaining.  But no, this is after the Advocate “fixed” things.

And not only do we have the publication addressing trans issues in a wildly inappropriate and overtly offensive manner, they also seem to only be addressing it at all because they don’t see it as a trans issue.  Nope, they see it as a same-sex marriage issue.  Because in their transphobic bigotry, they see Kimah as a man.  So, the only reason they care is because the cis writers and editors think it directly impacts them.

It’s true that if everyone had the right to marry whoever they chose, there could be no dispute at all over this marriage.  But that doesn’t make this a same-sex marriage issue.  The issue here, actually, isn’t that same-sex couples can’t get married.  It’s that our cis-supremacist society sees Kimah and Jason as a same-sex couple when they’re not. And if they saw Kimah as the woman she is, there still couldn’t be any dispute over the marriage.  And that is the outcome we should be looking towards in this particular case.

Transphobia is the issue here.  Plain and simple.  Because without transphobic bigotry and constructs that ignore and dismiss Kimah’s gender identity, the idea that this marriage is “same-sex” at all wouldn’t even be possible.  So really, any homophobia that you can read into the reactions to Kimah and Jason’s marriage?  It only exists in this circumstance because the transphobia was there first.  Transphobia that the Advocate bought into.

And you know what?  This bullshit about how trans women are “really” (gay!) men who run around “fooling” people with their honest presentation of their gender identities?  It’s killing those same women.  Congratulations, Advocate editors, on contributing to that.

Via Transgriot

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{ 11 comments }

1 GallingGalla June 18, 2009 at 3:25 pm

i gave up on the advocate, and all mainstream cis GLB publications, years ago.

the cis GLB movement has a hell of a lot of work to do to confront its transphobia, transmisogyny, and racism and continues to refuse to do that work.

it becomes very hard for me to support things such as SSM when the very same orgs asking (or demanding!) for trans folk’s help wrt SSM continue to slap us down, step on our necks, and put our lives in danger.

2 educatedvagabond June 18, 2009 at 3:49 pm

When I had FTM or MTF friends in the process of transitioning, I asked what pronouns I should use. I did it because I did not want to make an assumption either way. The same with the name change. One said, “Use him.” Because he had begun t-shots and identified as a man. Another said, “I don’t know. I don’t know where I am yet.” I respectfully said, “Just let me know, I’ll use whatever you say.”

Identity is self-determined and we should respect who people are. No magazine should go against an individual’s wishes. That “The Advocate” would do that…well, I guess I don’t have the need to ever read that publication again.

3 queen emily June 18, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Well said.

4 Tera June 18, 2009 at 9:50 pm

Holy hell, that “Advocate” article is a steaming pile of fail.

The Advocate’s headline: “N.Y. State Unwittingly Marries ‘Same-Sex’ Couple”? (Because the whole trans woman-as-deceiver thing is totally not something cis people made up, of course not). And “Stenson views Nelson as a woman and does not consider himself gay”? Because how *your partner* “views” you is WAY more important than who you are, apparently.

Wow. Just…wow.

5 Rebecca June 19, 2009 at 3:12 am

nicely said.

sad to see this sort of garbage coming from a publication that’s supposed to be trans-inclusive, but eh…nothing surprises me anymore.

6 Ceridwen June 19, 2009 at 7:33 am

Not surprising, though still disgusting. This is, after all, the magazine that ran such wonderful headlines as “Gay vs. Trans” and “Gay is the New Black” in the past year, so expecting them to be good at covering anything other than the concerns of a select group of privileged white gay people is sadly asking too much (but then, that could be said for the whole damn movement anymore).

7 PirateCapnLady June 19, 2009 at 9:22 am

365Gay did the same thing ( http://tiny.cc/fcEGS ); and even after many comments criticizing the OP (who is also their editor in chief), the “correction” is only mildly better. Though the first headline implied intentional fraud on the part of the Kimah, which you can still see in the full URL: “male-couple-snookers-nyc-into-officially-marrying-them”.

8 L. E. Hairstylist June 19, 2009 at 2:09 pm

You know, when I first read the headline and saw the picture, I thought, “Oh, I guess one of the guys dressed up as a woman to fool some people and somehow it worked; good for them.” But then I actually read the article, and I was confused. Because it sounded like the one was actually just a trans woman. But that didn’t make any sense, because why would this be called a same-sex marriage then? And then it hit me that an actual piece of journalism was equating a trans woman with a guy in a dress who “tricked” the county clerk, and I lost a little more faith in humanity.

Stay classy, Advocate.

9 Yolanda C. June 19, 2009 at 2:18 pm

So in the Advocate’s mind, presenting a woman as a cisman in print is going to strengthen the movement for same-sex marriage? Good luck with that one, dudes—as if the gay man (white cismale or not) will ever have any rights that the government is bound to respect. Meanwhile, Kimah Nelson is silenced once again, this time by a rag who’s supposed to be giving her a voice.

If the white boys who run the LGBT industry haven’t heard this enough times already, let’s say it again: neither money nor white cismale privilege is going to set queer people free.

10 Renee June 19, 2009 at 3:55 pm

This shit makes me sick. It is not that hard to use the wrong pronoun and the only reason to do is because the authors have wrongly privileged cisgender privilege. It’s purposeful and transpbobic,

11 Monica R June 19, 2009 at 10:27 pm

And Towleroad, the 2008 Weblog Awards Best LGBT award winner was also guilty of the same sin.

http://www.towleroad.com/2009/06/new-york-city-clerk-inadvertantly-marries-samesex-couple.html

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