The Air Force Times just published a very well-done piece exploring the discrimination transgender veterans face, a story that stands in marked contrast of the problematic media coverage we see on transgender people and issues. This military media outlet offers lessons to mainstream media in how to fairly and accurately write about transgender people and issues.
The article drew from an analysis of a Transgender American Veterans Association survey by the Palm Center at UC-Santa Barbara, in which transgender veterans reported their experiences with discrimination. This article delves further than Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The reporter explores how transgender veterans have problems getting the most routine care other veterans get with ease. On top of that, counseling, hormone therapy, and sex reassignment surgery are unavailable for veterans at VA facilities. The Palm Center’s press release states that 22% of respondents reported lack of respect from VA doctors, and 1 in 5 were questioned by an officer about their orientation, in violation of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Though the terminology in the article was not perfect (use of “sexual identity” when “gender identity” would be more accurate; use of inaccurate term “sex change,” rather than “sex reassignment surgery”), the reporter did an excellent job using correct pronouns and other transgender terminology. Overall, the reporter’s tone was thoughtful, respectful, and it paves the way for future coverage in outlets beyond LGBT press.
In a time when some mainstream news outlets continue to use outdated and inaccurate language to write about transgender people and issues, it is refreshing to see a military media outlet produce coverage that is so on target. Hopefully the respectful Air Force Times article will set the scene for future mainstream media coverage of transgender veterans.