On Wednesday morning, top editors of Seventeen Magazine met with GLAAD representatives to discuss their misrepresentation of transgender people in the article “My Boyfriend Turned Out to be a Girl,” printed in the November issue. After vocal expressions of shock and disappointment about the article’s sensational tone appeared on blogs such as Pam’s House Blend, Salon.com, and GLAADblog last week, Seventeen agreed to meet with us to plan their response.
In Wednesday’s meeting, the editors – including Jessica Press, who directly edited the piece in question, and Editor in Chief Ann Shoket – expressed their sincere regret about the problematic portions of the coverage. They explained that in trying to stay as true to Sheri’s story as possible, they had not considered the necessity of discussing transgender issues, or the common uncertainty transgender people face in deciding when and how to safely and respectfully share their who they are with romantic partners, because Sheri had not used the word transgender in relating her own experience to them. They also expressed regret for using a sidebar to compare Sheri's story to lurid and unrelated break-up stories.
So far, Seventeen has committed to sending in-depth response letters to the individual readers who have written in to express their concerns, and they are still deciding whether and how this response will appear in the Letters section of the February issue of Seventeen to hit newsstands in January. The combined January/December due out in this month will not address this issue, but editors are considering posting a response on Seventeen's website.
In an excerpt from the individualized response letters to readers, editors write:
“In no way did we intend to alienate or judge anyone--to the contrary, our goal was to connect our readers who are on either side of a relationship like Sheri's: We want to show them that it is normal and universal to want to keep some things private--and that it's just as normal and universal to feel hurt when you find out facts you didn't know about someone close to you.
"In our efforts to convey Sheri's authentic experience, we regret that we missed an opportunity to provide background about transgender people and the difficulties they often face in being who they are. It was never our intent to sensationalize this story or make negative assumptions about transgendered people.”
GLAAD will remain in contact with the magazine, providing material for stories that will fairly and accurately depict LGBT identities and experiences. We look forward to working with their editors to provide feedback on future LGBT-related content during the story planning phase, and appreciate the continued cooperation of their editing staff in addressing this recent misstep.
We thank the readers who sent their concerns to Seventeen and who spoke out against sensational reporting. We encourage you to keep notifying us of inaccurate and unfair articles you read in any mainstream publication.