"The Dr. Oz Show" Raises the Bar for Transgender Talk Show Coverage

This afternoon the highly anticipated Dr. Oz Show episode featuring transgender children and their families aired, exhibiting some of the best nationally televised conversations about gender identity, despite some missteps in promotional materials and on-screen visuals.

In the introductory segment of his hour-long health show, Dr. Mehmet Oz hosted two transgender children and their families to discuss their process of realizing and embracing their respective identities.  Eight-year-old Josie and her mother Vanessia, members of the organization Trans Youth Family Allies, who some may recognize from their recent appearance on “The Tyra Show,” talked about first learning the word transgender and how drastically Josie’s life improved once she stopped being forced into a masculine identity that did not fit her.  Next, fifteen-year old Isaac and his parents Arturo and Monica explained how they decided that taking hormone blockers and undergoing a double-mastectomy would be best for him.  While references to surgery and anatomy did come up, Dr. Oz did not focus on those aspects of their stories.  Instead, the producers refreshingly included footage of Isaac stating that while the hormones and surgery helped, “I’ve always been me.”

While talking with each family, Dr. Oz consulted guest expert Dr. Robert Garofalo, a pediatrician who advises hundreds of children and their families about gender transitions, allowing the audience to hear probably the healthiest medical opinion of transgender identity ever broadcast.  After Dr. Oz presented the phrase “Gender Identity Disorder” and let it linger on the screen behind his transgender guest, Dr. Garofalo was quick to calmly emphasize that the term disorder is not broadly accepted by transgender community members and allies.  While Dr. Garofalo acknowledged that the prescription of hormone blockers is relatively new – and therefore under-researched, he stressed that the decision should lie primarily with the children and their families rather than medical professionals.

Alongside this groundbreaking content, however, sensationalized portrayals of the topic remained in the promotional videos for the episode, and even in the episode’s open-ended title, “Transgender Kids: Too Young To Decide?”, which also hovered in the background throughout the segment.

Though the show certainly left room for improvement in its promotional methods and on-screen images, GLAAD applauds Dr. Oz and his producers for providing an exemplary discussion of gender identity, unprecedented in its refrain from an intrusive focus on anatomy.

Take Action to Thank the Dr. Oz Producers for Their Coverage of Transgender Children:

We encourage all viewers, advocates, and allies to write letters of thanks to Dr. Oz and his producers to let them know how much their segment has improved the standard for media presentations of transgender-related topics.

Please send emails to susan@zoco.com.  If you would like to sign a model thank you letter we have drafted, please click here.  Help us generate future episodes of equal or greater caliber.