Today, Anderson Cooper's syndicated talk show Anderson Live featured Kylan Wenzel, a transgender woman competing this weekend in the Miss California USA pageant. GLAAD is thrilled that our work, together with many transgender advocates, back in April resulted in the Miss Universe pageant making a rule change that allows transgender women like Kylan to participate. And we are excited that Anderson Live chose to spotlight Kylan's story.
Unfortunately, comments made during and after the interview by co-host Robin Robinson were ill-informed, inappropriate and insulting.
After Kylan explained that she moved up the date of her sex reassignment surgery so she could participate in this year's competition, Robinson asked "How long ago did you complete the surgery, are you still in any kind of pain?" This question exemplifies the type of personal and inappropriate questions people feel they can ask transgender people, and it's just not relevant to the reason Kylan was asked to be on the show.
Robinson later says to Kylan "But everybody isn't in agreement with this. Have you had any pushback from people who say, 'Look, this is a female pageant, get in your own transgender pageant.'" The underlying assumption is that Kylan isn't female, and that transgender women should be segregated from "real women." To her credit, Kylan showed great poise in answering that she is a woman, and she hopes that by simply being herself she can educate people.
Finally, after saying goodbye to Kylan and wishing her the best, Robinson once again questioned Kylan's womanhood, saying to Anderson "I do wish her luck, but being devil's advocate, that's what some people say is not fair. A man working out a lot gets a whole different result from a woman working out a lot. You guys get that ab thing going quicker than we do. Some people could say that's an unfair advantage." Fortunately, Anderson responded that Kylan is a woman because she has undergone hormone therapy and had sex reassignment surgery.
Anderson Live received a GLAAD Media Award nomination for an episode that aired in 2011 featuring transgender youth and their families. But in recent months the show has taken a turn toward the sensationalistic in its coverage of transgender issues. Last fall, LGBT advocates condemned the show for booking a guest who claimed taking the drug Propecia caused her to become transgender.
Kylan has dreamed of competing in the Miss California USA pageant since she was 11 years old. Ideally both hosts would have focused their questions on her dreams and aspirations, and on her courageous decision to be the first openly transgender woman to run for Miss California USA. Instead, Robinson's questions in particular focused on the tired old issues of surgery and whether or not Kylan is a "real woman." As transgender stories become more and more common in mainstream media, GLAAD hopes that journalists and talk show hosts can move beyond questions about surgery and "when did you know." Transgender women and men know that our lives are more interesting and compelling than can be covered in "Trans 101."
For more information about fair, accurate and inclusive reporting on transgender issues, visit the GLAAD Media Reference Guide. For those reporting on transgender victims of crime, visit Doubly Victimized: Reporting on Transgender Victims of Crime.