Today, on MSNBC with Ronan Farrow, managing editor of TIME, Nancy Gibbs, and transgender advocate and GLAAD senior media strategist, Tiq Milan, discussed the role of the media in transgender issues in light of Orange is the New Black star Laverne Cox's feature on Time Magazine's cover.
When asked what prompted the cover, Gibbs responded that it has been a long time coming, with Cox's role in Orange is the New Black, Janet Mock's bestselling memoir on her life as a trans woman, the use of trans models in Barney's ad campaigns, and states changing their npn-discrimination policies to include gender identity. Gibbs calls this contemporary time a "tipping point," during which discussions of the nature of gender and gender identity have moved "from the margins, more into the mainstream."
Tiq Milan agreed, noting the "pivotal moment" of culture and the enormous role of visibility. Milan told Farrow:
For 92% of Americans, everything that they know about transgender people is from the media, so having Laverne Cox out there and Janet Mock out there is so important. But also, social media has been huge with galvanizing the community. There are so many trans people, thousands of trans people, who don't have access to physical community, but they create these communities online…and they're supporting each other and they're sharing information and they're organizing.
Milan referenced #JusticeForJane, a hashtag being used on social media platforms demanding the release of Connecticut's Jane Doe, a 16-year-old trans girl of color being held in an adult prison without charges against her.
Regarding what needs to be done with policies on trans inclusion, Milan said, "we're seeing trans inclusion being implemented on a state level, and it's happening rapidly," citing the galvanization around Houston's recent equal rights ordinance and the gender-identity inclusion on the non-discrimination ordinance for Topeka, Kansas. Milan continued, "So this [implementation of gender identity inclusion on a state level] is going to keep happening. So the ball is going to keep rolling. But it would be great to see these things happen on a federal level."
Farrow asked Gibbs what role the mainstream media will play in impacting the fight for trans inclusion. Gibbs explained that the mainstream media will hopefully help people understand the issues and their complexities. Farrow concluded that the lack of immediacy for most Americans – that there are more Americans who do not have trans friends or family members than those who do – makes the media and media organizations' role even more important in the movement toward equality for transgender people.