GLAAD's Work on Transgender Issues

Since the mid-1990s, GLAAD has been working to make sure journalists and entertainment professionals have the tools they need to tell the stories of transgender people. These are just a few highlights of our work.

Educating Journalists and Hollywood

1998 - GLAAD's Media Reference Guide includes a transgender section with specific details on how to respectfully and accurately write about transgender people.

2000 - GLAAD works with the Associated Press to change the AP Style Guide and bring it more into alignment with GLAAD's Media Reference Guide. Newspapers across the country follow the AP's lead.

2002 - GLAAD works closely with the family of murdered transgender teenager Gwen Araujo, handling all media. Lifetime aired a movie about her life, and California passed the "Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act" which outlawed the "gay or transgender panic defense" in murder trials.

2005 - GLAAD media trains four college students cast in the documentary series TransGeneration - one of the first media projects to explore the lives of transgender youth.

2006 - GLAAD works with All My Children as they introduce a transgender character, reaching a daytime viewing audience.

2009 - Staff works closely with Chaz Bono as he announces his transition, and joins Dancing with the Stars. GLAAD created tip sheets for journalists and entertainment reporters on how to cover Chaz's story, and successfully pitched CBS' The Insider to air an on-camera Dancing with the Stars viewing party with transgender community members who spoke about Chaz and broader issues faced by the community.

2010 - Provide script feedback and background information to the TV show Degrassi as they introduce Adam, a high school freshman and the first transgender teen on TV. The episode which introduced Adam received an Emmy Award nomination, and a Peabody Award. Degrassi is the most popular show on TeenNick, a network geared to viewers 11 to 19 years old.

2012 - When Jenna Talackova is denied the right to participate in the Miss Universe pageant, GLAAD works with contest organizers and NBC to ensure that the rules are changed to allow all women to participate. The change has implications around the world as countries from Colombia to Singapore to the Philippines discuss transgender women being treated equally.

2012 – To generate publicity for Transgender Awareness Week, GLAAD produces and launches online videos of prominent transgender people speaking about their lives as part of the "I Am: Trans People Speak" project. CBS News, Buzzfeed and other mainstream news outlets run the videos which have now generated over 75,000 views.

2013 - GLAAD staff meet with the President of CBS Entertainment and a dozen CBS network executives to discuss problematic transgender stories on CBS programs, and ways in which the network could incorporate fair and accurate transgender characters.

2013 - GLAAD helped students and alumni at Azusa Pacific University show their support of H. Adam Ackley, a professor at the school for 15 years, who was asked to resign when he announced he was transgender.

2014 - GLAAD and Facebook announce a custom gender field that allows Facebook users to more accurately reflect who they are.

2014 - Laverne Cox accepts the Stephen F. Kolzak Award at the 25th annual GLAAD Media Awards.

2014 - GLAAD worked with Smith College students to bring attention to the school's policy of not admitting transgender women who were unable to meet unrealistic criteria set by the school for their ID documents. In May 2015, Smith joined several other women's colleges in changing their policy to make it easier for self-identified transgender women to apply.

2014 - GLAAD's Tiq Milan and the ACLU's Chase Strangio joined Laverne Cox on the Katie Couric Show to talk to Katie about the myriad of issues and challenges facing the transgender community. This episode came about because GLAAD reached out to the show after an earlier episode in which Katie asked guest Carmen Carrera inappropriate questions about surgery. Turning the incident into a learning moment, this follow-up episode allowed viewers to learn more about the real legislative change that needs to happen to make the world a safer place for transgender people.

2014 - GLAAD's trans staffers met with over 30 senior executives at MSNBC, NBC News, Bravo, and Oxygen for a discussion about fair, accurate and inclusive media representations of transgender people in news and entertainment.

2015 - When Glee wanted to create a transgender choir for a pivotal scene related to Coach Beiste's decision to transition, they reached out to GLAAD. By getting the word out, GLAAD brought 200 transgender people from around the country to be in the show. Check out this clip from "Transitioning" to see this powerful scene.

2015 - GLAAD and Facebook continued to work together on making the gender field more inclusive. Now users can use a free-form field to write in whatever gender identity term feels right to them.

2015 - GLAAD collaborates with CBS' The Bold and the Beautiful as they reveal that fan-favorite Maya Avant is a transgender woman. GLAAD media training the production staff, the writers, the publicists, and the actors playing key roles associated with the storyline.

2015 - GLAAD met with MTV.com staff to talk about ways the news team can fairly and accurately spotlight stories of trans youth.

2015 - GLAAD staff met with over 30 executives from FOX Standards & Practices for a discussion about how transgender people can be portrayed fairly and accurately in entertainment media.

2015 - As media coverage about Bruce Jenner's possible transition became louder and louder, GLAAD staff gave dozens of interviews to media outlets explaining why speculating and gossiping about who is and isn't transgender creates an unsafe environment for transgender people simply trying to live their lives in peace.

2015 - While researching and reporting the interview with Olympian Bruce Jenner, ABC looked to GLAAD as a valuable source of information on the issues affecting the transgender community, frequently tapping our resources and expertise. ABC News also used GLAAD's Media Reference Guide, along with quotes from GLAAD staffers, in materials created for ABCNews.com to accompany the interview. GLAAD also created and distributed a tip sheet to thousands of journalists around the country with information on how to report on the interview fairly and accurately. This included explaining that while most transgender people prefer a new name and pronoun after disclosing that they are transgender, Bruce Jenner had not yet requested that change. Therefore journalists should continue to use the old name and pronoun, but explain to their readers why they were doing so.

Responding to Misinformation and Defamation

In addition to proactively educating journalists and people in Hollywood – and ultimately reaching their audiences with accurate information about transgender people – GLAAD also responds strongly when media outlets provide misinformation about transgender people or clearly defame them. Inaccurate and unfair coverage happens all too often, particularly when a transgender person has been the victim hate violence. Here are a few examples of this work:

  • GLAAD created a special style guide entitled "Doubly Victimized" to help journalists writing about an anti-transgender hate violence treat the victim with dignity and respect. In the last year, The New York Times, Associated Press, and the Los Angeles Times have all updated their style guides because of meetings with GLAAD.
  • In 2013 alone, GLAAD has worked with newspapers in New York City, Rochester, Newark, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Los Angeles ensuring that they refer to murdered transgender women with the correct name and female pronouns.
  • GLAAD worked with partner organizations to expose the anti-LGBT activists behind the effort to repeal California's AB 1266 law. This law allows transgender students in public schools to use the facilities that are appropriate for their true gender. Frank Schubert and the National Organization for Marriage used scare-mongering tactics and outright lies to frighten the public about transgender youth in an attempt to repeal this groundbreaking law.
  • GLAAD spoke to editors at the Chicago Sun-Times after they ran an op-ed originally written for the National Review by Kevin D. Williamson, claiming that Laverne Cox is not a woman, and that transgender people are delusional. The Editorial Page Editor issued a statement apologizing for running the inaccurate essay and removed it from the web site.

Media Train Transgender People to Effectively Tell Their Own Stories

For over a decade, GLAAD staff have conducted media trainings for transgender people so they can become powerful and effective storytellers, using the media to educate Americans about their lives. We have conducted these trainings at conferences around the country, and on an individual basis when someone has found themselves thrust into the national spotlight. Some of that work includes:

  • GLAAD launched a Change.org petition with the family of Coy Mathis, a transgender 6-year-old from Colorado. The petition asked for Coy's school to allow her to use the correct bathroom. In just a few days, the petition gathered over 60,000 signatures, and Coy's school responded by creating a fair policy for transgender students. GLAAD media trained Coy's family in preparation for their appearance on the Katie Couric Show and other media outlets.
  • When mixed martial arts fighter Fallon Fox was outed as a transgender woman against her will, GLAAD stepped in to media train her, giving her the tools she needed to interact with sports media journalists. We also monitored sports media and contacted any journalist who was disrespectful of Fallon, demanding that they treat her with the respect accorded any athlete.
  • As part of GLAAD's People of Color Media Institute, we gave intensive, in-depth media trainings to several transgender people of color, including Tiq Milan. Tiq was cast in MTV's I'm from Rolling Stone, a reality show for young aspiring journalists.
  • In September 2013, GLAAD hosted a panel and training called "Growing Visibility: Transgender People in the Media," which included Orange Is The New Black actress Laverne Cox and athlete Kye Allums. The training taught transgender people best practices for talking to the media and becoming spokespeople.
  • In February 2014, GLAAD hosted 20 transgender advocates and allies at a Transgender Advocates Media Training. Participants discussed the curent state of transgender media representations and learned best practices for telling their stories in the media.
  • Also in February 2014, GLAAD brought trans advocate CeCe McDonald to New York City to share her harrowing story with leading news outlets. GLAAD prepped CeCe for the interviews, equipping her with techniques for tackling tough interviews.
  • GLAAD partnered with the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) to help create a campaign to pressure New York state to include transgender-related health care for people on Medicaid.
  • GLAAD visited MTV to help media train four of the transgender youth featured in "Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word."

 

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GLAAD works with Hollywood to help create transgender roles and with casting transgender actors

As interest builds in telling transgender stories, there has been a growing interest in casting transgender actors to play trans roles. While transgender actors should not be limited to only playing trans parts, they can bring an important and welcome authenticity to those characters. GLAAD has recently started working with the Casting Society of America (CSA) and Breakdown Services to help ensure that transgender actors have the opportunity to be considered for these roles, and to help casting directors be better informed about how to cast transgender characters.