"El Gordo y la Flaca" talk show airs anti-transgender comments after death of Mexican trans woman and sparks protests

Angela Ponce will compete in Miss Universe this December representing Spain, and she happens to be transgender. Many pageant participants and organizers have been supportive, but those opposed to trans inclusion had the spotlight last week, including Lupita Jones, director of Miss Universe in Mexico and herself a former Miss Universe. Jones was widely quoted in Spanish-language media saying trans women should not compete, which prompted a trans activist in Mexico, Itzel Ávila, to create a video in response. Ávila died, reportedly by suicide, shortly after posting the video.

Coverage of Ávila’s death and of Jones’ comments have shone a glaring light on the lack of knowledge on the part of way too many media outlets on what it means to be transgender, on the differences between sexual orientation and gender identity, on which pronouns to use, and on a host of other issues.

One show, El Gordo y la Flaca, drew particular ire from trans community members. The segment aired with a caption that read, “un transexual se suicida” or “a transsexual committed suicide” and the reporter also misgendered Ávila by using the incorrect pronouns to refer to her. After the news segment ended, hosts Raúl de Molina and Lili Estefan went on to misgender Ávila. “If this man or woman, or however you want to call them, killed themselves …,” De Molina said. Later, Estefan also misgendered Ávila and said, “the transgenders now want to be part of this,” among other problematic comments about gender and legal change of documents. In the same segment, De Molina and Estefan mentioned, with affection, a deceased former member of their cast, Cachita, who was transgender. Despite years of working with Cachita, issues around gender identity and the correct use of pronouns to refer to other trans women seemed to utterly confound them.

A number of New York City trans community members and groups quickly mobilized and organized a protest on Friday outside Times Square where the show was taping. Activists Elizabeth Chávez and Liaam Winslet helped organize a protest and Chávez confronted De Molina after the host stepped out to interview them. De Molina denied part of his statements but then said he apologized if he had said “man or woman.” De Molina and Estefan mentioned the protests on Monday’s show.

GLAAD has reached out to Univision about trainings for the show and other staff members to ensure LGBTQ issues are addressed accurately on air.

Unfortunately, this was not the only show to misgender Ávila or to use incorrect terminology. Ventaneando, on Azteca TV, which has an openly gay cast member, did so as well. In addition to misgendering and a lack of understanding of trans issues, sadly many stories focused almost entirely on Jones rather than on Ávila. Some news and entertainment segments offered more thoughtful coverage and commentary, but many  missed an important opportunity to discuss suicide, depression, lack of job opportunities, discrimination and the many other issues that disproportionately affect transgender people in the United States and internationally, especially if they are also people of color.

In 2012, GLAAD worked to ensure the inclusion of trans woman in Miss Universe.

GLAAD's vital reporting guide, Doubly Victimized: Reporting on Transgender Victims of Crime, provides clear guidelines to ensure that transgender victims of violent crimes are treated respectfully and fairly. GLAAD’s new report More Than a Number: Shifting the Media Narrative on Transgender Homicides, is an advanced reporting guide for journalists and advocates to accompany our Doubly Victimized Guide.

Jones’ comments were preceded by those of Miss Colombia, Valeria Morales, who told media she did not think trans women should not be allowed to participate in the contest. Morales' comments prompted Omar Vasquez, a YouTuber, to post a brilliant take-down titled “Miss Colombia or Miss Transphobia?” Miss Universe takes place Dec. 17 and will also include a trans contestant from Mongolia.