THE PUBLICATION OF what The Sun newspaper calls “a fun quiz on gender” has been strongly criticised for reinforcing stereotypes about transgender people.
The quiz carries the headline ‘Tran or woman?’ and features 14 pictures of “ambiguous beauties”, as Sun writer Dulcie Pearce describes them. The quiz also features on pages 24-25 of today’s Irish Sun. One of the pictures is of the actor/comedian David Walliams dressed up as a female character from his TV show Come Fly With Me.
The piece tells readers that “believe it or not some of these lovely ladies are actually LADDIES“. It says that the pictures feature “ambiguous beauties, some who were born male and others who are 100 per cent female”.
It then invites readers to “guess the genders” and give themselves a “Ladyshave Rating for your girl-spotting skills”.
Irish transgender rights activist Louise Hannon told TheJournal.ie that the piece on the Sun’s website was “reinforcing the stereotype” of what a transgender person is. She said:
The paper is fixated with the look of somebody. We have to get past that and look at the person underneath. It’s just another example of marginalising transgender people.
She said that such articles, rather than being a “bit of fun”, could have serious effects for transgender people.
What it does is raise awareness of people who may be in the process of transitioning and it creates issues in some people’s minds with it. As a result, it invites abuse – sometimes verbal, but also sometimes physical.
Brian Finnegan, editor of GCN magazine, said that he found the quiz to be misogynistic as a whole, because of how it asks readers to define women.
My first response is that some of the wording is really offensive to transgender people who have to go through the emotional pain and then the transitioning itself which is a very difficult process. It demeans it all by saying that they’re not ’100 per cent’ the gender that they feel they are.
Finnegan says that, sadly, he is not surprised by the piece.
It is a rising issue because transgender people are becoming more visible in society. We have kids who are coming out in Ireland in their teens, proud to say that they are transgender and it is – thankfully – becoming recognised as part of humanity.
But as a result, transgender is becoming the new target in the way that being gay was in the 1980s and 1990s. In The Sun, it was a never-ending barrage.
The main picture featured on the quiz is of Miriam Rivera, a transsexual Mexican model who featured on a reality TV show called There’s Something About Miriam. The show was packaged as a dating show ‘with a twist’, as six men tried to woo the then 21-year-0ld Miriam with producers only revealing she was transgender in the final episode.
The Transgender Equality Network of Ireland (TENI) said that the “sensationalised” depictions of transgender are “unacceptable. A spokesperson for the support network told TheJournal.ie:
This type of quiz is framed as just being in “good fun”. Yet, it illustrates the acceptability of ridiculing the daily struggles that many transgender people face by reducing the experience to a tawdry, “is this a man or a woman” or “tran and woman”.
This type of quiz is not harmless fun. Rather it encourages the misunderstandings that people have around transgender issues and contributes to the overall climate of hostility that transgender people face everyday.
This quiz illustrates that we need more education. But we also need people to say that this is not acceptable in 2011. We need to say, not only is this not funny but this has no place in our media. Transgender identities and gender diversity should be understood and respected and not made fun of and derided.
The Irish version of the Sun newspaper came in for criticism just a few weeks back when it published personal details of a transgender person under the headline “Trinity’s Sex Swap Prof”. The article had been described as “inappropriate and in poor taste”.