There are several pillars of journalism lauded by The Powers That Be who decided what journalism should be: objectivity, truth, a form of checks and balances.
Most of the components of journalism are admirable, but one in particular — objectivity — has been taken too far. It has been placed on a pedestal, while completely ignoring its own shortcomings and how it can limit the powers of journalism.
This is seen all the time in coverage of LGBTI topics and, currently, in the so-called debate over transgender rights.
Yesterday (17 October), the Guardian posted an editorial article about the UK’s current discussion to update their Gender Recognition Act. In the piece, they perpetuated harmful myths about trans people, such as trans women being ‘male-bodied people’ instead of real women.
Their blatant disregard for trans people’s experiences — in the name of ‘feminism’, although true intersectional feminism includes trans people — proves the need for outlets both by and for the LGBTI community.
Not everything is equal
There is a term in journalism known as false balance.
What this essentially means is the media reporting both sides of a certain topic as equal, when there is no evidence to support such equality existing.
Take the matters of vaccines and climate change, for example.
Despite what some people may say, there is no scientific evidence that vaccinations are harmful to children or cause autism, as one popular claim goes. In fact, being anti-vaccines is actually damaging to society — both for the children who don’t receive vaccines, as well as the people they come into contact with who can’t get vaccines for whatever reason (age, allergy, etc.)
Similarly, all scientific evidence points to man-made climate change, with possible imminent doom as early as 2040.
Both sides of these two ‘debates’ are not equal. For both topics, one side is steeped in science and aims to serve humanity, and the other is decidedly neither.
The same goes for LGBTI rights, women’s rights, the rights of people of color, and any progress for marginalized communities.
Free speech is a protected right, and it always should be, including the variety of people’s opinions. This doesn’t mean, however, all opinions are equal or speak real power to truth.
Authentic voices matter
This is one of the many problems with the Guardian’s piece on the Gender Recognition Act.
It’s quite simple, really: any opinions regarding the LGBTI community matters more coming from a person who is actually part of the community, rather than from someone (or an organization) who is not.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t discrimination within a community itself, but simply that those without experience within a community has less support with which to speak about the community.
The Guardian’s article also practices false balance to the detriment of trans people.
In its piece, the Guardian claims people should listen to trans activists as well as women with ‘concerns’ about ‘male-bodied people’.
Except numerous reports and research investigation have proven the myth of predatory trans people in public facilities is unfounded. In reality, it is trans people who face more danger and discrimination in gendered spaces that do not correlate with their gender identity.
Kate Sosin aptly tweeted about this issue:
Happened to meet a mainstream news producer tonight outside work. She asked (nicely) if queer media can report objectively w/ out crossing into advocacy. I said maybe we don't have the same definition of objectivity. Ours starts w/ the humanity of queer people.
— Kate Sosin (@shoeleatherkate) October 2, 2018
For the LGBTI community, and other marginalized groups, we are fighting for our rights and our lives. That is our objective truth.
Objectivity is appropriate for some news stories, but the idea that it is the only way is limiting and harmful. When it comes to equality, LGBTI people shouldn’t have to rely on sources and voices that are not part of the community, do not know its history and experiences, and act like there is an equal-sided debate about whether or not a person deserves equal rights because of their true gender.