- (Associated Press)
Last week, local Arlington blog ARLnow.com published a short post—with accompanying photograph—of a shoplifting suspect detained outside the Pentagon City mall. Entitled "Cops Nab Cross-Dressing Shoplifting Suspect," the piece identified the suspect as a "six-foot tall man dressed as a woman" who had "allegedly stolen an item from a store in the Pentagon City mall." (TBD later aggregated the story under a similar headline).
The blog's commenters completed the story with: Austin Powers references ("it's a man, baby!"); Ross "cross" Dress for Less jokes; and critiques of the suspect's fashion choices.But the coverage gave one commenter pause. "How is this so noteworthy versus arresting any other person?" the commenter wrote. "Many might argue that ArlNow wanted to 'mock' this 'type' of person and this subset of society; nearly every discussion comment presented here has enthusiastically joined in the mockery."
In my three years of reporting on the trans community, I've come across countless stories—and juvenile blog comment threads—like this one, and they all seem to make the same missteps. I'm by no means the final expert on this—I'm not trans, for one—but I'm versed in how mainstream publications report on trans issues, and the weaknesses that pop up again and again. Here are five: