Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
Every week, in my email, I receive dozens of story pitches.
Some are quite good, connecting me with engaging people and interesting stories that I might otherwise have missed. Most, however, are pretty useless to me in the overall scheme of things. A lot only tangentially veer into any topic I write about, or are blatant product pitches or just an overall bad fit.
I know that I’m just one writer out there, and that all of these pitches are being sent to outlets big and small in an attempt to get a moment to tell their story. I’m sure that there are also hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pitches hitting other writer’s emails on any number of other topics even further outside my wheelhouse.
There’s one thing I note about the majority of the ones I see, however, and that is pitches for or about transgender people.
I’ll let you in on another secret about the world of journalism today: There are several stations working to fill 24 hours of news in the day, and each needs experts who are willing to appear with an interesting angle on today’s big story. These outlets, too, are getting pitches similar to mine.
By the same token, many newspapers, suffering massive cutbacks of staff in this modern world, have begun to rely on similar pitches and press releases, including complete, ghost-written stories.
The important thing to know here is that it isn’t always us providing these stories. And when these outlets need someone to talk on transgender issues, there are plenty of people lining up and few have our best interests at heart. Sure, some might just want to pitch their book or something along those lines, but a large number are right-wing talking heads who offer up their own spin on trans issues — even if they now little or nothing about trans issues to begin with.
Right now is a precarious time for transgender rights. The Supreme Court could devastate our rights next weeks, even as the rest of this administration does all they can to chip away at them regardless of what the judiciary decides. States, even with the defeat of so many bathroom bills, are surely going to try once more to curtail our rights in the 2020 legislative session, if only to provide fresh ammo for Republicans running for office next year. The stakes are as high as they’ve ever been.
With this in mind, we need a team of trans people of all stripes, and someone who can help pitch us to the press to comment on, well, everything. We need to be ready to be a talking head on the news, to pitch stories to the papers and generally press our visibility as hard as those who might stand against us.
We need to stand ready to offer ourselves up to discuss every little trans thing that might even tangentially be of interest to the press, if only to get our faces and out stories out there. Indeed, it is even important that we approach stories that are not exclusively related to trans and non-binary issues, just to get our own spin on the issues of the day.
Consider the recent Emmy Awards and Billy Porter’s win for his work on “Pose,” not to mention the other members of the cast in attendance, or Patricia Arquette’s speech on trans rights.
Not every outlet would have the ability to reach out to one of the celebs in question, but imagine if we could let dozens, hundreds, of outlets get stories from us into their hands, and people who can speak through our own experience, adding color and nuance that might otherwise miss.
This would help to show who we are and tell more stories than just those shared at this year’s Emmys. We could use it to pitch human interest pieces on how “Pose” affects trans and non-binary people today, and make it a springboard into pieces about resources our lives and so on. There are just so many possibilities.
A couple of months back, there was an update for the emoji on our phones which included non-binary couples as well as gay and straight couples. But there also still isn’t a trans flag available.
To me, this is an utter non-story, but it did get some headlines from news outlets in need of content. Now we should get some non-binary speakers on to tell why having this as an option is important, or people on to speak about the need for trans, genderfluid, non-binary and other flags at our fingertips.
A school in East Texas recently told a young black boy that he would need to have his hair cut, pinned up or wear a dress to school. This isn’t a story about a transgender child, but it is one that has a lot to say about identity, about school dress codes and other issues of importance to trans and non-binary people. We could speak to it.
Of course, the biggest story I already teased above: trans issues are a big story for the 2020 elections. We need to start pressing for panels of transgender and non-binary people to discuss what’s their key election issues today. Get us out and on America’s TV screens, and at outlets large and small.
The point of all this is simple: people who know transgender people are more likely to be sympathetic to transgender people. As long as we let others frame who we are in everyone’s minds, we will continue to be painted in the worst possible light.
We can’t wait for them to come to us for comment: that’s not going to happen. We need to put ourselves out there and be seen.
Gwen Smith once was interviewed by Bill O’Reilly on a trans story. You can find her at www.gwensmith.com