It may be 2018, but South Africa’s leading national Sunday newspaper does not appear to understand the basics of gender identity.
In a sensationalistic article, the Sunday Times this weekend not only misgendered a transgender individual but also equated men who cross-dress with transgender women.
The trashy tabloid style article, titled “Cross-dresser sleepless after crossing wife”, reported that an unnamed Durban businessman’s soon-to-be ex-wife is allegedly blackmailing him.
The man said that while married he began to “experiment” with “different sexual relationships, cross-dressing and bisexual relationships”. During what, he called, these “bouts of confusion”, he engaged in sex with “random individuals” at private homes and hotels.
The man said that this “chosen lifestyle” and sexual experimentation “was short lived and he no longer wished to continue it”. He alleged that his wife threatened to release “saucy” pictures of him cross-dressing and send them to his work if he did not end his relationship with his new girlfriend.
The article was disingenuously published under the heading “Gender Issues”. The Times, however, actually failed to provide any insight into gender issues, instead reveling in the lurid aspects of the story.
To make matters worse, the article featured three short “related” celebrity profiles, including that of boxer Oscar La Hoya and basketball player Dennis Rodman, who have both cross-dressed. The third profile, however, was of US Navy SEAL Kristin Beck, who came out as a transgender woman in 2013.
It’s unclear why Beck was highlighted in the article, other than possibly due to the newspaper’s apparent ignorance. Through the piece, the Sunday Times effectively confuses men who cross-dress with transgender women.
As explained by LGBTQ lobby group GLAAD in its guide for journalists, “Cross-dressers do not wish to permanently change their sex or live full-time as women”. It adds that, “Transgender women are not cross-dressers or drag queens.”
PE-based transgender activist and author Christina Engela said in a letter to the Times that the article “reeks of sensationalism and also the cheap thrill of spreading falsehood and misinformation…”
She continued: “In aiding this witch hunt against this individual simply because of his cross-dressing and his personal difficulties, the Sunday Times is acting no better than Uganda’s Red Pepper in disseminating homophobic and transphobic tripe.”
Engela said that, “After shaming this man for cross-dressing and his regrettable relationship dramas, then you drag completely different identities into the mess – without even bothering to explain any differences between them: Namely Kristin Beck, a transwoman.”
She also slammed the newspaper for describing Beck as a “former war hero” and referring to her as “he”.
“Your writer seems to have gone to considerable lengths to sensationalise and misgender Ms. Beck by using the incorrect pronouns… Why is she mentioned as a ‘former war-hero’? Because she’s trans? Did her heroics vanish simply because she transitioned?” Engela asked.
“This sort of slip-shod, half-arsed, unprofessional ‘journalism’ is shameful and disgusting to say the least, Sunday Times. Please see to it that your writers learn to do their research correctly before going to print!” she said.
It seems that the Sunday Times’ editors and writers desperately need sensitisation training on matters of gender identity.