Today CNN ran an inspiring story about a 7-year-old transgender girl, Libby Gonzalez, who has become a vocal, eloquent opponent of Texas' proposed gender bathroom law. Her supportive parents, Frank and Rachel, discussed what the transition process has been like for the family and their concerns about the discrimination their daughter will very likely face.
One paragraph was eyebrow-raising and it didn't go unnoticed by readers: "In the months since Libby transitioned, the parents said, even their more conservative neighbors have been accepting of their daughter's new lifestyle."
It's incredibly encouraging to hear that Libby has been accepted by a conservative community, but the description of being transgender as a "lifestyle" is misguided and damaging. It furthers the misconception that being trans is a lifestyle choice rather than an innate knowledge that a person's gender identity differs from the one they were assigned at birth.
As Trans Media Watch points out, "Many [trans people] feel distressed about it and wish they could fit in as easily as other people. Would you choose to live in a way that risked making you the target of threats and abuse?"
Furthermore, there are media guidelines that can prevent this exact problem. According to GLAAD, editors at the AP and New York Times have instituted rules against using inaccurate terminology such like "sexual preference" and "gay lifestyle."
Major "lifestyle" choices include career changes, leaving or joining a religion, becoming a vegetarian, and choosing whether to marry or stay single. They involve weighing pros and cons before ultimately making the best decision we can at the time.
Sexuality and gender identity, on the other hand, are not choices — and language that implies as much is damaging and harmful to the LGBTQ community.
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