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Published on December 14th, 2011 | by Wild Gender


Open Letter to ABC: Y’all Need to Hug Somebody Genderqueer

Dear ABC News,

As a first-time Wild Gender author, im writing to say that I’d prefer that my genitalia remain anonymous. And I imagine as a tween, I would have felt the same way. Which is why I was  moved to write you this morning, after waking up to a story on your website titled: “Twin Boys, One Transgender, Become Brother and Sister.”

Your reporter, Susan Donaldson James, ripped much of this story from a more sensitive version, not perfect, but more sensitive, written for the cover of a recent issue of the Boston Globe, about identical twins, one of whom, happens to be a teenage transgender girl.

Your story opens with this lede:

“As early as age 4, Wyatt Maines asked his mother, ‘When do I get to be a girl?’ And he told his father he hated his penis.”

I imagine the sensationalization of this opening paragraph was largely too tasty to let go.

But let’s examine momentarily why this wording is offensive. Judging by your taste in programming—ahem, ABC’s Work It—your company has not yet had the benefit of engaging directly with the gender variant community on issues such as this.

Very simply, Ms. Maines prefers the name Nicole. And her pronoun is “she” rather than the “he.” Using a person’s former name and former pronoun to explain “transgender” is always entirely unnecessary. Really.

And, maybe most obviously, making a direct reference to Nicole’s genitals is not only tremendously insensitive, but unfortunately, it promotes the type of misunderstanding and lack of acceptance toward transgender people that your reporter spends the bulk of the article talking about.

The rest of your piece touches on “hormones,” “testes,” the dangerous aspects of Nicole living her “out” lifestyle, and the Maines’ concerns for her safety.

At one point, you write:

A report by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force paints a bleak picture of life as a transgender person in the United States. The 2011 survey, “Injustice at Every Turn,” found that discrimination is pervasive in “nearly every system and institution.”

Truly, “bleak” is the picture your article paints. And “bleak” is what Nicole needs no more of. By sensationalizing her physicality and misusing her former pronouns, you are contributing to the problem.

One of the most painful aspects of the Globe article was the detailed account of Nicole’s fears about growing into a transgender adult. And more specifically, not finding herself accepted or loved by those she is attracted to.

Over the years, the (Maines) family has become close to several adult transsexuals, and Nicole has seen that some have found happy marriages. “She says she does feel better about it,’’ said Kelly (Nicole’s mother), “but still wonders if she ever met a boy who falls for her, and then found out that she was trans, if he would still like her, or say awful things as he skedaddled out the door.’’

The simple fact is, this is wholly scary. Not only for trans people, but likely, all people. What if I fall in love with somebody who is uncomfortable with me?

The reportage in your article does not help. Actually, it harkens to a sleek, smartphone ready version of the turn-of-the century sideshow wherein we are encouraged to “other” her and her body.

Certainly there is a way to discuss trans issues on your website without grabbing for attention using the genitals of a teenage girl.

Sorry to be harsh, but I’m serious.

Instead, let’s be loving and affirming in our reportage of transgender youth. Maybe it won’t sell as many copies or grab as many hits, but so what? Lets take our tack from Miracle on 34th Street—yes, I’ve got floor-room Christmas carols stuck in our heads too—and be unbridledly nice to this community of kids, no holds barred. No questions asked. And ask nothing in return.

Until then, why not hire one of our phenomenal community educators, author Eli Claire or Kate Bornstein for example, to discuss gender as a spectrum on all levels of your organization.

I believe the tone of the Globe article was more thoughtful, likely because the reporter actually met Nicole and her family. In light of this, I would like to offer you the chance to physically—in person—meet any one of our trans/genderqueer authors at Wild Gender. We’d be happy to come to your office and give you a hug.



Eli, a trans student at the University of Maine

Special to Wild Gender


transgender, abc, genderqueer

ABC needs a hug

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About the Author

Wild Gender

is an online magazine and creative hub born out of gratitude for the gift of full expression. We are dedicated to creative practices that celebrate gender fluidity, identity and expression. Wild Gender prioritizes visual art, creative writing, and journalistic work by trans/gender-variant individuals who have never before been published in a public venue. Run entirely by volunteers,we are always in search of writers, thinkers, and creators hoping to participate in our growing community.

3 Responses to Open Letter to ABC: Y’all Need to Hug Somebody Genderqueer

  1. Troy says:

    As a queer myself, I find your letter quite pretentious and overly dramatic, which stinks greatly of seeking headlines yourself. Pot, meet kettle. See the irony there? Here’s why.

    First and foremost, who are you to speak on behalf of Nicole? Do you even know her? Have you even spoken to her? Let her or her family, or even someone who knows her, defend herself or complain if she feels offended. She doesn’t need some unsolicited group to seek unsolicited apologies for her. At least the article was written with Ms. Maine’s involvement, unlike your letter.

    Second, in all of your problem excerpts, I find legitimate, and significant reasons to write it the way they did. For example, you forget that the author was telling an important story. One that requires the reader to be engaged and sympathetic. Using the name “Wyatt” was appropriate because that’s who the person was known as at the time of the context discussed. As for the penis/girl issues: How confusing would it had been to the reader if the author refered to “Nicole” asking when she can be a girl and that she hates her penis? The paragraph was painting a picture of important historical facts in this person’s life, including illustrating that Nicole used to be known as Wyatt.

    Should these facts be erased from existence? No, they are part of what makes up who Nicole is, and are very important in portraying the anguish and confusion of what Nicole and so many others have gone through in youth. And for the record, your group, of all people, should know how common it is for transgender individuals to “hate their penis”, making it even more important to portray this emotion. Maybe not in a way that seeks to latch the reader, but in the end, all this article is trying to do is spread the word and enlighten people on the difficulties people of difference face, and who would read it if they weren’t interested in the first few lines?

    To all of your other points, which complain mostly about painting her life in a dramatic, negative, and scary light: This is the TRUTH. It is not embellished or fabricated, this is the truth as applies to the context of the article and the purpose of the article is to spread the word so that people like Nicole may have less darkness to deal with in the future.

    Instead, you want that all swept under the rug. Instead of having a major news outlet telling someone’s story with the intent on gaining acceptance and sympathy for the person, you’d rather the article not be written at all. Nicole may as well not exist as far as you’re concerned, because you’d rather her life be edited and censored so that it seems happier and brighter. I got news for ya, life aint all daisies and sunshine, for ANYONE, let alone Nicole.

    In the end, you are not Nicole. You are not every transgender queer. Stop speaking for individuals who haven’t asked you to speak for them, and start practicing a little bit of sensitivity yourself. By writing an unsolicited, and completely unneeded “open letter” to ABC, you are simply 1000% more guilty of grabbing for attention than a news outlet.

    With much love of EVERYONE,

    • Wild Gender Wild Gender says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment Troy. Ever think about writing oped peices? We’d be delighted to publish any of your thoughts on the site. Again, thanks for reading and weighing in. Emerson.

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