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Right-Wing Media Use ABC Newsman's Case To Mock, Smear Transgender Individuals

August 06, 2013 1:15 pm ET by Luke Brinker

Right-wing media seized on the case of an ABC News producer who transitioned from male to female before identifying as a male again to malign transgender people as confused and mentally ill.

The New York Post reported on August 6 that ABC News producer Don Ennis once again identifies as male after identifying as a female and going by Dawn earlier this year. "I'm a guy again! ABC newsman who switched genders wants to switch back," the Post's headline blared. According to the Post's reporting, Ennis experienced a "two-day bout of amnesia," which sparked his return to a male identity:

ABC News editor Don Ennis strolled into the newsroom in May wearing a little black dress and an auburn wig and announced he was transgender and splitting from his wife. He wanted to be called Dawn.

But now he says he suffered from a two-day bout of amnesia that has made him realize he wants to live his life again as Don.


"I thought it was 1999 . . . and I was sure as hell that I was a man," Ennis said in the e-mail [to friends and colleagues explaining his experience] titled "Not Reportable, Very Confirmed."

"Fortunately, my memories of the last 14 years have since returned. But what did not return was my identity as Dawn," said Ennis, who had been wearing lipstick, skirts and heels.

Picking up the Post's report, The Washington Times repeated standard right-wing tropes about the "confusion" that plagues transgender individuals:

At first ABC News editor Don Ennis was a man. But then he decided he was a woman. But now he thinks he's a man again.

The confusion began in May when Mr. Ennis walked into his newsroom sporting a little black dress and a wig, and said he was transgender, poised to leave his wife. Call me Dawn, not Don, he said then, The New York Post reported.


He said he's retired his high heels, skirts and lipstick.

WND continued the mockery, with a headline reading "ABC 'Newswoman' Reveals The 'Breast' Of The Story." Meanwhile, right-wing radio host Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis at the anti-gay hate group the American Family Association, tweeted a link to the Washington Times' report, which he used to mock the notion that transgender identity is rooted in biology:

For the overwhelming majority of transgender adults, gender identity is a fixed trait and deeply rooted in biological factors. Johns Hopkins medical researchers reported in 2000 that gender identity correlates with hormones to which fetuses are exposed during pregnancy. Being transgender, as one expert put it, is "part of the human condition."

As society comes to better understand transgender individuals, mental health professionals have moved away from pathologizing them. As the American Psychological Association states:

A psychological state is considered a mental disorder only if it causes significant distress or disability. Many transgender people do not experience their gender as distressing or disabling, which implies that identifying as transgender does not constitute a mental disorder. For these individuals, the significant problem is finding affordable resources, such as counseling, hormone therapy, medical procedures, and the social support necessary to freely express their gender identity and minimize discrimination. Many other obstacles may lead to distress, including a lack of acceptance within society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, or assault. These experiences may lead many transgender people to suffer with anxiety, depression, or related disorders at higher rates than nontransgender persons.

Moreover, the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual discontinued the diagnosis of gender identity disorder, renaming it as "gender dysphoria" instead. Dr. Jack Drescher, a member of the committee that worked on the new manual, told The Advocate last year that thinking about gender in terms of simply male or female is medically unsound, and that the therapist's job is not to "pathologize" patients who don't live according to gender binaries.


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