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CBS Shows How Easy It Is To Properly Cover A Transgender News Story

March 18, 2015 2:45 pm ET by Carlos Maza

CBS produced an informative, well-researched, and compassionate segment about the military’s ban on transgender service members, setting an example for other networks on how to properly cover transgender stories.

The March 17 edition of CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley featured a segment on the military’s current ban on transgender service members, a policy that’s coming under increasing scrutiny. The segment followed the story of Landon Wilson, a former Navy sailor who was discharged after his commanding officer discovered he was transgender in 2013:

The segment was a remarkably simple example of how major news networks can and should discuss transgender issues. It allowed transgender people, including Wilson, to speak for themselves. It highlighted the extreme levels of discrimination faced by the transgender community. And it took time to provide basic information about being transgender to its audience, including dispelling the myth that transitioning requires hormone therapy or surgery.

CBS medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook ended the segment by stating, "It’s difficult for people to understand that a person’s biological sex can be different from a person’s gender. Ignorance about that has led to discrimination for transgender people in all walks of life, not just the military."

In a piece about the segment at The Huffington Post, LaPook explained why he felt it was necessary to educate viewers about being transgender, writing, “if we're going to have a meaningful national conversation, we have to start by understanding the vocabulary.”

It’s a major improvement from how the network covered a different transgender story last June, when CBS Sunday Morning ran a segment on transgender children that featured comments from a widely discredited anti-LGBT hate group known for fabricating lies about the transgender community.

Responsible coverage of transgender issues isn't difficult, and it doesn’t necessitate giving hate mongers a platform to justify discrimination. It simply requires listening to transgender individuals and providing viewers with the information they need to understand an issue they may not be familiar with. CBS’ willingness to highlight transgender voices and thoughtfully educate viewers by providing them with information about what it means to be transgender is an example of how major news organizations should handle these kinds of stories in the future.


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MSNBC's Ronan Farrow Shines A Spotlight On The Military's Transgender Service Ban

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