This Today Show Segment Did Something Remarkable With Caitlyn Jenner’s Story
July 24, 2015 12:40 pm ET by Carlos Maza
NBC's Today show proved that smart reporting can turn even high-profile, sensationalist transgender news stories into opportunities to enlighten viewers about important issues affecting the transgender community.
During the July 24 edition of the Today show, host Matt Lauer introduced a new installment of NBC's "Undercovered" series, which aims to draw attention to stories and issues that don't typically get major media attention. Lauer noted that while the media has focused heavily on Caitlyn Jenner's public transition, "the reality for other transgender Americans, far from the spotlight, can look very different."
MSNBC's Ronan Farrow then introduced viewers to one of those transgender Americans -- a college student named Eve who is beginning hormone replacement therapy as part of her transition:
EVE: We're not all living the glamorous life. We don't all necessarily look that pretty. I imagine people find it very weird and strange when I say I'm a woman. I mean, I don't look like Caitlyn Jenner.
Eve described her struggle with harassment, suicidal thoughts, and fears that her family will reject her. She also allowed cameras to follow her to her first session of hormone treatment, giving the audience a glimpse of an aspect of transitioning that viewers of mainstream media might be unfamiliar with.
The segment is a perfect example of relevant, responsible transgender media coverage -- Today used a high-profile news story as an opportunity to shine a light on issues and stories that are typically ignored by major news networks. Rather than resort to sensationalism -- which has characterized much of the media's coverage of Caitlyn Jenner's transition so far -- NBC used Jenner's story as a shared reference point, introducing audiences to a story that more closely resembles the lived experiences of many transgender people.
The ability to move beyond fixation on high-profile transgender figures is an important part of responsible transgender coverage. As Eve explained, Jenner's experience as a trans woman -- her financial resources, easy access to health care, and "glamorous life" - is highly specific. What NBC's Today show did -- use Jenner's story as a springboard to elevate the experiences of everyday trans people -- raises the bar for smart coverage of LGBT issues.