What the fuck is the right move when mainstream media approaches you as a trans person?
By Michelle Snow (views and experiences are entirely my own)
Being approached by mainstream media to be in their shit sure does look sexy.
I am going to be a star! I am going to be able to able to say what I want to say! Look at how cool those people are, they must be important. Some guy who works for that outlet everyone has heard of wants to talk to them! They MUST BE SPECIAL.
Nope, nope and NOPE. Here is an article about why being approached is a nightmare and maybe will give you some insight into what this is actually like and what you should think about if you are ever approached or have strong views on what trans people should do with media outlets when you yourself have never dealt with them.
What The Trans has been, for a while, approached by cis people at mainstream media outlets, tapped by journalists to appear in their shit. Once, we actively sought that out. An MP called the conservatives a “fucking disgrace” on trans issues on our podcast and I totally went to shop that shit around because it was 2019 and I was a naive asshole who wanted recognition for stumbling into an interview with a shadow minister at UK Black Pride. Since then, I have grown up a lot and realised my own principles a lot more.
I want to make and create work for trans people that could help them. Priority one.
Getting mainstream media attention is not always the best way to do that.
But now mainstream journalists, producers or whatever are getting in touch with us more and more and recently I have been wrestling a lot with whether I should (and only me, Ashleigh can do whatever she likes).And it has been weird.
Here is the conflict in online article list form…the 16 points my brain has been spinning out over for months:
- “I am kind of an expert on trans issues in the UK at this point, maybe I SHOULD do it”
I know how this sounds. I don’t believe this to be true out of ego, I have been looking at this shit as my main focus in life since 2015. I have talked to maybe thousands of trans people from every walk of life you can imagine. And I am a trans woman. It is very, very rare when I talk to someone about trans issues and I am the person in the conversation who knows less. That is just the truth.
This does not make me magic. It means I haven’t worked a full time job in years due to disabilities and CAN obsess over trans crap. And I am not the only one, by far.
So as I am an expert who has put far more than 10,000 hours into being one at this point, maybe it is my duty/responsibility to make sure I take every oppurtunity I have to explain things, use my hard earned knowledge to try and do some good?
Maybe the next person they ask will thirst for the lime light but not know enough?
Maybe I should do this.
2. “Someone else far better than you can do it, you would be taking a spot not because of your knowledge but because you have a platform in the community”
I may be an expert in trans issues but I am not an expert when it comes to navigating media interviews. I have interviewed hundreds of people as a journalist but I don’t have any kind of filter. I have ADHD, and my form of that involves never knowing when to shut up and not being able to hide my emotions.
I have not undergone media training and my brain is fundamentally different from most peoples brains.
I cannot be the best person to do this. Maybe I should decline and hope they get any number of people who are just as, if not more knowledgable than me AND they know how to not come off as an emotional, angry weirdo.
3. “But you believe that trans voices should be included! How can you be such a hypocrite?”
I want trans voices out there. A big part of the problem right now is our humanity is put into question and we aren’t given many chances to SHOW that humanity.
So if I turn down these requests, I am turning down chances to show trans peoples humanity the only way I can, showing people MY humanity.
4. “I can’t do it. Cis media people CREATED this whole stinking mess. And they want to use me to cash in on the frenzy? Fuck them and fuck that”
I keep saying this and people still keep getting this wrong but this moral panic started as a result of the 2015 parliamentary trans equality inquiry and as a result of that, the government selected GRA reform from the recommendations from the committee which resulted in The Times and everyone else jumping on this as a thing. If this comittee never happened, then the UK would be a VERY different place right now.
Many think this didn’t start until 2017 or 2018 because of the GRA consultation but that consultation would never have happened if it wasn’t for all the negative press that came after the 2015 trans equality inqury released their recmmendations. But I am getting side tracked…
The media created this entire thing based on lies. The same way they have always done it when it comes to minority issues. Just ask any disabled gay immigrants you may know who were born in the 70's.
And they did it for profit. Maybe financially, maybe in other ways, but they did it for themselves. Nobody else.
Why the fuck should I give my time to these people who profit off making the world worse for us?
Every cis media person, even allies, are profiting from this in some way. Vice aren’t into being broadly pro-trans because they are just nice people.
They do it because it is what makes them money.
I cannot be part of this. This is why, months ago, I decided to never pitch articles ever again to cis lead outlets. I cannot entertain the idea that I am helping cis people with so much more privilege and power than me profit from perpetuating a moral panic that has straight up killed people.
And I know it has…the number of times I hear about a trans person who died by suicide, referenced the moral panic in some suicide note and then I find out that at least they followed our social media or even were a fan of the podcast…
…I want NOTHING to do with that whole fucking media industry.
5. “But that is ideological purity, you being on these things may help people and you are refusing to help because you want your soul to be pure?”
Okay I don’t really believe in souls but you get my point.
I have deep, deep issues with the media. But whilst I will sit at home, feeling smug about declining to help BBC News or Channel 4 or whoever…who am I actually helping?
Myself. To feel better.
I should put aside my on crap and just do what needs to be done.
6. “But you have done it before and you hated it every time”
I am going to admit something. Maybe this will come back to bite me but fuck it.
I was interviewed on Channel 5 news back in my PinkNews days. I was asked by my boss to do it as the story they wanted to talk about…I kind of broke it. I wrote the stories about it, I went to the protest about it, and it kind of made sense considering only about 5 people worked for PinkNews at that time and I was the only trans person there.
Every part of the experience was awful. I apparently came across quite well but I had panic attacks on the way there and on the otherside and that night for the first time in my life I took ecstacy because I needed to get fucked up on SOMETHING to get away from the anxiety of the whole thing.
I was at a party, it was there, and I did it. I never really wanted to do ecstacy. Not as a judgement thing, just the idea of it terrified me. Ive smoked weed because, who hasn’t? I think all drugs should be legal but for me? Taking some pill that I had no way of knowing was the real deal before I took it? Not my thing and it hasn’t exactly been something I have done since.
But doing media crap, clearly a trigger for me to the point where I would do things I, in my right mind, wouldn’t do normally. Maybe those things could be dangerous.
For my own mental health, and health in general, maybe I shouldn’t do this kind of thing.
7. “But you could benefit from this, maybe you could use this to actually benefit YOU”
When I am able to work full time again (something I desperatly want) maybe it wouldn’t hurt to have a few media talking-head gigs under my belt to help me get a job related to something I care deeply about.
I have ADHD after all, something that is VERY misunderstood but if I don’t on some level care about what I am doing, trying to do that thing is an actual nightmare.
It isn’t about not wanting to do things because I think I am above it. My brain trying to do something I am not totally obsessed with is like trying to watch a documentary about the history of white paint whilst someone else keeps changing the channel.
Maybe doing this stuff will help me find work that means I can, even in some VERY small way, get a leg up in finding work that won’t trigger my executive function issues (the posh phrase that describes this very thing).
Maybe I should do this for me?
8. “How can you think of yourself here? You just said that you cannot live with the idea of people profiting from this anti-trans backlash and YOU JUST TALKED ABOUT HOW YOU PROFITING FROM IT COULD BE OKAY YOU ARE A HYPOCRITE”
There are some people, trans and cis, who absolutely are using this backlash for their own reasons.
I won’t name them. But you probably know roughly who I am talking about.
That kind of selfishness makes me feel kind of sick, using the suffering of your community to make sure you get yours…How could I live with myself if I did the same thing?
9. “We are actively oppressed! We need to get a leg up where we can, why are you being so fucking judgemental?”
1 in 3 UK employers won’t hire a trans person BECAUSE they are trans.
Being trans is just harder than not being trans. It just is. So if you get a chance to give yourself a leg up, is it wrong to jump at it? Maybe level the playing field?
10. “Would you actually gain anything? You would almost certainly lose something, the risk is enormous”
No guarentees, but the personal gain (and community gain) from myself going on shows or being in news articles or whatever would be limited at best. The potential cost? Devastating.
If I was to persue and become that kind of public, become a proper ‘face’ of the trans community then my life and the lives of people I know could be put at risk.
Not saying I would be murdered or whatever. But I have lost count of the number of times prominent trans people have been doxxed, hounded, assaulted, abused and had their lives ruined by becoming a ‘face’.
My flatmate didn’t sign up for that. My friends didn’t. Anyone involved with WTT didn’t sign up for that. And if I was doxxed…where could I go to protect mysellf? What if they mangled what I said, made me out to be a monster?
Whatever gains could be got, the cost would certainly be huge.
11. “The cost of standing up will always be huge, so many did so much more whilst risking SO MUCH MORE because they didn’t have any other choice.”
So I should then. How am I any better than members of minorities who put themselves up for no other reason than because they had to?
12. “You are talking about being in media crap that nobody is going to care about a year from now, how fucking self aggrandising are you being right now?”
Fair point. Does it even matter that much? Are the stakes really that high?
13. “Yes they are, what if you screw it up?”
14. “Do you even want to be well known? Famous?”
No. To be honest, the level of fame I myself have in the community right now makes me feel weird.
I am not delusional. I know I am not exactly well known amongst trans people but I am relatively known. If I go to a trans event, chance are at least a handful of people will recognise me and some will even be full on gushing fans. Actual fans.
As someone who struggles with getting compliments from my friends…and someone who has real issues with being given some kind of power or capital…not to sound ungrateful but it can be something of a headfuck.
Being hated? Being loved? being KNOWN BY LOTS OF PEOPLE…
…as hard as it may be believe for someone who struggles not to tweet on a branded account in the first person and who made a goddam podcast and put it out there in public…I don’t want to be well known. I hope what I do helps people and people like it in the community but I don’t care or want to be famous amongst cis people, and being a Z list celebrity in the microscopic trans community is about as much as I can handle.
15. “…and can you ever trust anyone who works in the media? Ever?”
I do not believe so.
There is a misconception when media people (any media people, but ESPECIALLY cis media people) approach you. They will do EVERYTHING they can to show that they are on your side. They will say and do anything to get the job done.
And that job is to do the best for their outlet. Which means make them money.
They are NEVER on your side. They are on their outlet’s side and their side.
They will not be there for you after if things go wrong. They do not care about you. Ever.
They will absolutely do the thing that may ruin your life because it is their job. It benefits them to do so.
Why would I give so much power to people who may have every reason to screw me? To screw trans people?
Maybe I shouldn’t do this kind of thing. As a rule.
16. “But maybe you should use your ultra-micro level of celebrity to do some good…take the risk because it needs to be done…and you are an expert in the issues…maybe you SHOULD…”
Go back to number 1 in this list, repeat this about a thousand times and this is where I am.
I really hope this gives you some insight into both what being in mainstream media can be like…and give you some things to think about next time you view a trans ‘celebrity’ interacting with mainstream media.
And why you won’t be seeing me in media outside of What The Trans (a non-profit, anti commercial outlet for trans people that I happen to run and have control over).
You might see Ashleigh though. Because I am forwarding all media requests to her and she actually knows what she is doing.