By SpokesGay - 23 Aug 2013

NPR: The bucks stop here

[Updates below]

If you didn’t already know, National Public Radio told the New York Times:

National Public Radio will continue for now to refer to Private Manning as “he,” according to a spokeswoman, Anna Bross. “Until Bradley Manning’s desire to have his gender changed actually physically happens, we will be using male-related pronouns to identify him,” she said.

So I told them this:

Dear Vermont Public Radio,

I hate having to write this letter. I love Vermont Public Radio; that’s why I’m a monthly sustaining member. But I don’t know how else to exert pressure on National Public Radio to do the right thing with regard to Chelsea Manning’s preferred pronouns. Please hear me out before you decide this is petty; it’s not. Trans people are dehumanized constantly, and the line has to be drawn.

The New York Times quoted NPR spokeswoman Anna Bross:

“National Public Radio will continue for now to refer to Private Manning as “he,” according to a spokeswoman, Anna Bross. “Until Bradley Manning’s desire to have his gender changed actually physically happens,we will be using male-related pronouns to identify him,” she said.”

No.

No.

NPR does not have the moral right to decide how a woman is addressed because of their outrageous and prurient interest in the state of her genitals. I can barely believe an NPR spokesperson said this. What the hell is wrong them?

I’ve watched NPR turn itself into a status-quo suck up for over a decade. I won’t get into all the reasons NPR disappoints me (believe me, it comforts the comfortable far, far more than it used to), but know that the only reason I donate to Vermont Public Radio is because of the high quality of your local work. I’ve held my nose knowing that most of my dollars go to pay for NPR programming because I know that’s how it works, and it’s not your fault that donors have beefs with your national network.

But this is one step too far. I realize this is just the sort of letter you hate to read, and that it’s annoying, and it’s unfair. I wish I knew how to do it differently; I have no interest in punishing the excellent people of VPR because NPR is acting the asshole. But I’m going to cancel my sustaining membership unless NPR reverses its stance and does some investigation of its internal practices and understanding of transgender issues.

Please tell them this. They will hear you; they will not hear one guy like me.

Again, I feel awful writing this, and I’m sorry. I love you guys. Please understand.

Sincerely,

[name/address/phone]

 

Update 1: NPR has revised its position, but I think the National Center for Transgender Equality needs my money more, so that’s where it’s going.

Update 2, 8/29/13: So I waited for five days to hear back from Vermont Public Radio, and all I got was a polite, non-committal “Thank you for your support. . bye bye” form letter confirming my cancellation. This next won’t surprise you—I sent the board and executive staff an irritated letter for their shitty donor/listener engagement. I run a nonprofit myself and my board would have my head if I blew off a longtime donor who took the time to write such detail.

That got some attention. The development director emailed me today to apologize for “dropping the ball” —I totally get making that kind of mistake, so I understand. It was a miscommunication. He wants to meet with me in town for coffee since we live practically next door to each other, and he wants to hear what I think of the Manning coverage and NPR in general.

QUESTION—What would you like me to highlight? I plan to give him a 101 in how terribly trans people are conceived of in our culture and media (the best that I can, being a cis person) and suggest that Vermont Public Radio (at least) do a series on trans issues in society, work, and media.

Those of you who are trans—I am your vessel. I’m not the person who should be speaking for you, but I don’t want to miss this opportunity. I’ll appreciate your guidance!

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