Donna Minkowitz wrote one of the most important pieces about the murder of Brandon Teena, the transgender man depicted in the film Boys Don't Cry. A quarter century later, she does what few journalists have the courage to do: she acknowledged the botched the story with biased reporting.
Via The Village Voice:
For years, I have wanted to apologize for what I now understand, with some shame, was the article’s implicit anti-trans framing. Without spelling it out, the article cast Brandon as a lesbian who hated “her” body because of prior experiences of childhood sexual abuse and rape. (One of Brandon’s acquaintances had told me he’d said he was “disgusted by lesbians,” and several friends said Brandon had said, “I can’t be with a woman as a woman. That’s gross.”) I saw this youngster’s decision to lead a life as a straight man as incredibly bold — but also assumed it was a choice made in fear, motivated by internalized homophobia.
At the time, I was extremely ignorant about trans people. Like many other cis queer people at the time, I didn’t know that there were gay trans men, trans lesbians, bisexual trans folks, that being trans had nothing to do with whether you were straight or gay, and that trans activism was not, as some of us feared, an effort to stave off queerness and lead “easier,” more conventional heterosexual lives.
Even in New York City, someone like me, a journalist who considered myself very involved in queer radical politics, could be massively ignorant about what it meant to be transgender. In particular, I conjectured that Brandon’s long-term sexual abuse by an uncle and a rape in high school had led him to abjure his “female” genitals and breasts. It’s the aspect of my article that makes me cringe the most today.
Given The Atlantic's fearmongering garbage about gender-nonconforming minors published this week, this is a real breath of fresh air. The last journalist to make amends like this was Katie Couric, who botched an interview on trans issues and then worked with NatGeo to show her path toward understanding.
I'm deeply grateful to Ms. Minkowitz for setting the record straight at a time when biased writers like Jesse Singal are working so hard to stoke flames of fear about trans people, especially our children.
• How I Broke, and Botched, the Brandon Teena Story (The Village Voice)