28 March 2014

Youth-led Interaction with The Scotland Herald leads to more coverage for Scottish trans voices

Blogged by Michael Richardson, Development Officer | Youth Worker, LGBT Youth Scotland

I think the wide and rather wonderful diversity of gender identity surprised me the most. I found it really refreshing. In the first place I was surprised by the use of the pronoun “they”, since (probably a bit ignorantly), I hadn’t heard it used before – but quickly I got used to the idea of it…I was also surprised by the levels of creativity in the group, and very interested in the art works they were making.

Vicky Allan, Features Writer, Herald and Times Group

The interaction took place in the café at Scottish Media Group’s headquarters, home to Glasgow newspapers, The Herald and The Evening Times. We sat down with journalists Vicky Allan and David Leask to chat about being trans* and how the media reports on trans* issues.

Volunteers speak to Vicky Allan, The HeraldWe were a mixed bunch of volunteers – artists, musicians, feminists, and a whole range of trans* identities – and I knew the conversations were going to be interesting even before the journalists got there!

I was a little bit anxious at first – my own trans* identity is something I don’t often talk about, even in trans* spaces – but the group and the journalists really put me at ease, to the point that I was able to talk about some of my own experiences.

We started with a quick discussion of who everyone was and where they were at, with an explanation of pronouns.

The idea of the interactions is to keep things informal, to break down barriers by connecting with professionals on a personal level, rather than going in with a presentation or a list of do’s and dont’s. Still, I was surprised that we didn’t have to start with Trans 101, and both Vicky and David were really supportive from the get-go, and keen to learn, especially about non-binary identities.

It was interesting to see where the interactions went based on the different journalists’ interests.

With David – who’s main focus is crime reporting – the discussions centred around law and linguistics, and we talked about gender neutral pronouns, and the difference between marriage equality law for trans* people in Scotland compared to England and Wales.

Michael talks to VickyIt is always useful to meet interesting and creative people.  The fact our visitors were trans was the least interesting thing about them. More specifically, I learned something about same-sex marriage in Scotland that I did not know and had never thought about, in terms of the bureaucracy of gender re-assignment.

I came in to the meeting wanting to ask about pronouns. Obviously, reporters would routinely use whatever pronoun a person wanted to go by. I was reassured that asking – we have to ask – wasn’t usually a problem. In fact, I liked the way everybody declared their favourite pronoun up front.

David Leask, Chief Reporter, The Herald

With Vicky – who writes features, mainly for the women’s section in the Herald Magazine – we talked about more personal experiences, like school and parenting.

As well as helping David and Vicky to understand trans* identities, the interaction challenged some of my own prejudices. I had prepared myself for difficult questions to the point that I expected inappropriate ones, but Vicky and David were both really understanding, and keen to hear what we had to say.

All About Trans Interaction at The HeraldUnprompted, David asked us what we felt the media was getting wrong, and we ended the session with a discussion on what we’d like to see in the media. We talked about things like before/after pictures, sensationalism and some of the trans* stories that had been covered in the Scottish press recently, and how it’d be nice to see more positive stories, or at least stories that didn’t focus exclusively on someone’s transition (especially if that’s not what the story is about!).

It was really refreshing to be able to feed back on some of the things we’d seen, and great to see people in the media engaging with the trans* community in a really positive way.

Listen to feedback from Vicky and David:

Scotland Herald Transition NationOutcomes of the meeting

  • Vicky Allan writes a feature about trans and non-binary people in Scotland, featuring Maki and Eilidh: ‘Transition Nation’
  • Alec Gray, a member of LGBT Youth Scotland becomes a regular blogger for the Scotland Herald. Here’s his author profile.

If you are interested in coming on an interaction or hearing more about the project, please get in touch.

Keep following @AllAboutTrans and @OnRoadMedia for updates.

On Road, Project Manager for On Road.