It’s pretty well known that the Advocate, while billing itself as an LGBT news publication, doesn’t exactly give trans issues a whole lot of coverage at all. But taking a look at this latest move, one almost has to wonder whether silence is preferable.
A man and woman named Jason Stenson and Kimah Nelson got married in NY state. Why is it news? Because Kimah is also trans. Which means that outlets like the NY Post are reporting that the two have “duped” the state into certifying a “same-sex” marriage, and that the state is also claiming their marriage is not valid.
So how did the Advocate respond? By fighting back against the misgendering of Kimah Nelson and demanding better, more respectful reporting? By admonishing the state for their declaration that Kimah isn’t a woman? By just ignoring it entirely? Or, by perpetuating the misgendering themselves?
Sadly, if you guessed the last answer, you’d be correct.
According to Tobi at the Bilerico Project, the article originally referred to Kimah as a man and used male pronouns to describe her. When they received a bunch of complaints and updated the article, they didn’t bother doing so properly — instead, they took out the male pronouns and opted for no pronouns at all. (I was unable to find cached copies of either of these versions — if you have one, let me know.)
Now, on at least their third version of the article, the Advocate is at least using female pronouns, but is still favoring her male name, referring to the marriage as “same-sex,” using the construct of the couple “fooling” the state officials, and objectifying Kimah with wholly unneeded and gratuitous discussions of her genitals and descriptions of her personal appearance:
Even as the New York senate continues to spar over marriage-equality legislation, the New York City Clerk’s Office feels it was fooled into certifying a “same-sex” marriage for one couple, reports the New York Post, which published the couple’s photo on its front page on Sunday.
Hakim Nelson and Jason Stenson were married in a ceremony at the clerk’s office on May 26, 10 days after obtaining a marriage license at the office.
Nelson, who goes by the name Kimah, hopes to have sex-reassignment surgery one day. Stenson views Nelson as a woman and does not consider himself gay.
Nelson, 18, and Stenson, 21, said that when they applied in person for the license, Nelson used a state benefit card that lists her sex as female. The clerk did not ask her about the male-sounding first name — Hakim — that appears on her identification. She wore an orange dress and white leggings, with her hair falling at her shoulders.
Seriously. That’s the updated and revised version. When I first clicked on the article, it was the version I found. I thought it was what people were complaining about, and that they had good reason to be complaining. But no, this is after the Advocate “fixed” things.
And not only do we have the publication addressing trans issues in a wildly inappropriate and overtly offensive manner, they also seem to only be addressing it at all because they don’t see it as a trans issue. Nope, they see it as a same-sex marriage issue. Because in their transphobic bigotry, they see Kimah as a man. So, the only reason they care is because the cis writers and editors think it directly impacts them.
It’s true that if everyone had the right to marry whoever they chose, there could be no dispute at all over this marriage. But that doesn’t make this a same-sex marriage issue. The issue here, actually, isn’t that same-sex couples can’t get married. It’s that our cis-supremacist society sees Kimah and Jason as a same-sex couple when they’re not. And if they saw Kimah as the woman she is, there still couldn’t be any dispute over the marriage. And that is the outcome we should be looking towards in this particular case.
Transphobia is the issue here. Plain and simple. Because without transphobic bigotry and constructs that ignore and dismiss Kimah’s gender identity, the idea that this marriage is “same-sex” at all wouldn’t even be possible. So really, any homophobia that you can read into the reactions to Kimah and Jason’s marriage? It only exists in this circumstance because the transphobia was there first. Transphobia that the Advocate bought into.
And you know what? This bullshit about how trans women are “really” (gay!) men who run around “fooling” people with their honest presentation of their gender identities? It’s killing those same women. Congratulations, Advocate editors, on contributing to that.