Opinion: Media’s Cissexism Becoming Increasingly Pronounced

by Emily Engle

If you google “Bruce Jenner’s transition,” over 2.65 million hits generate. But googling “Belinda Jenner’s transition” yields only a few hundred thousand references.

From The New York Times to People magazine, lengthy articles detail how everyone in Jenner’s life is reacting to her newly-announced decision to become a female – yet the articles’ writers overwhelmingly use male pronouns to describe her.

According to People, Jenner has been planning to transition genders for years – and family members have claimed that she kept it no secret from them.  Fear of public backlash, though, kept Jenner from officially announcing her transition (and more recently, her desired new name, Belinda) until the past few weeks.

But despite rumors that family members have always known Jenner’s true gender identity, many claim otherwise; most notably, her mother stated, “At first, it was a shock.  [But] the family is close and very supportive of Bruce and we’re supportive of each other.  I am at peace with what he is and what he’s doing.”  Kris Jenner, Belinda Jenner’s ex-wife, echoed similar sentiments.

However, neither Jenner’s mother nor her ex-wife offered reasons as to why, if they truly accept Jenner as she is, they continue to refer to her as a “him.”  Jenner has made it enormously clear over the past few months that she identifies as female and is actively transitioning, yet everyone from her own mother to media tabloids continues to misgender her.

And this is not a new problem by far.  After the 2014 suicide of an Ohio transgender teen, Leelah Alcorn, news articles predominantly referenced her by her birth name, Josh, and by male pronouns.  And that was little in comparison to her parents who, even as they buried their child, knowing she had died because of their hatred for her identity, engraved her tombstone with the name “Josh.”

Society’s damaging view that cisgender is the “norm” is most heavily pronounced in media.  And as the push for gay rights has grown in support across the country, so has a movement for acceptance of transgender people.  It is clear, though, from the articles on Jenner that we still have far to go.

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