Normally I am the type of person that likes a bit of light-hearted fun intermixed with the seriousness of the morning news. But this morning, WGN Morning News’ Paul Konrad crossed the line with a transphobic question he posed to his male counterparts on the morning crew.
This morning Konrad, meteorologist for the morning news program, asked for questions on his Facebook page that he could in turn ask the rest of the morning crew during his 8:25 Courtesy Desk segment. One of Konrad’s fans posted the following question, “This question would be for Larry, what would you do if you found out your wife was born a man?”
Now I understand there is a level of insensitivity, lack of understanding and even transphobia that pervades the general population and I rank this question right up there with many of the other absurd questions posted in the same thread on Konrad’s Facebook page such as the question “Is Robin really a gorilla?” My issue is with Konrad’s desire to use a question that can portray the transgender community in a negative light for a quick laugh. And I should note here too that Robin Baumgarten burst out laughing when the question was read.
To be perfectly fair to the WGN morning team, I will credit sportscaster Pat Tomasulo for his answer, “I would pour a couple glasses of wine cause I would probably have a million questions.” In my opinion, at least this answer deflected a bit of the intended humor with an open-minded approach to the situation. So to Pat, thank you
It has long been accepted that jokes about a person ethnicity or religion are seen in bad taste. So why do people think that it is okay to use a person’s gender expression and identity for the butt of a joke?
Well, let me tell you it’s not. Konrad had nearly fifty questions to choose from, yet he used this one. It was his choice to read it on air.
The trans gender community has had to deal with numerous negative issues in the media lately including an extremely transphobic ad put out by Truth in Advertising. As Parker Malloy mentions in her article in the Advocate, “The ad plays into a number of negative, false stereotypes about transgender women. Suggesting that a trans woman is "really a man" and playing on the notion that trans women try to trick straight men into sleeping with them is an extremely problematic trope that is actually the basis of the “trans panic” defense, in which a man will claim that he had no choice but to assault or murder a transgender woman because he wasn't aware of her trans status ahead of time.”
By continuing to use negative jokes and comments aimed at the trans community, such as what Konrad presented this morning, transgender individuals are faced with being labeled under a negative and false stereotype.
Nearly all the trans women, and trans men for that matter, in committed relationships that I have had the pleasure to know have had discussions with their partner about their past long before a long term commitment or marriage is ever on the table. These couples have worked out privately any issues they need to face. But all too often, trans women, especially trans women of color, are faced with violence and even death because of the pervasive attitude that trans women are guys masquerading as women.
Trans individuals are not out intentionally deceive anyone about who they are. While it is true that many trans individuals just want to go about their lives forgetting their past, it still in bad taste to use them as the punch line to a joke.
We as humans have a responsibility to each other. Anytime we put ourselves at a keyboard, behind a microphone or in front of a camera we should carry the responsibility to a higher degree. Now if the folks at WGN Morning News want to have a serious discussion on who trans individuals are, then invite any number of the trans advocates here in Chicago on the show and have a meaningful discussion. But don’t use us in a segment that is historically and routinely used as comic relief.
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