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10 | OCTOBER - Diversity What does gender really mean? - Franziska Mayr-Keber, 3sat Male, female, trans* or diverse - gender identities are manifold. The recognition of this diversity is becoming visible bit by bit. "Diversity" as an option can now also be found on official forms. Nevertheless, the gender issue polarises like no other. It is a guarantor of excitement in the media world and this is often at the expense of those who do not clearly recognise themselves in the binary gender order. However, a clear dividing line between what is generally considered "m" and what is considered "w" cannot be drawn biologically.
As journalists, we report on these changes, and we also often encounter people with an identity that is not in the norm. Sometimes we know about it, sometimes we don't. More and more people are coming out of the closet and are visible to the public. Nevertheless, many still have to hide their identity. Being different can still be a traumatising challenge, with sometimes fatal consequences.
Over the years, in the struggle for recognition, a global community has formed. Many defend themselves loudly when journalists act or react insensitively. This in turn can be unsettling even before you make contact. How do I approach this person? Can I ask them about their gender identity? Which expressions are taboo? Is it gender reassignment or gender reassignment? Why does the person not want to be called a born female and so on. The list gets longer and longer in the carousel of thoughts, and the uncertainty grows.
Yet it is quite simple, a few tips:
- Stay polite. Just as you always are when you meet someone. Ask for their name. Ask how the person wants to be addressed. Refrain from talking about gender. Or would you immediately ask a new acquaintance to lower their pants?
- Acknowledge your own blind spots. We all have them and that's ok. The good news: you can find them and then notice completely new aspects.
- With instead of over: talk to people, not just when researching.
- Forgive yourself for missteps, learn from them and apologise.
- Stick to the topic at hand. For example, you talk to a trans person about their latest scientific findings on their field of research. Then they talk about it - and only about it.
- Do your research well, read reports from affected people. Question "critical" reports, experts and studies. From my own experience I can confirm that transphobia is still widespread.
- Watch 3sat! There are two exciting documentaries on this very topic, by Constanze Grießler and Franziska Mayr-Keber. "Male, female, trans* - What does gender mean?", 2021. "The Abolition of Gender - Typical Man, Typical Woman, Typical What?", 2018