My name is Emily Kaufman. I am transgender, and this aspect of my identity is intrinsic to my sense of self. But I am more than that: I am a human, a woman, a friend, a leader, a writer and a poet.
In three separate instances, The Michigan Daily has either misrepresented or erased my identity. I want to start, however, with an example of accurate and honest reporting that I expect of the Daily. On Jan. 17, an article was written about being trans on campus that included a few quotes I provided during an interview. Other transgender people were included and interviewed, offering an array of opinions on the issue. LSA junior Grant Strobl, the infamous chairman of Young Americans for Freedom was mentioned, but not interviewed.
This is important to note because in a later article I was interviewed for, published on Feb. 23, Strobl was interviewed. This article was not about free speech, something championed by Strobl’s group. No, this was about transgender people in bathrooms, and seeing that Strobl is neither transgender nor a policy maker, I hardly see why his opinion is relevant. Should he wish to voice his opinion, he has that right, but for the Daily to purposefully seek out Strobl for an interview is not only offensive to me, but it adds to the narrative that transgender people need cisgender people to affirm their right to exist, when I and all transgender people do not need — nor do we want — that affirmation. I am here, I am trans and including narratives from people who do not respect my identity is disappointing and harmful.
An article published on Feb. 13 in regards to free speech also included a small portion from an interview I participated in. This article was many paragraphs long and contained only five lines from my interview, but included an in-depth interview with LSA junior Andrew Krieger, a member of the aforementioned Young Americans for Freedom, who invited the now-notorious Milo Yiannopoulos to speak in February 2016. I went to this event to try to be a voice against Yiannopoulos and to do my part to show that there were many people at the University of Michigan who didn’t want him there.
After hearing Yiannopoulos rant and rave about how rape culture is a myth, that third wave feminism is a travesty and that women were the true “privileged ones,” I waited in line, behind lots of men, to ask my question. I interrupted and asked him if he thought rape culture was a myth, how could he explain the Ke$ha situation. (For those who don’t remember, at the time, she was battling her former producer who raped and abused her, in court). Yiannopoulos went on to dismiss my claim and called me “sir.” He is one of the most vile people to roam this earth, and the Daily needs to be accountable when interviewing people who support his “right” to vilify and condemn people like me.
The final straw for me was when I performed in this year’s production of The Vagina Monologues. I wrote my own piece entitled “My Vagina,” in which I explained the process through which I got my gender reassignment surgery this past October. After the show, a Daily report sent me a Facebook message asking for my take on The Vagina Monologues. Instead of including a single word of my response, the author instead cited an audience member who said, “I really loved the transgender woman’s speech, and in general all of the ones that they wrote themselves were absolutely mind blowing — but hers in particular was really amazing.”
I am glad the student watching enjoyed my piece and she felt that it gave transgender women a voice, because indeed it did. I am upset because after asking for my take on the show, the author ignored me and instead cited another person’s view of me, and all I became was “the transgender woman.” There was, in fact, another girl like me in the show, and it is upsetting that people assumed I was the only girl assigned male at birth who performed. Because how could there be any other transgender women on campus?
I am constantly tokenized as the only trans woman in almost every space I occupy, and many of my trans sisters are not interviewed by the Daily five times a semester. I have the awesome burden of representing my community to the University community, and I cannot hope to share the vast array of voices trans-feminine people possess, but I feel that people look to me to see what transgender women are, when I am only one person.
I want the takeaway from my criticism to be this: Do not marginalize trans identities in articles published in the Daily. I would be happy to do future interviews, but I ask that I am covered by someone with experience on social justice issues so I can read some of their prior work to ensure I am accurately represented. Additionally, I would like confirmation that, if I am being interviewed for something so relevant to me, I am not a side note, but take up a fair portion of the article. As a frequent contributor to the Daily, I do not want trans voices to be marginalized — not again. We will never go back and I want everyone at the Daily to help me fight for trans liberation, instead of contributing to our seemingly perpetual existence in the shadows.
Emily Kaufman is an LSA junior.