NBC aired a series of segments presenting a sensitive, thoughtful, and well-researched look into the lives of families raising transgender children, demonstrating a number of best practices for talking about the transgender community.
On April 21, NBC Nightly News aired a segment titled "Jacob's Journey," an in-depth look at 5-year-old transgender boy, Jacob Lemay. Jacob's parents affirmed their son's "consistent, persistent, and insistent" desire to live as a boy, noticing Jacob's early discomfort with being asked to dress and be addressed as a girl:
NBC News' national correspondent Kate Snow looked at the details of Jacob's experience: his initial frustration with being identified as a girl, his parents' concerns about their child's future, and the way his parents came to understand and support their transgender son.
Snow also interviewed Dr. Michelle Forcier, a pediatrician specializing in transgender children, who answered questions about Jacob's experience and helped dispel popular myths about children's gender identities:
Snow's reporting avoided the pitfalls that typically plague transgender news coverage, which often over emphasizes surgery and genitalia, elevates transphobic commentary, and sensationalizes the lives of transgender people. By inviting an expert to discuss the realities of being transgender, Snow also helped dismantle many of the myths that typically emerge around stories about transgender youth.
Jacob's story has received extensive coverage across NBC and MSNBC's programming, representing an encouraging shift for the network, which has previously struggled in its coverage of transgender issues. A recent Media Matters report found that NBC dedicated less than seven minutes of airtime to transgender stories and failed to host a single transgender person during its news programming in the first two months of 2015.
Prioritizing this kind of intimate, humanizing coverage is tremendously important for the transgender community, which faces high rates of discrimination, harassment, and violence. Audiences are deeply impacted by media representations of transgender people, especially given that most Americans don't regularly interact with out transgender people in their day-to-day lives.
NBC's series should act as a model for other media outlets looking to pursue powerful, compelling, and well-researched story telling about the transgender community.