Regular Fox News viewers have no doubt heard a lot about transgender people lately: as America's cultural shift toward greater understanding of this community grows, so has opposition to it. But it's also likely Fox viewers have never actually seen or heard a transgender person on television, because Fox News has almost entirely excluded transgender people from its broadcasts, even as it continues to produce inaccurate, dehumanizing coverage of transgender people.
Fox News spends a lot of time discussing transgender people. The network's anchors, reporters, and show hosts have manufactured reasons to fear nondiscrimination protections for transgender people, mocked transgender inmates and attacked their access to gender-affirming healthcare, panicked over initiatives to make schools more gender inclusive, and compared being transgender to thinking you're a cat or cocker spaniel:
But according to a Media Matters study, Fox News failed to host even a single transgender person as a guest in the 27 segments it did on about transgender-related issues over the course of nine months, from September 1, 2014 to June 1, 2015. The network also broadcast some 40 news alerts about transgender-related stories, but only two included a transgender person actually commenting on the story:
It's not hard to imagine why Fox News might be avoiding bringing transgender people on the air; doing so would give them a platform to correct the anti-trans misinformation frequently peddled by the network and humanize transgender people in the eyes of Fox's viewers. Instead, Fox routinely treats the fight for transgender equality and acceptance as little more than a joke or a product of the “PC Police.” Free from any transgender guests who might call them out on their behavior, Fox hosts regularly misgender trans subjects, mock their appearances, and peddle junk science about their medical treatment.
Experts have criticized Fox for its destructive coverage of the transgender community, warning that it could contribute to transphobic violence and discrimination. As GLAAD has explained, negative media depictions of transgender people can have a tremendous public impact, especially for audiences that aren't likely to personally know a transgender person:
[A]ccording to a GLAAD/Harris Interactive poll, only 8% of Americans say they personally know someone who is transgender... [W]hen a stereotypical or defamatory transgender image appears in the media, the viewer may assume that all transgender people are actually like that; they have no real-life experience with which to compare it.
Given the growing epidemic of violence against transgender people, it's more important than ever that Fox News improve its coverage of trans issues. An easy first step would be giving transgender people the opportunity to tell their own stories and to ensure that the network's reporting speaks to, rather than about, the trans community.