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Panelists Discuss LGBTQ+ Representation in Media at Shorenstein Center Event

The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy hosted an event titled on Monday titled "LGBTQIA+ Representation in the Media" for Transgender Awareness Week.
The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy hosted an event titled on Monday titled "LGBTQIA+ Representation in the Media" for Transgender Awareness Week. By Claire Yuan
By Darley A.C. Boit, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard College’s Office of BGLTQ+ Life celebrated the start of Transgender Awareness Week with a Shorenstein Center panel on media representation on Monday.

The event, titled “LGBTQIA+ Representation in the Media,” included a discussion of transphobia and its effects.

The panel featured Schuyler M. Bailar ’19, the first transgender athlete to play on an NCAA Division I men’s athletics team; Chastity Bowick, executive director of the Massachusetts Transgender Emergency Fund, a nonprofit supporting low-income and unhoused trans people; and Amir Ashour, a Harvard Law School student who founded IraQueer, a queer rights advocacy group in Iraq.

Moderator Ian Daniel, an Emmy-nominated journalist and filmmaker who is also a student at the Harvard Kennedy School, discussed the importance of transgender visibility in his opening remarks.

“More than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been proposed in 2022,” he said.

Bowick and Bailar said they are disappointed with transgender representation in the media, which they say accentuates stereotypes.

“People take what they see on TV, whether it’s a movie or a show, and they assume that’s exactly how we live,” Bowick said. “It does a disservice to our community members — we need more advocates to be on TV to be speaking on day-to-day issues.”

Bailar said harmful stereotypes often counteract the progress offered by greater representation. He said he avoids television shows that feature transgender characters because they often misrepresent the lived experience of trans people.

“It’s not done well, and it’s so uncomfortable for me to watch that I don’t even want to interface with it,” he said.

Bowick discussed the importance of universal rights for transgender people.

“We shouldn’t be ‘lucky’ to have equal rights,” Bowick said, referring to socially progressive laws in Massachusetts. “I don’t feel like our political system is doing our LGBTQ communities any type of justice.”

Bailar said transgender inclusivity in athletics favors feminist initiatives, rejecting arguments that laws allowing transgender women in sports disadvantage cis women.

“When you exclude trans women, you happen to define womanhood to reduce women to their reproductive capacity, which is pretty much the opposite of feminism,” he said. “All of this is punishing trans people because of cis men, which is the most opposite of feminism possible.”

Ashour explained why he centers universal human rights in his activism.

“Once we are at a point where people are not afraid for their lives when they speak up against certain violations, then we can have a real debate where queer people from all the groups can join the table and speak up,” he said.

All panelists suggested ways to best support transgender individuals.

“Allyship takes all hands, not just the massive things,” Bailar said in an interview after the event.

“​​Either you advocate for human rights, or you’re not advocating,” Ashour added. “Not only because they’re intersectional, but because they’re actually identical.”

The event was cut short by a building evacuation at the Kennedy School.

—Staff Writer Darley A. C. Boit can be reached at darley.boit@thecrimson.com.

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