steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Alterina Hofan

Oh BBC, BBC, just how hard is it to get this stuff right?

You will remember that a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that the BBC (along, admittedly, with pretty much every news organization in the Western world) was referring to the straight trans (and possibly intersex) woman Tiwonge Chimbalanga as a gay man. Oh dear.

Possibly someone at the BBC heard that they'd got it wrong with respect to Chimbalanga (not that they changed her designation in later articles). Either way, in the case of the Indoneisan Alterina Hofan, they even put the word "transgender" into the headline.

The only trouble is, Alterina Hofan is actually intersex, not transgender. Oh dear oh dear.

This isn't rocket science. Many of the misgendering articles about Chimbalanga contained quotations that might have led quick-thinking professional journalists, trained in the art of getting at the story behind the story, to suspect that she was a woman (I'm thinking of quotations like, say, "I am a woman"). Similarly in this case, Hofan has given less-than-cryptic hints as to whether he is transgender in statements such as: "I am not a transgender."

In fact, the BBC article contains all the information necessary to prove its own headline incorrect. It explains (without ever mentioning the 'I' word) that Hofan has Klinefelter's syndrome, which involves having XXY chromosomes instead of the usual XY. His male genitalia emerged at two years old, and he has identified unproblematically as male all his life. His legal identity is that of a male. Nevertheless, he is currently in prison in Indonesia because he has dared to marry a woman.

It's the usual kind of binary crap, in other words, and in this case the role of the Catholic Church has been pretty shameful even by its own standards in matters of sex and gender. For more on that I'll refer you to someone who actually knows about intersex conditions. (She's also, as it happens, a rocket scientist.) What I don't understand is why the BBC can't get this kind of thing right. I'd be happy to help them out, if they'd like to run their articles past me first. My rates are very reasonable. However, I'm sure they could do it themselves, by the simple expedient of giving a shit.
Tags: current affairs, gender
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