An Editorial Lesson From Justin Bond
By Mike Berlin
Many of us were thrilled to see cover star Justin Bond's book, Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in Heels, reviewed in this week's New York Times Sunday Book Review. The piece, written by Benoit Denizet-Lewis was a thoughtful critique, expressing delight with Mx. Bond's humorous ruminations on childhood and noting flaws with the narrative. Either way, it was nice to see V's work featured in such a very high-profile way.
But there was another, unforeseen problem. In a blog post that begins by thanking The New York Times, Mx. Bond points out a very patronizing mistake in the online version of the story:
The editors decided to title the online piece, "A Schoolboy Wearing Lipstick," which is pretty offensive, especially considering the original print title, "Gender-Free." Writes Mx. Bond:
It’s so insulting and is the antithesis of what my book is trying to explain. I try so hard not to hate people -especially lazy, faceless, presumably cisgender copy editors, but…
...I have high hopes that the Grey Lady will catch up with the “Times” now that there’s a woman at the helm and stop insulting trans people with arrogant, institutionalized disregard for their preferred pronouns and gender identities. Right now it’s actually shameful what they get away with. I have high hopes but -based on personal experience- low expectations.
To us, this blunder screams of sensationalism, which, in the world of online journalism in not so unfamiliar. But it's a big gaffe to make, considering that Mx. Bond pointedly does not identify Vself as a boy mimicking a woman. The New York Times took down the web title today (hence the google snapshot) and changed it to the original. But it's interesting to see the journalism world beginning to adapt language and headlines in light of the transgendered community's growing visibility. Kudos, Mx. Bond, for calling it out.
To read Out's cover story on Justin Bond (and to see V's grammatical rules in action), click here.