In the upcoming issue of Seventeen there’s a story about a young woman who discovered that her boyfriend was actually a female. While I think it’s cool that a traditional teen magazine like Seventeen is covering the existence of transgender teenagers, which wouldn’t have happened when I was reading the mag back in the day. But the story’s angle doesn’t do much to discourage negative attitudes towards teenagers who are struggling with their gender identity, and that’s a shame. True, the “as told to” is from the perspective of the girl, Sheri, who believed she was dating someone who was born a male. She was, essentially, lied to when her boyfriend, Derek, didn’t tell her that he was born female and planned on getting a sex change once he turned 18. I have no doubt that it was upsetting for her, especially because teenagers aren’t exactly educated about what gender identity actually means. Sheri says that she would have accepted Derek for who he is, had he just been honest.
However, the overall tone of the article — mostly on the part of Seventeen‘s tabloid-y layout and editing — gives a pretty good idea of why Derek might not have felt comfortable “coming out” to Sheri. The title of the article itself — “My Boyfriend Turned Out To Be A Girl!” — and the arrowed text pointing at a photo of Derek — “He was actually a she!” — totally supports the belief that transgenders are somehow wrong or incorrect in their sexual identity confusion. The bottom of the page compares this type of betrayal — not being told the “true” gender of someone you’re dating — to the betrayal of dating a secret druggie, perv, or baby daddy. These issues are certainly complicated and Seventeen‘s accusatory tone is borderline transphobic. Would it have killed them to do a sidebar on discrimination against transgender teens? Perhaps even an explanation of what transgender even means? Anything to encourage a little bit of compassion for Derek and other teens like him who might be reading Seventeen too? [via Pam’s House Blend]