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Last week, two stories on the Washington Post‘s gender treatment for a couple of transgender shoplifting suspects (Washington Post Cross-Dressing Shoplifting Story Misfires; Transgender Shoplifting Story’s Absurd Corrections) inspired confusion, transphobia, and some helpful commentary!

The story: A couple of transgender women are caught shoplifting, and end up being shot by police after a botched getaway. In a medical examination, the suspects are revealed to have male genitalia. So: The Post first reported that the suspects were women, then reported that they were cross-dressing men, and finally issued a vague clarification that the suspects were still men dressed as women, but “were not in disguise.” Was the Post‘s treatment insensitive? Incorrect? Or the lone crusader for truth in a PC world?

Carisa Cunningham appreciates the teaching moment:

I don’t think we can just expect mainstream journalists, even those with good intentions, to know what to do, how to look at this, the correct terminology to use, etc,about what to them is unfamiliar territory if we don’t take the responsibility to reach out to them. An event like this is an opportunity for GLAAD, for example, to connect with Mr. Weil about terminology and about transgender issues generally. I accept at face value his explanations and would approach him in the same good faith. The world doesn’t change otherwise.

While TJ wants an apology:

The first thing that I thought about the article was, “That’s nice that you cleared it up.” But then I had this question: was this supposed to be a retraction of some sort? I understand that these two women are criminals, but were they issued some sort of apology? Clearly they considered themselves female based on what Renee Bailey said. And with names like Renee Bailey and Kelly Bright, how in the world would the police or anyone else think that these are men? WTF!

And william thinks that people with “confused sexuality” will naturally confuse others:

While confused sexuality may not be mysterious to those who identify as transgender—-it is highly confusing to many others, including police. Give them, and the media a break. I happen to have personally met one of these suspects and can tell you “she” is living as a woman but physically appears to be very, very male. I left the meeting pretty confused myself and would have to consult an expert to properly categorize this person.

Gregory A Butler writes:

Cut out the politically correct bullshit—-these were men in dresses. They may have had a mental delusion that they were “women”—-but they had penises, and testicles, and Y chromosomes, and that makes them MEN, no matter how many skirts or wigs they put on!

Julia writes:

Thank you for writing this. The distinction between sex and gender is one that far too few people recognize, but you’d hope that major media outlets would at least try to get it right (it doesn’t take much research to see that cross-dressing isn’t the same as being transgendered). If they don’t, they deserve to be called out on it. And the fact that they can get it wrong probably means that the general public doesn’t have a good grasp of the issue either, which makes your detailed explanation all the more important.

Much ado ’bout nothing thinks we should all understand “the news biz” (instead of transgender people):

Shoplifters get caught is not news. Shoplifters get shot IS news. And so, when the police identify the shoplifters as female, and they turn out to have penises, that’s something that “advances the story,” as they say in the news biz. Not a correction, but a new fresh lede for the story. That’s how the news biz works.

The news biz, Amanda. Learn about it. It can help you gain perspective.

Matt C is afraid that these transgender women are suffering from our gender stereotyping:

What defines a female? Is it the type of clothes a person wears? Is it the type of general interests a person has? Or is it even the choice in sexual partners one prefers?

If you answered No (like I do) to the above questions then it would stand to reason that a man could share these same characteristics and still be considered a man.

Why then do some feel the need to ignore fact and incorrectly label either themselves or others with a stereotypical “gender identity” that defines ones sex by the way they dress & behave rather than their biological fact.

I applaud the Washington Post for getting the facts correct on this story and not letting political correctness cloud the truth.

While Gregory A Butler is back to clarify one point: Transgender women must choose between being referred to as women, and getting shot—-or being called men, and not getting shot. Makes sense!:

Also, the real issue here is being lost.

These guys (and that’s what they are – GUYS) were Shot For Stealing A Dress.

That’s the REAL issue here – not what pronouns the Washington Post’s crime reporter uses!

I’m sure if you called these men “he” but Didn’t Shoot Them, they would prefer that to being called “she” and being shot over a dress!

This is one of the main reasons why Political Correctness is so destructive!

Illustration by Bonnie Kennedy