Last week, the city of Rochester, New York, announced that it would include transgender health care benefits for employees and their families under the city’s medical plan. Local news outlet the Democrat and Chronicle reported that, “Under the new coverage, effective Jan. 1, city employees will be eligible to receive services related to gender reassignment surgery, such as medical and psychological counseling, hormone therapy and cosmetic and reconstructive surgeries.” This move is not only great news for the individuals it impacts directly, but also for the city on a symbolic level—taking the lives and well-being of transgender people seriously is crucial step on the road to LGBTQ equality.
However, not everyone is celebrating. Towleroad reports that earlier this morning, the hosts of rock station 98.9 FM’s “Breakfast Buzz” radio show, Kimberly and Beck, spent about 12 minutes demeaning and mocking transgender people in the vilest terms. And to be clear, this was not simply a matter of disagreeing with the idea that taxpayers should contribute to gender confirmation surgery, which Kimberly and Beck do. That’s a debate that has to do with whether you understand such procedures as medical necessities rather than as cosmetic choices, and one that could in theory be had respectfully.
No, the sentiments expressed in this segment are outright malicious, ranging from the tired song choice of “Dude Looks Like a Lady” to the frighteningly callous discussion of a transgender member of a local high-school women’s softball team, which included the line: “When he steps up to the plate, doesn’t he have two bats [sic]?”
Amid a stream of transphobic jokes, willful ignorance, and nasty slurs, Kimberly has the gall to suggest that she understands all the “sensitivities” involved in transgender issues. Of course, that’s only when she’s confronted by an impressively brave and eloquent caller who does their best to push back against the morass of prejudice with a little education—“[this is] incredibly disrespectful toward transgender people." Not that it does much good: Before kicking them off the air, another host, perceiving the caller to be female, says: “Thank you, sir.”
Quotes really can’t do this cruel mess justice, though. Listen for yourself, and then feel free to let 98.9 know how you feel about them clouding our airwaves with this kind of rank bigotry.
Serious trigger warning here for transphobia and general stupidity.
UPDATE, 5/22/14: A spokesman for 98.9 FM "The Buzz" has announced that "as a result of Kimberly and Beck's hateful comments against the transgender community we have suspended them indefinitely."