A few days ago, CNA lifestyle trotted out two pieces on award-winning actress Ellen Page’s declaration of a name change to Elliot Page, now a transgender. The first detailed how Elliot asked to be referred to as he/they, while the second was a list of stars who’d came out in support of the move.
Before one takes issue with the use of “actress,” it’s used in line with the awards for Best Actress, and in reference to the previous identity of Ellen Page as a female. This explanatory line alone portrays the number of grammatical hoops people have to cross in their mind when writing on such issues.
Transgenderism is a controversial issue. This means different parts of society do not agree. Yet CNA may have taken a decidedly one-sided approach in its reporting on the matter. It framed Elliot’s declaration as one that was celebrated widely. That’s before including Page’s rail against detractors who, according to Elliot, “have blood on [their] hands” and who “unleash a fury of vile and demeaning rage that lands on the shoulders of the trans community,” linked to the high numbers of transgender suicides.
In providing context, CNA named media demons (as opposed to darlings), Donald Trump and JK Rowling and summarized some of their latest controversial acts. The former banned transgenders in the US military, and the latter took issue with using “people who menstruate” to refer to women.
Without diving into the details, it seems that CNA’s reportage sends a message. Many celebrate transgenderism. Those who oppose it, fall into the ranks of social pariahs like Trump and Rowling. As a local news source that’s “trusted” according to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, CNA’s simplistic treatment of a controversial topic does not inspire any such trust for certain segments of society.
Its message embraces the new orthodoxy in America and Europe, that gender is self-determinative, has consequences on society. Bathrooms, prisons, national service, and sports – all these face potential change, if such orthodoxy is taken to its logical ends. Yet, CNA is silent on these matters. Apart from a cursory mention of infamous detractors, who’ve been publicly decried, it failed to capture other valid but opposing viewpoints. This step is arguably key in providing a full picture on hot-button issues and to further conversation. Instead, we are left with an impression that any opposition is violence, based on Page’s words, and that it leads to transgender deaths (through suicide).
Singapore has yet to have this conversation. It would be a pity if many took their cues from such reports, and so shut down valid debate. Do better, CNA.