Coverage of R. Kelly’s Transgender Son Exposes Media Blindspots

By Jamilah King Jun 09, 2014

R. Kelly’s teenage son Jay has been outed as trans, and some folks in the media don’t know how to handle it. Jay, who’s 14 years old, looks to have been outed by bloggers who picked up the news from his Facebook page. According to Atlanta Daily News, Jay’s mother, Andrea, has been supportive of his transition, but R. Kelly has yet to speak publicly on the matter. 

Let’s put the side, for a moment, the efficacy of stalking a teenager’s Facebook page and focus on the way the news has been reported in the media. In short, it’s been horrible. Kat Callahan wrote up a pretty good summary over at Jezebel about the whole situation and takes aim at Naturally Moi, a site that’s ostensibly aimed at women of color but seems to not get trans issues at all, whose coverage typifies how Jay’s gender identity has been covered by the media.

In an article titled "R. Kelly’s Daughter is Now a Boy," the site lays out Jay’s transition this way:

Now, Jaya has reportedly decided that she just wants to be known as Jay. The child also doesn’t want to be pretty anymore, she would prefer to be handsome. She is part of the latest trend in the "Transguy" culture, where young people are choosing to claim whatever gender they identify with the most.

As Callahan writes over at Jezebel:

I’m also not fond of the verb used here "choosing" nor the implication that "transguy culture" is some kind of youth trend. If Jay is a trans boy, he probably didn’t choose to be (oh, he might have, that’s part of that more genderfluid narrative), but unless you have a quote from Jay saying so, this is a really dangerous narrative to reinforce. For the vast majority of transgender individuals, especially those who identify as strictly binary, there is no choice involved. Gender identity develops and it simply is. There may be a period of slow recognition (or there may not, plenty of us knew when we knew, and we were small children at the time), or there may be a period of internal struggle to be open about who we are, but the narrative of "choosing" and "trend" really trivialises the fundamental nature of gender identity.

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