Barry and Evie: Obama on Trans Issues

By , March 20, 2012 12:32 am

This piece was originally posted at In Our Words, and is reposted with permission.

The last few weeks have seen a rush of stories about Obama’s childhood nanny, a transgender woman named Evie. Evie was Obama’s nanny for two years, although she was presenting as male at the time. Beginning with the AP story on March 5, “Obama’s transgender ex-nanny outcast,” the story quickly made the rounds–from American news outlets to the UK, New Zealand, Turkey, and beyond. Here’s the start of the original AP story:

“Once, long ago, Evie looked after “Barry” Obama, the kid who would grow up to become the world’s most powerful man. Now, his transgender former nanny has given up her tight, flowery dresses, her brocade vest and her bras, and is living in fear on Indonesia’s streets.

Evie, who was born a man but believes she is really a woman, has endured a lifetime of taunts and beatings because of her identity. She describes how soldiers once shaved her long, black hair to the scalp and smashed out glowing cigarettes onto her hands and arms.

The turning point came when she found a transgender friend’s bloated body floating in a backed-up sewage canal two decades ago. She grabbed all her girlie clothes in her arms and stuffed them into two big boxes. Half-used lipstick, powder, eye makeup — she gave them all away.”

For the most part, the coverage has been respectful. I don’t love the phrase “was born a man but believes she is really a woman” as a definition for transgender, but I do like that the article consistently uses proper names and pronouns. Likewise, while the piece is primarily a human interest story, it also uses Evie’s story to highlight the poor treatment trans people receive in Indonesia. Of course, not every piece was so respectful. seemed to go out of their way to use “he” and a male name. However, that type of coverage seemed to be in the minority and there’s now also coverage on the coverage, with followup stories discussing how the AP story has brought celebrity to Evie. I hope that celebrity will bring some money and better living conditions. Continue reading 'Barry and Evie: Obama on Trans Issues'»

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