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Wife or Transgender Wife – Does the Category Matter? Your Responses Requested! April 6, 2009

Posted by Onely in Food for Thought, Heteronormativity, Your Responses Requested!.
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A couple of months ago, I noticed this creepy headline:

Wife pleads guilty in death-by-exercise case

I read the article and found the case stunning and bizarre: “A woman pleaded guilty to reckless homicide for exercising her 73-year-old husband to death in a swimming pool.”

A month passed, and I noticed another headline:

Transgender wife gets 4 years for husband’s death

Having read the fine print of the first article, I knew immediately that this headline was referring to the same case. But I don’t understand why the “transgender” part of the story became headline-worthy. After all, the most interesting (read: disturbing!) part of this story is that the wife (Christine Newton-John, also known as Chris Mason ) exercised her husband (James Mason) to death.

There are plenty of details besides Chris/tine’s transgender identity that seem unrelated to the story, but which were nevertheless reported and may as well have been included in the headline, such as:

  1. Chris/tine was 32 years younger than her husband.
  2. James was living at Chris/tine’s family’s house as a boarder when (s)he was born.
  3. Chris/tine used to be a “crack cocaine user.”
  4. The couple moved in together while Christine was still Chris. (S)he was 18; he was 50.
  5. They lived together for 10 years before the Chris became Christine.
  6. They lived together for yet another 13 years before getting married.
  7. According to Chris/tine’s mother, Chris/tine and James often had violent fights.

So, Copious Readers, WHY does the second headline make mention of the Chris/tine’s transgender status? Is it because the editors decided that throwing the word “transgender” in there would add to the story’s sensationalism (like it’s not sensational enough)?! I’m so confused…

— L

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Comments»

1. Welsh Girl - April 7, 2009

Hmm, tricky one this. Although they undoubtedly put it in the headline for the ‘ooooh those transgenders!!’ factor I do think it is also relevant, though not headline worthy. I think the fact that she was a he is relevant to the case but it is a cheap shot to put it in the headline.

ps – haven’t forgotten about the biog thing but can’t think what to put in it that anyone would want to know!!!

onely - April 7, 2009

I guess it could be relevant in that the stress of being transgender in today’s society could potential impact one’s mental health (in a susceptible person), and perhaps the lawyers would argue as much in the defendant’s case. Not to say that all transgender people are stressed out, but I can see a lawyer going for this angle, definitely. –CC
PS. Look at our other “Some Like it Single” posts to get an idea = )

2. Singlutionary - April 8, 2009

Sigh. People equate transgender with perversion. And since the rest of the story seems a little perverted in other ways, I think they decided to lump it all together.

Mainstream folks are still just learning what transgendered is so maybe the writer just wanted to show off his/her new vocab.

3. bobby - April 9, 2009

“People equate transgender with perversion.”

Sadly, I agree. Perversion sells just like sex. I try my hardest not to read the papers (they all magically have a different take on the same situation).


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