Listener: Don't Call Me Transgender

In this week's review of listeners' comments, host Michel Martin and Tell Me More's "digital media guy", producer Lee Hill tackle responses to a conversation with conservative anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly. They also hear one listener's criticism of a discussion on transgender identity.

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And now it's time for "Backtalk," where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and get to hear from you, our listeners. Lee Hill, our digital media guy, is here with me - as he is most Fridays. Hi, Lee; what's up?

LEE HILL: Hey, Michel. Well, our discussion with Phyllis Schlafly got lots of folks talking. Schlafly, as folks might remember, is a conservative activist who's been in politics for years. But many people really know her for her strident anti-feminist views. Here she is talking to us on Wednesday.

(Soundbite of archived audio)

Ms. PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY (Conservative Political Activist): I think the main goal of the feminist movement was the status degradation of the full-time homemaker. They really wanted to get all women out of the homes and into the workforce. And again and again, they taught that the only fulfilling lifestyle was to be in the workforce reporting to a boss - instead of being in the home, reporting to a husband.

HILL: And, like I said, not surprisingly, we got an earful from listeners after that. They disagreed with Mrs. Schlafly's views, and took us to task for even airing them.

Here's what Donna(ph) posted to our online forum. She writes: If you look in history, you will find that women hold this country together with much more than having babies and keeping house. It is women like her that do not have the slightest understanding of her own sex. I'm embarrassed, as a woman, to hear her views, and regret that they are shared on a program that has the reputation of intelligence and integrity.

MARTIN: Thank you, Donna. But I think it's also important to mention that we also heard from other listeners, who were excited to hear Phyllis Schlafly's views. As we mentioned, she is a conservative icon, and she has a new book out. So.

And Lee, another conversation that stirred the audience was our report on the first-of-its-kind survey of transgender people. It was conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality, and the National Gay and Lesbian taskforce. The survey focused on workplace discrimination and overall quality of life. One of our guests was Michelle Enfield. Michelle was born a male but now lives as a woman. And this is what she told us.

(Soundbite of archived audio)

Ms. MICHELLE ENFIELD: I just want people to understand that as transgendered individuals, we are just human beings. And we are trying to make ourselves happy, just like everyone else is.

MARTIN: After that conversation, somebody posted this to our online forum: As a transsexual-identified woman, I find the use of the words transgender, transgenderism, gender nonconforming and gender variance highly offensive when applied to me. These are LGBT community buzzwords that should only be applied to their community - not to transsexuals that live outside of it, or that aren't trying to break gender norms. The LGBT community efforts to push this word to include all transsexuals is shameful. She blogs under the name Transsexual People Aren't Transgendered.

Lee, what else?

HILL: Well, Michel, last summer we spoke to J. Christian Adams. He's an attorney who was hired during the Bush administration to work on voting rights issues at the Justice Department. Adams had pursued a formal civil case charging voter intimidation against members of the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia. Now, this all was related to a 2008 episode at a polling location, where he claimed that members of the group were intimidating voters.

Now, Adams made news when he resigned from the DOJ last year after the department scaled back its case against the New Black Panther Party. This week, an internal review by the Justice Department concluded that federal attorneys did not act unprofessionally by not pursuing voting rights charges against members of the New Black Panther Party who were at the center of the case. And another investigation by the Justice Department's inspector general is also under way.

MARTIN: And Lee, before we go...

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: ...we'd like to remind listeners about our series "Muses and Metaphors." April, which starts today, is National Poetry Month. And we will be hearing your poetic tweets. We've been asking you to send us original poems that are 140 characters or less, through Twitter.

And Lee, to kick things off today, we hear a tweet from Omar Straker. He works in news administration here at NPR. He is a poet, and he is also the father of a 4-year-old boy. Now remember, these are short poems - only 140 characters. So let's listen closely.

OMAR STRAKER: Hi, Michel. This is Omar Straker, and this is my tweet: We approach the top of the hill; school is right around the corner. We pick up speed. Down we go. That was fun.

MARTIN: That wasn't a mini poem; that was a tweet.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Thank you very much. If you'd like to help us celebrate National Poetry Month, please go to Twitter and tweet your original poetry - using fewer than 140 characters, of course. And use the hash tag: TMMPoetry. If your poem is chosen, we will help you record it for us. And we will air it in the month of April.

HILL: And Michel, listeners can learn more by going to our blog. Just go to NPR, click on Programs, and then on TELL ME MORE.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Well, thank you, Lee. And where is your tweet?

HILL: It's coming.


HILL: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: And remember: With TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. You can call the comment line at 202-842-3522. You can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE, NPR.

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