Last Tuesday I wrote about reporting on a transgender woman on hunger strike in San Francisco’s jail. That same evening, I was an honorary guest at a coronation ceremony at El/La Para Translatinas – an organization in the Mission District of San Francisco that helps transgender women from Latin America to get the papers and support they need.
They were crowning their first ever transgender Latina queen – Miss El/La 2016. She was to represent them in the annual Trans March that Friday, ahead of SF Pride weekend. She was dressed to the nines, everyone was, and I was the woman with the least make-up and lowest heels (in fact, none).
I was nervous on my way there; I had spoken to one of El/La’s social workers earlier in the day and felt like I had been patronizing. I wanted to make sure that the relationship was not going to feel exploitative – like I was coming to marvel at their dramatic life stories and then export them back to the radio station. I had all kinds of thoughts mulling around in my head that day: how to be an ally and a critical reporter at the same time, how to be respectful but also fair, how to toe the line between a friendly and a professional relationship.
The minute I set foot inside the colorful rooms at El/La my internal conflict dissipated. I was ushered in like an honorary guest, and everyone was friendly and nonjudgmental. I couldn’t help thinking how awe-inspiring it was that these women, who had suffered so much, who are discriminated against even here, were so welcoming and positive and – quite simply – so happy.
In retrospect, I could have asked so many more questions. I am still learning how to be accountable to my listeners, first and foremost. But my experience at El/La was eye-opening. I enjoyed the short piece I produced (see above) and look forward to diving more in-depth in a longer documentary I hope to produce about these wonderful and resilient women.
Exploring still how to be a good reporter, my Reporter’s Notebook entries are …
… to be continued …
I first published this story on June 30, 2016. https://atravelintention.wordpress.com/2016/06/30/reporters-notebook-2/