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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Chicagoan writes nationally from the T perspective
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2014-05-14

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So often, when Parker Marie Molloy read stories impacting transgender individuals, they would be botched, she said. Even LGBT media outlets weren't immune to basic mistakes, confusing pronouns, names, and using outdated information on topics like trans healthcare and policy reform.

And, a number of important trans issues were going largely ignored by the media, she said.

"I saw a gap, and I filled it," she said.

Molloy, 28, is a transgender freelance journalist who lives in the Andersonville neighborhood on Chicago's North Side. She grew up in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago, near Joliet. At age 20, she moved to the city to finish college.

Molloy graduated from Lincoln-Way Central High School in New Lenox in 2004, and then from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in arts, entertainment and media management in 2009. In March of this year, she was named to the Trans 100 list, alongside Carmen Carrera, CeCe McDonald, Lana Wachowski, Laura Jane Grace, and others.

"Being a published writer is actually a somewhat recent undertaking of mine," said Molloy, who noted that it actually wasn't until last July when one of her essays appeared on a site that wasn't just a personal blog or journal.

She has since written articles for Rolling Stone, The Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, Salon, and, most recently, The Advocate. Last December, she was given the opportunity to write for The Advocate on a near-daily basis—and has since published nearly 200 articles, ranging from education to healthcare, politics, sports and pop culture.

Her focus often is feminism and gender-related topics.

"I cover these topics because society still treats the voice of the straight, white, middle-to-upper class man as the 'neutral' point of view," she said. "For this reason, the voices of women, of non-binary people, of other races, and other classes are all but silenced. As long as we live in a world ruled by patriarchy, there will always be a need for feminism.

"And so long as that need exists, I feel an obligation to use my platform to raise the voices of others."

Molloy's most talked about article also left her in a bit of hot water, she admitted.

Earlier this year, RuPaul's Drag Race featured a challenge called 'Female or She-male.' "The day after it aired, I saw a number of people speaking out against the show. Following that, I turned in a write-up on the backlash that got published at The Advocate," she said.

"This sparked a discussion about the use of transphobic slurs by members of the LGB community. The piece was widely distributed, and along with it came accusations that I was trying to 'word police' the use of slurs. The following month brought with it a number of death threats and nasty messages, a video in which a former Drag Race contestant pretended to murder me, and a whole lot of stress. All because I asked gay men to stop using hurtful, transphobic words like 'tranny' and 'shemale.'"

Molloy said it's been "a bit frustrating" that the column has received so much attention—and not her reporting on California's new trans student law, the case of Jane Doe in Connecticut, or some of her other written work.

That includes her novel, My Transgender Coming Out Story, which took her about a month to write and is now available as an ebook on Amazon and iTunes.

"For a long while, it seemed as though the only story of mine people were interested in was [my] coming-out story," Molloy said. "After writing pieces on this for Thought Catalog, Salon, Huffington Post and Bustle, I decided to just put the story that I'd written a dozen times before into a book. This way, if someone else was interested in reading it, they could get the full, comprehensive story without having to write it yet again."

The book is "a simple, straight-to-the-point story," she said.

Molloy is now working on two other books, one fiction and one non-fiction. She is hoping to have them completed in early 2015.

"I think a lot of issues [facing the trans community] are interconnected," Molloy said. "For example, trans women are significantly more likely to be HIV-positive than cisgender women. Why? Well, part of that lies in the fact that many trans women get involved in sex work, and part of the reason they do that is because they're discriminated against when they search for other forms of work, which results in poverty, homelessness and a lack of healthcare. Same goes for attacks on trans people. Statistically speaking, trans people are much more likely to be homeless, which puts them at a high risk of being assaulted, raped and murdered. Society has dehumanized trans identities, and negative representation in the media is something that further pushes those ideas. It's a tangled mess."

"I think that the focus needs to start with ensuring that trans people are protected from workplace discrimination, and making sure they have access to adequate healthcare, including transition care. The federal government is currently reviewing a 30-plus year-old policy that serves as a blanket denial of surgical transition care under Medicare. The basis of that policy hinges on decades-old information about trans people. It's time for that to change."

Molloy added, "We're seeing an increasing number of states mandating that private insurance policies include transition-related care, like hormone replacement therapy and even gender-confirming surgeries. California, Connecticut, and Washington, D.C., have all made huge strides in this area recently. This is needed because, while the Affordable Care Act made it so insurance companies could no longer deny trans people policies, insurance companies used to deny any sort of policy to trans people if it was discovered that they'd received a gender identity disorder or gender dysphoria diagnosis at any time in their lives. Policies aren't necessarily required by [the] federal government to include transition-related care.

"Finally, the steps taken to protect trans children is especially encouraging. California's School Success and Opportunity Act has helped thousands of kids, and will make life easier for thousands to come. These types of efforts, ones that say, 'You are a valid human being, and you are deserving of respect' can be lifesaving for a child struggling with their own identity."

Molloy said one of her biggest concerns is that the LGBT movement will largely abandon trans causes after they achieve marriage equality. "So much energy has been put into that specific fight that I really do worry that there will be a large number of activists who throw their hands up, declare victory, and stop pushing to address trans rights at all," she said.

Molloy noted that less than 10 percent of Americans know a transgender person. So, without the help of LGB friends and allies, "the world will continue to be informed solely by what they see in movies like Transamerica and Dallas Buyers Club," she said. "This is dangerous, as these are very, very narrow portrayals of what trans people can be."

Molloy, naturally, wrote extensively earlier this year following the article Caleb Hannan wrote about Essay Anne Vanderbilt, a trans woman and golf club inventor. "During the course of his reporting, Hannan learned of Vanderbilt's trans status, and appeared to try to use that information to blackmail Vanderbilt into cooperating with his piece in which he had initially promised would be completely free of discussion of Vanderbilt's personal life," Molloy said.

"Vanderbilt was what some call 'stealth,' [meaning] she was only out as trans to a select few individuals, and preferred for the rest of the world to not be aware of her trans status. Looking at the issues facing trans people I've listed, it's easy to see why some would want to escape the socially enforced discrimination.

"During the course of Hannan's aggressive reporting, Vanderbilt took her own life. Hannan then published his piece, making the non-consensual revelation of Vanderbilt's trans status the climax of his piece. Every part of this violates basic journalistic ethics."

Molloy, after years of denial, depression and one suicide attempt, came to the realization that she needed to accept her own identity. "As for what that meant, I didn't really know at the time," she said. "I came out to my now ex-girlfriend on May 28, 2012, just a month after my 26th birthday. In the weeks and months that followed, I began seeing a therapist who specialized in gender issues, and in October, I began hormone replacement therapy. It's amazing how much the correct balance of hormones can impact one's sense of well-being. I'd long been a very agitated person, but within the first few weeks on hormone therapy, I'd found that my mood had improved, that I was able to focus like never before, and I just generally felt better about myself.

"I was extremely lucky to have had such accepting parents. After I came out to them, they were absolutely wonderful and unwavering in their support."

Molloy, away from her computer, is admittedly a homebody—and a Twitter addict. She has two pet bunnies ( Jeffrey and Benjamin ) and a dog ( Laika ). She also enjoys reading, writing and simply walking up and down Clark Street in Andersonville.

"I don't go out much on the weekends, to bars, at least; and I only drink on extremely rare occasions. I lead an extraordinarily ordinary life," she said.

But she certainly is leaving her mark.

"I think it's important that the mainstream media continue to increase the coverage of trans people," she said. "It's important that we become a visible section of society, because that will eventually humanize us in the minds of many. It's important that LGBT media outlets diversify their newsrooms by hiring trans reporters and editors, and it's important that we be allowed to speak for ourselves. Yes, negative comments will come, and sadly, many of them will come from members of the LGB community. Still, as time wears on, as we're shown as people, the misconceptions about trans individuals will soften."


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