29 October 2012

Eden Lane Didn't Broadcast Her Transition

Until today, I knew of one transgender broadcast journalist.  I met her when I was about to begin my own transition.  Then, Andrea Sears had been the news editor and anchor at WBAI, the New York affiliate of Pacifica Radio, for seven years.  For the first five of those years, she had been known as Andrew.

She's still working at WBAI.  Now I've learned about a transgender television newscaster:  Eden Lane.  (Can you beat that for a name?)  Every week, she interviews artists, writers, directors and other people involved with theatre, film, music, dance and television for her program on Colorado Public Television.  

She has never kept her identity a secret but, as she said, she never intended for it to be the focus of people's attention.  "If I had known that nobody else was identified as transgender as a news journalist on television, I probably wouldn't have done it.  I probably would have been too afraid."

Before transitioning, she had worked in television.  But, after her surgery, she got married and settled into the life of a suburban housewife, as she tells the story.  "All of that work experience, all of that education, wasn't something I could publicize and own, because it was under a different name and identity." Then she was a guest on a panel for "Colorado Outspoken," an LBGT television newsmagazine.  She was invited back and, when the station needed more help in covering the 2008 elections, she stepped in for her first experience outside the LGBT program.

I am glad to see this story has a happy ending--at least for now.  At least, this story is turning out better than that of Mike Penner, the Los Angeles Times sportswriter who publicly transitioned in 2007 and, within two years, lost his home and marriage and returned to living as a man.  Then he killed himself.

In some ways, Eden Lane's and Mike Penner's transitions are more difficult simply because they are so public.  Mike Penner started to appear in public as a woman and sign his articles as "Christine Daniels."  At first, it seemed to be the best way to handle his situation, as he was trying to make his transition as seamless as possible.  However, the very fact that the people who'd been reading his columns when he signed them as "Mike Penner" were also reading them when he signed them as "Christine Daniels" left him wide-open for comparisons between his "before" and "after" work--and personae.  Not everyone reacted well to the "after", even if there was little or no difference between his earlier and later work.  

Plus, from all accounts I've read, he was a quiet, reserved, circumspect person.  Suddenly he was thrust into the limelight:  He even posed for a fashion shoot.  And then, when living as Christine didn't work out as he'd planned, he felt publicly disgraced and embarrassed.  He probably couldn't handle that.

(Note:  I am referring to Penner by his male name and pronouns simply because he returned to living as a male and, as far as I know, never legally changed his name.  I do not feel I am in a position to say whether or not he was "really" transgender.)

On the other hand, Eden Lane "disappeared" for several years.  Perhaps some of her former audience stopped thinking about her; others probably just assumed she left broadcasting for any number of reasons.  And, by the time she returned, her life--and name--were totally different from the ones she'd left behind.  People who had never known her, in person or on screen, as a male wouldn't have had any "dots" to "connect."

Now, I'm not saying that either Penner's or Lane's way of transitioning is "right" or "wrong" for someone who lives a less public life.  However, people will look at both and draw their own lessons and conclusions.  I am simply glad that things seem to be working out for Eden Lane, and would love things to work out as well for anyone else who transitions.


MaryO said...

Just a point of information--Andrea Sears was never known as Andrew. See this interview: http://www.democracynow.org/2000/3/13/when_a_friend_changes_gender_identity

Justine Valinotti said...

Hello Mary,

Thanks for that correction. For some reason, I thought she was known as Andrew. Oh well.