Adam Briggle discusses trans reporting, rights with journalism class – North Texas Daily
Adam Briggle, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, addressed a journalism class Wednesday night about reporting on transgender people and their families.
Sitting in front of more than 15 students of journalism professor Gary Ghioto’s “Reporting of Public Affairs,” dressed in an old T-shirt and baseball cap, Briggle said he wanted to share his interview experiences in as the father of a transgender son. Understanding that the students were there to learn, he told the class that they were allowed to ask any question.
“I’m not here as a teacher,” Briggle said. “I’m here as a dad.”
The first question from a student asked Briggle if he was okay. Briggle’s answer was short – “No”.
Briggle and his wife Amber, candidate for Denton City Council, are currently being investigated by Child Protective Services for child abuse for allowing their son, Max, to transition socially as a boy. It comes after Governor Greg Abbott’s late February directive for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents of transgender children who received gender-affirming care.
Briggle said the legal threat is real enough for his family to keep a file ready, containing proof that their son is happy where he is, full of testimonial letters from counselors and drawings of Max and his younger sister. .
“It’s a reality that the state would come knocking on your door with an allegation that you are an abusive parent,” Briggle said. “Of course you would say you’re not, but it really helps to have a record.”
The Briggles had also made headlines before the CPS threat, posting essays and conducting interviews to expose rising transphobic sentiment across the country. An editorial that Briggle wrote in the North Texas Daily spoke to Texas Young Conservatives guest speaker, Texas House of Representatives candidate Jeff Younger, and what his presence on campus meant for the university.
“Ignorance, hatred, a bit of bigotry – this is the moment we find ourselves in as a nation,” Briggle said.
A student asked how Max was doing through all the recent events and news reports. Briggle said that despite the multiple interviews, Max doesn’t understand why people care so much.
“For Max, being trans is one of the least interesting aspects of who he is,” Briggle said.
The most important aspects of Max’s life include cats, the ukulele and gymnastics, Briggle said. Max had recently placed first in the vault in Texas for his age group and was in gym practice while Briggle spoke to journalism students.
“Rings are his least favorite,” Briggle said.
Briggle said his family has always been in the public sphere, although Max doesn’t know why the cameras keep popping up in his home.
“Amber and I have been doing this stuff for a long time,” Briggle said. “Every legislative cycle there is an attack on trans children and people come knocking at our door.”
Frequent attacks lead to frequent maintenance. Briggle said some interview questions have been upsetting, such as a TV show on KRIV where the first question asked was when the family first knew Max was “struggling with gender issues.”
“In my mind, I was kind of saying ‘fuck you,'” Briggle said. “I don’t think they wanted to piss me off, but they did.”
The full four-minute clip played for the class, allowing Briggle to pause and discuss issues he felt were insensitive. The reporter’s first question showed both a lack of understanding and ignorance of gender issues, Ghioto said.
“[Being transgender] is not an affliction – [Max] doesn’t have cancer,” Ghioto said. “It was a terrible way to start.”
Briggle said there are better ways to start an interview, like being more empathetic to the interviewee.
“One of the things that bothers me sometimes is the lack of humanity,” Briggle said.
Briggle’s statements that a reporter had to be human resonated with some students in the room.
“We have to remember that we’re reporting real people and their lives, not just attention-grabbing stories,” said Carlisha Wilson, photojournalism manager.
A student asked Briggle if he felt his family was adequately represented in the media. The correct portrayal depended on the media itself, Briggle said.
“It’s really hard to accurately portray someone or someone’s lived experience in two minutes, four minutes, or 800 words,” Briggle said.
There had been interviews that Briggle refused to do, such as one where the interviewer knew nothing about transgender people or their current struggles, Briggle said.
“It became apparent that they were nowhere near their depth,” Briggle said.
In addition to educating themselves, other ways journalists could improve when interviewing a transgender source or someone with a transgender family member would be to avoid unnecessary background questions similar to the recent interview. of KRIV, Briggle said.
“I’m getting tired of the backstory issue,” Briggle told the North Texas Daily. “Just talk about the here and now.”
Every interview he does aims to reach a new audience with the same “old” message, Briggle said.
“A lot of what is needed now, from people like us, is just hammering home a few basic points – gender-affirming care is medically necessary care,” Briggle told the Daily. “These are all real points […] you just need to keep saying them.
As a professor of philosophy, Briggle often thinks about the current situation from a philosophical and historical perspective.
“Our nation’s promise is that we are all created free and equal, but we have failed to deliver on that promise,” Briggle told the Daily. “If we really want to say that everyone is created equal, then we wouldn’t see these kinds of laws and these kinds of attacks.”
Featured Image: Adam Briggle addresses the Public Affairs Reporting class on April 13, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane