North Texas Daily

Adam Briggle discusses reporting on trans people, rights with journalism class

Adam Briggle discusses reporting on trans people, rights with journalism class

Adam Briggle discusses reporting on trans people, rights with journalism class
April 14
21:05 2022

Adam Briggle, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religion, spoke to a journalism class Wednesday evening about how to report on transgender individuals and their families.

Sitting in front of more than 15 of journalism professor Gary Ghioto’s “Reporting of Public Affairs” students, wearing an old T-shirt and baseball cap, Briggle said he wanted to share his experiences of being interviewed as a father of a transgender son. Understanding the students were there to learn, he told the class they were allowed to ask any question.

“I’m not here as a professor,” Briggle said. “I’m here as a dad.”

The first question from a student asked Briggle if he was doing okay. Briggle’s answer was short — “No.”

Briggle and his wife Amber, a candidate for Denton City Council, are currently being investigated by Child Protective Services for child abuse for allowing their son, Max, to socially transition as a boy. This comes after Gov. Greg Abbott’s late February directive for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate parents of transgender children who have received gender-affirming care.

Briggle said the legal threat is real enough for his family to keep a folder ready, containing proof their son is happy where he is, full of testimonial letters from counselors and drawings from Max and his younger sister.

“It’s a reality that the state would come knocking on your door with an allegation that you’re an abusive parent,” Briggle said. “You would of course say you’re not, but it really helps to have a folder.”

The Briggles had also been in the news before the CPS threat, publishing essays and doing interviews to speak out against rising transphobic sentiments across the country. An op-ed Briggle wrote in the North Texas Daily addressed the Young Conservatives of Texas guest speaker, Texas House of Representatives candidate Jeff Younger, and what his presence on campus meant for the university.

“Ignorance, hatred, some bigotry — that’s the moment we’re in as a nation,” Briggle said.

One student asked how Max was doing throughout all of the recent events and news features. Briggle said despite the multiple interviews, Max does not understand why people care so much.

“For Max, being trans is one of the least interesting aspects of his identity,” Briggle said.

More important aspects of Max’s life include cats, the ukulele and gymnastics, said Briggle. Max had recently placed first in vaulting in Texas for his age group and was at gymnastics practice while Briggle was speaking to the journalism students.

“Rings is his least favorite,” Briggle said.

Briggle said his family has consistently been in the public sphere, even if Max does not know why cameras keep showing up at his home.

“Amber and I have been doing this stuff for a long time,” Briggle said. “Every legislative cycle there’s an attack on trans kids and people come knocking on our door.”

The frequent attacks lead to frequent interviews. Briggle said some interview questions have been upsetting, such as a KRIV TV broadcast where the first question asked was when the family first knew Max was “struggling with gender issues.”

“In my mind, I was sort of saying ‘f—k you,’” Briggle said. “I don’t think they meant to anger me, but they did.”

The full four-minute news clip was played for the class, allowing Briggle to pause and discuss which questions he felt were insensitive. The reporter’s first question showed both a lack of understanding and ignorance toward gender issues, Ghioto said.

“[Being transgender] isn’t an affliction — [Max] hasn’t got cancer,” Ghioto said. “It was a terrible way to start.”

Briggle said there were better ways to start an interview, such as being more empathetic to the person being interviewed.

“One of the things I’m bothered by is the lack of humanity sometimes,” Briggle said.

Briggle’s statements of a reporter needing to be human resonated with some of the students in the room.

“We have to remember that we’re reporting on real people and their lives, not just chasing attention-grabbing stories,” photojournalism senior Carlisha Wilson said.

One student asked Briggle if he felt his family was being adequately represented in the media. Correct representation depended on the media itself, said Briggle.

“It’s really hard to accurately represent someone or somebody’s lived experience in two minutes, or four minutes, or 800 words,” Briggle said.

There had been some interviews Briggle refused to do, such as one where the interviewer did not know anything about transgender individuals or their current struggles, said Briggle.

“It became apparent that they were way out of their depth,” Briggle said.

Besides educating themselves, other ways journalists could improve when interviewing a transgender source or someone with a transgender family member would be to skip unnecessary background questioning similar to the recent KRIV interview, Briggle said.

“I am getting tired of the backstory question,” Briggle told the North Texas Daily. “Just talk about the here and now.”

Every interview he does is to reach a new audience with the same “old” message, Briggle said.

“A lot of what’s needed now, from folks like us, is just hammering home some basic points — gender affirming care is medically necessary care,” Briggle told the Daily. “They’re all true points […] you just need to keep saying them.”

As a philosophy professor, Briggle often thinks of the current situation from a philosophical and historical point of view.

“The promise of our nation is we are all created free and equal, but we haven’t lived up to that promise,” Briggle told the Daily. “If we really mean everybody is created equal, then we wouldn’t see these kinds of laws and these kinds of attacks.”

Featured Image: Adam Briggle speaks to the public affairs reporting class on April 13, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

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Alex Reece

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