Kim Henderson: Fake news, faux people

Published 12:58 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fake news has gotten some bad press lately, and rightly so. It’s really nothing new, though. Orson Wells’ version went by the softer label of “radio drama” (remember his War of the Worlds experiment?) and in Stalin’s Russia, it was propaganda. Today’s political circles call it spinning.  So what if our news sources do some tweaking? We’re discerning enough to know when someone is really bearing false witness, right?

But here’s a new double-whammy — fake news about fake people. It’s a kind of collusion that should render both parties responsible, and it’s exemplified in Time magazine’s latest cover story, “Beyond He or She.”  If you have an interest in seeing where cultural trends are taking us, you might want to check it out, but be sure to grab a dictionary when you do. New vocabulary words abound: pansexual, genderqueer, nonbinary. Being plain old heterosexual is so yesterday, don’t you know?

The article spotlights several teenagers’ coming out stories, and we’re not talking cotillions. Included in the lineup is an 18-year-old from Kentucky named Rowan who describes herself as “gender fluid.” Rowan says that some days she feels like going with the gender she was assigned at birth. Other days, not so much. The key phrase here is “assigned at birth,” as if the doctor who proclaimed “it’s a girl” in the delivery room was somehow making a subjective call. Rowan’s notions are backed up by fellow contributors Jacob Tobia (“gender doesn’t have to be defined in rigid terms”) and Marie McGwier (“every different type of identity that exists should be supported”).

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Statements like that rankle those of us who do not support “every type of identity.” They should also concern those who believe male and female are right, rather than rigid, terms. Most people, for example, understand that they can’t “identify” as blonde 80-year-old Taiwanese brain surgeons, because that wouldn’t be accurate. That’s because we learn to live within our labels at a young age. Here’s proof: As I type this, I’m seated next to a pile of Legos and two preschool boys. One is an airplane pilot, and one is a truck driver. They call it pretend. Time, evidently, has a different take.

They take what’s fake and make it appear credible by focusing on an agenda, rather than reality, and throwing in a few quotes from like-minded sources like GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) to look legit. The author of “Beyond He or She” reveals her bias early on when she refers to the two gender categories around which society is organized as “legal trappings,” and to critics of an agender posterboy as “trolls.”

To play fair, Time should have included the views of Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist-in-chief at Johns Hopkins, who says anyone who denies biological reality is in denial: “The media is doing no favor to the public by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than a mental disorder that needs understanding, treatment and prevention.”

Then again, they might have talked with someone from a Judeo-Christian background — the kind that shaped our land since Columbus landed in Hispaniola — and noted that the Bible calls such behavior depraved.

But they didn’t, so I’m crying fake. Or should I cry faux? Faux has that trendy, sophisticated edge our culture craves. (Would you rather have fake jewelry or faux jewelry? It’s all in the semantics.) Yes, we’ll go with faux, since it makes everything sort of blurry. That fits Time’s story to a “t” — theirs, and a hundred others like it.

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at