The XX Factor

He Had a Sex Change. So What?

On Wednesday, Hanna asked ” Is it normal to be transgender ?” On Thursday, Adam Reilly at the Boston Phoenix asked whether being transgender is newsworthy. Reilly analyzes the coverage of Aiden Quinn, the 24-year-old subway driver who crashed a Boston train earlier this month, injuring 50, moments after texting his girlfriend. And hey, by the way, he used to be a woman. Reilly writes:

Given Quinn’s admission that he was, in fact, texting prior to the accident, there’s a general consensus that he’s a dumbass. But there’s no such agreement among the Boston media as to whether his switch from identifying as a woman to a man was germane to the larger story.

According to Reilly’s story, WFXT-TV and the Boston Herald played up Quinn’s sex change. New England Cable News dropped the detail late in its story. And some Boston Globe pieces didn’t even mention it. As Globe Metro Editor Brian McGrory told Reilly: “It’s certainly a provocative part of his personal history, but the question we asked was, ‘Was it relevant to the crash itself?’ And we couldn’t determine that it was.”

In the spirit of letting the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM , the Bible of psychiatry, define what’s “normal,” it’s interesting to turn to another definitive book - the New York Times style guide - for its take on gender identity. Here’s how the old Gray Lady handled it. Reporting on Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick’s plan, in response to the crash, to ban bus and train operators from having cell phones with them while on duty, the Times never mentions Quinn’s sex change. Apparently it considers that fact irrelevant. And the paper does call him Mr.

Of course, the kind of restraint shown by the Times and the Globe , while good for journalism, might be less good for humor. Excessive mentions of gender or sexual identity in a news story makes for some classic, great parody .