The Great Kansas City Media Blackout of the KCDTR

The Kansas City Demonstration for Transgender Rights was held from 2:00-3:30 last Saturday, October 27, at the J.C. Nichols fountain in Kansas City, Missouri. It was advertised widely on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and resulted in a tremendous turnout. I attended and spoke, and it was the largest transgender rally I’ve ever seen in 7 years in the Kansas City metropolitan area.

It was difficult to count the number of folks who were there, but three independent counts put the most likely number at between 300-350 persons. The photo above shows the size of the crowd from a distance (I’m using this photo deliberately because many people were afraid of being identified from video and photographs).

The KCMO police were informed and present, and kept a very respectful distance. All major media outlets were contacted. I was told by two impeccable sources that KCUR, Fox4, KCTV5, KMBC9, and The Kansas City Star were not only contacted, but said they would be sending reporters to cover the event. Prior to the event 96.5 The Buzz discussed the event on October 25 on the Mornings with Jordin Silver & Friends program. On the day of the event 90.1 KKFI Kansas City Community Radio not only interviewed Parker Liu, one of the event organizers, but devoted 10 minutes to discussing transgender erasure, and broadcast live music from the local trans punk rock band Evil Pillows, dedicated to those attending the event, on the Trans Talk radio show.

The demonstration was simply incredible. It was a perfect day, the crowd was enthused and respectful, the speakers were motivated and passionate and brought many different perspectives to the crowd, and there was a feeling of love and togetherness. It was the largest and best transgender rally I’ve attended in the four-state area.

But you wouldn’t know it, from the media blackout. By the end of the event, as the hugging and tears and cheers were over and folks walked back to their homes, the only media coverage before, during, and leading up to the event was from 96.5 The Buzz and 90.1 KKFI. The only media in attendance at the event in official capacity were several folks from KKFI, including Una Nowling, the President of KKFI who spoke during the event, and several members of the KKFI News & Public Affairs staff, who also recorded the entire event. We were told that Jordin and Hartzell from 96.5 The Buzz were proudly there showing solidarity and support, but we did not have the pleasure of meeting those great folks.

So why the media blackout? Why, suddenly, despite being informed of the event in advance and having told us they would be there, did the mainstream media of Kansas City abandon us? Scanning the websites of KCUR, FOX4, KCTV5, KMBC9, and The Kansas City Star, and others showed a large amount of local mundanity, some “barking dog” stories: one site had an update on the Salem witch trials (not exactly breaking news…spoiler alert, there were no witches), one talked about concern over a new Wendy’s and Pizza Hut being built (nothing gets page clicks like fast food, right?), and yet another devoted time to tell us why leaves change color (which was presumably news to anyone from a planet devoid of deciduous flora).

Seriously? Seriously?

But not one word about the largest transgender rights rally in the area? Why not, exactly? Some speculate that several reporters were sent out to contact local Jewish organizations to comment on the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh that day – but clearly, given the significant amount of local reporting that was done by all organizations that day, there were more than enough reporters to go around.

Many leaders in the local LGBTQIA community have spoken with us, most of them privately, and all expressed significant concern at the silence over the rally. While few were ready to level charges of transphobia or a rise of hard right-wing influence or chilling effect upon the local media, all were baffled and disturbed by the media silence. I think all of us in the local LGBTQIA community should be reaching out to the mainstream media outlets, sending comments and e-mails, and asking why they didn’t show up to cover the event.

More details as they develop.

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