Letter from the Editor—‘TheirStories’ Aims to Transform The Vagina Monologues ‘From the Inside Out’

Dear readers of The Triton,

On March 8, 2019, The Triton published ‘TheirStories’ Aims to Transform The Vagina Monologues ‘From the Inside Out.’ Since we published the piece, individuals from the trans community have criticized the piece for trans-exclusionary language and tone. As Managing Editor of the paper, I formally apologize on behalf of The Triton.

I recognize in retrospect that the best course of action for this piece would have been having a trans writer address what The Vagina Monologues is doing well or can do better regarding transphobia within the play. The second best course of action would have involved trans staff looking over the piece before its publication. Going forwards, we will be making a greater effort to recruit trans voices and listen to the trans community.

Those efforts will include reaching out to the LBGT Resource Center and other on-campus groups. We will also be researching best practices for writing about trans people in order to put together internal guidelines, starting with resources such as this style guide for writing about transgender people, and this media reference guide from GLAAD. If you have other suggestions for policies or procedures we could implement, we are open to hearing them.

The author of the piece, Kate Zegans, has prepared the following statement:

As the author of this piece, I appreciate the critical feedback I’ve received; I firmly believe it has pushed both the Triton and myself in the right direction. It’s important to me that an article is not doing harm to the public, especially when it concerns already persecuted communities. My first instinct was to ask for the article to be pulled, and it’s still one I stand by. However, I realize if we were to pull the article there would be no reference for the readers to understand the problems with it, and I want those to be clearly understood.

I stand by my praise of UCSD’s production of The Vagina Monologues and TheirStories. They have created a tangible cultural transformation within their organization in just two years; this, as well as their spirit of empathy, deserves recognition. I do not, however, stand by my own language regarding the trans community in this article.

To anyone who was upset by this article, rightfully so, I apologize for the distress I caused. To the trans community, for not doing better the first time when it counted, I apologize. To participants of this year’s Vagina Monologues and TheirStories, I apologize that I did not do better in an article discussing your organization, which I still respect deeply. I did not intend any harm, but harm was done nonetheless, and I would like to take full responsibility for that. If anyone would like to email me at katezegans@gmail.com with questions, concerns, or frustrations I am ready and happy to talk.

Editor-in-Chief Mo Al Elew, Arts and Culture Editor Sabira Parajuli and I have decided against retracting the piece for transparency’s sake. Instead, we have made the following changes:

In the first paragraph, we have changed “modern feminists have accused the show of excluding women without vaginas” to “trans people have pointed out that the show excludes trans women.” Our original wording, “accused,” implies that the show does not actually exclude trans women. By Eve Ensler’s own words, The Vagina Monologues is explicitly only for the stories of people with vaginas. The article also originally used “modern feminists.” More specifically, trans people should be recognized for being at the forefront of criticizing the play’s transphobia.

In the third paragraph, we have removed “It certainly seems so” after the sentence “Is UCSD’s rendition of The Vagina Monologues free from accusations of racism and transphobia?” While we were unaware at publication of any public criticisms of this year’s production, we did not intend to definitively state that the production has no issues. We have also changed the next sentence to “This year’s directors—Jordan Krikorian, Suzete Lourenco, and Sriya Podila—worked to emphasize intersectionality throughout the production, from its introduction, to a projected video explaining intersectionality, to the stories themselves.” The original, passive voice sentence reads, “Intersectionality was emphasized at every beat in the production, from the introduction given by this year’s directors: Jordan Krikorian, Suzete Lourenco, and Sriya Podila, to a projected video…” Lastly, we have removed the original last sentence in the paragraph (“I wondered what inspired this approach to The Vagina Monologues at UCSD”) because the tone seems to question the purpose of an intersectional approach.

In the fifth paragraph, we have changed the word “genderqueer” in the sentence “Unfortunately, the radical acceptance of cisgender women was not equally extended to these two genderqueer participants” to “transgender,” as a more encompassing term. We have also corrected the passive voice in “According to Lykins, one of the individuals left the production after explaining in the cast group chat, in response to a ‘hey ladies!’ greeting, that the language used was disrespectful” because it removes responsibility from the cast members for their actions. The new sentence reads, “According to Lykins, the cast group chat used disrespectful language against trans people, prompting one of the individuals to leave the production.”

In the tenth paragraph, we have changed “the production seems to have created a radically more inclusive space,” which again suggests a majority opinion we cannot speak for, to “I believe the production has created a more inclusive space.”

If you are a transgender student at UCSD and would like to respond to this letter, I welcome your input. You can write a letter to the editor, send me an email at managing@triton.news, or arrange to meet with me to discuss the ways The Triton can improve. If you would like to apply to The Triton, our application can be found here.

Sincerely,
Isabelle Yan
2018-19 Managing Editor, The Triton