Transgender people and their rights are at the heart of our collective cultural conversation right now. What Joe Biden called “the civil rights issue of our time” has exploded into the public consciousness due to a greater spotlight being shined on transgender people and their stories. But what is it like to live as a transgender person in Iowa? Or in the heartland writ large, where the political distinction between red and blue often comes into high definition? The Des Moines Register attempted to answer these questions in a six-part series that paired the tools of investigative journalism with the lyrical touch of narrative storytelling. Speaking with almost 50 transgender Iowans of all ages and races, the Register’s objective was to look at the issues facing this oft-sidelined community through the lens of the people who live it every day.
The Register saw this series as a chance to educate readers on the lives of their transgender neighbors. In that vein, we strove to create digital portals that encouraged interaction with our sources’ stories and allowed the reader to chart their own course through the word. First, the team launched a personalized, interactive website that lets readers explore our more than 60 video interview clips based on their interests. The website asks readers to pick from a variety of sub-topics — “dating,” “coming out,” “depression,” “what’s next” — and curates an individualized video playlist of relevant clips from a wide variety of transgender Iowans.
Second, knowing language is of particular interest to transgender Iowans, the team put together a “One Word” video series, which highlighted the meanings of words important to the LGBTQ community as defined by our sources.
With this project, the Register sought to fully examine what gender means, when someone can know themselves and how legislators or doctors can change the course of a person’s life. We wanted to give our readers a well-rounded view of this diverse community. We wanted people to not only read our work, but to experience it and, by doing so, understand their neighbors, friends, and colleagues a little bit better.