The May 17 article “Split Personalities” [City Weekly] is troubling. There’s a sensationalistic attitude in the way the interviewees are presented with such limited perspective. Two of the pieces demonstrate this in particular sharpness: those about Phoebe Berrey and Deborah Dean. Both involve gender issues but lack any fundamental context whatsoever. What is the writer trying to say? Why does she focus on these individuals? There’s no way to know.
Without knowing, not just these two but all the stories have the feel of being offered up for snap judgment. We have only the title and subtitles for clues, and both are problematic. The title itself is, as I said, sensationalistic, and it draws an inappropriate connection between the interviewees and a psychological disorder. The interviewees are whole, sound individuals. They are not leading dual lives. They are each one person moving between or uniting different aspects of their lives or identity. And the subtitle implies that the interviewees and anyone who has something in common with them is to be pitied, is only “getting by,” through or despite living with meaning that is unique to them.
Every one of these portraits has a full-length story behind it. Some have been explored before, such as being LDS and gay. Perhaps there’s more to be said on that subject, but there’s also much to say in the less-traveled subjects of evolving gender concepts or challenging the rules of religion. The author speaks to two individuals who address gender and identity yet somehow misses the possibility for more depth. Is this avoidance intentional or accidental? What is the author really trying to say?
Salt Lake City