While I’ve been on a few local news segments in the past, mainly for my advocacy work, I had no idea what appearing on an American syndicated talk show sharing our family’s story would look like—especially during a pandemic. Here’s my behind-the-scenes perspective and some of what I learned.
First, the invitation
It came in an email with the subject line: The Doctors TV CBS – Appearance Inquiry. I was being approached as an “expert on how LGBT children identify.” My first reaction was to google the person’s name to make sure they were a legitimate person who indeed worked as an associate producer for the show. Once that was established, I proceeded to freak out! I let my hubby and kids know about the invitation and wanted to clear with everyone—again—that my being a public figure on this topic was okay. In Mitchell’s wise words, “Mom, the book is already written. We’re public. Go for it.” I will never not check in with my family as this is as much their journey as it is mine—I just happen to be a writer and comfortable with public speaking.
My Own Segment
One of my first questions to the producer was to ask where they’d heard of me. This is so important because it was before I had started any real promotion for my book besides my social media accounts. They found me through the article I wrote for Today’s Parent in 2019. I might sound like a broken record to my clients, but mainstream articles are a great way to build clout as a writer. Once I had some back and forth with the producer and a date and time were selected, I asked about the possibility of mentioning my book Beyond Pronouns. Of course, the associate producer had to take it forward to the higher-ups. When he called to say yes, and they’d decided to give me my very own segment, I was over the moon.
Taping a television show during the pandemic looks like testing your internet speed, setting up ring lights, a trip to the hairdressers, doing your own makeup, kicking everyone out of the house, kenneling the dog, and turning off phone ringers. And a whole lot of waiting. The taping got pushed off by an hour or so, and then I was in a Zoom breakout room for a bit as I met with some of the crew. Then finally, I was in the big Zoom room with several producers and camera angles, the doctor hosts and the doctor guests. My solo segment was to come at the end, but I was able to watch the first few segments while they happened.
I seriously thought of walking away
In an effort to show both sides of the argument, the show had Dr. Marci Bowers debating a neuroscientist turned political commentator and a psychologist. I will not share their names as I don’t feel their misinformed opinions from cherry-picked studies need any more oxygen. If you watch the episode, you will see the rude and insulting crosstalk in the first few segments. I was so grateful to be off-camera because my gaping mouth could not have been very flattering. I started to question if I was on Jerry Springer! I then wondered if this was the place to share our family’s story. But I remembered why I do this in the first place—to show the humanity behind a letter on an acronym. I might only get these 15 minutes to change the heart of a parent of a transgender child. It was time to shine and make the best of the opportunity. 3-2-1 clap!
We recorded the show on February 17, 2022, and the producer said the show would run in about a month. After a few weeks, I set my PVR and checked their website for the next week’s episodes daily. A second month went by, and still nothing. I started to worry that the excessive arguing turned them off of the episode and they chose not to run it. I’d heard enough about cutting room floors and screenplays purchased and never produced not to assume the episode was guaranteed to air. Then, finally, the email came to say the show would air on Monday, May 9! Is May Sweeps still a thing?
With pandemic precautions still at the forefront of many people’s minds, having my family living across the country and not all my friends subscribing to cable television, I decided to host a viewing party over Zoom so that I wouldn’t have to watch the episode alone. I think I was just as nervous watching it as I was taping it. I had no idea how the editing affected my message or how the first half would be received. Everyone on the Zoom call was so supportive, and I was so grateful to have my community with me. The best part was hearing the Power Prescription segment. They recorded that segment after I left the taping, and I didn’t know that my story had so impacted The Doctors. It brought tears to my eyes.
In the end, it was all worth it. If only one family somewhere in a mid-western town can hear our story and relate and find the help they need to affirm their trans child, it is always worth it. Obviously, as an author and writing coach, I also see the enormous value of getting the word out to build my platform and sell more books. So I am keeping good notes on all these lessons to share them with my clients!