Trans reporter who came out on air: ‘I didn’t think there was space for me. I was wrong’

A picture of Local 5 News reporter Nora J.S. Reichardt

An Iowa reporter, who came out as trans live on air, says she felt a “responsibility” to do so as she’s in a supportive role where she can tackle false news about the LGBTQ+ community.

On the same day Nora J.S. Reichardt legally changed her name (5 October) she opened up to viewers to share that she is a trans woman.

The television reporter for Local 5 News in Des Moines, Iowa, says she spoke to lots of people to discuss what the announcement would look like.

“Above anything else I was willing to share my experience because I wanted to be educated, and I wanted it to be relatable for an audience that doesn’t usually get to hear trans voices on a platform like this,” she tells PinkNews.

Working alongside her news team Nora said colleagues have “exceeded” in making sure her story has been as “accessible as possible” to lots of people.

But prior to coming out she worried if she would be able to be herself in a work environment that usually has “very rigid expectations of what talent is”.

“I felt for a while that there wasn’t going to be space for me to do this and I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong.

“I’ve just received so much incredible support from within the industry and from other trans people.”

Nora J.S. Reichardt

Reporter for Local 5 News in Des Moines, Iowa, Nora J.S. Reichardt. (Nora J.S. Reichardt)

Coming out publicly has meant Nora has been subjected to an equal amount of supportive and unsupportive comments online, but she says she’s never been targeted with negativity in person. 

She says her strong support system within her job, and in her social group, has helped her remain strong.

Before opening up to her parents, the 24-year-old told her workplace about being trans. The first thing they asked was: “How can we help you to be you on air”.

When she returned from annual leave in early October, Nora joyfully recalls how her newsroom had switched everything over to her new name, and also gifted her with a ‘welcome back’ bag containing nail polish, rings, eyeshadow and a necklace.

“I don’t think I would have been able to do this if I was fearing that I’m going to lose my job for having this conversation.

“The fact that I knew my team actively wanted me to do this made that seemingly impossible goal feel so much more attainable. 

“I know other trans folks don’t have that protection or the level of coverage I had. I felt I had more of a responsibility to do something with that platform because I knew that I had some insulation from the sorts of consequences I guess other trans folks might feel.”

Nora with her mum and dad. (Nora J.S. Reichardt)

The hardest part of Nora’s journey so far has been coming out to her parents, who have only known for a couple of weeks.

“Getting ready mentally and emotionally for that conversation was tough. I never thought they were going to disown me or anything along those lines, but there’s no one in the world that knows me better than my parents.”

On reflection, Nora wishes she’d told them sooner.

“They are interested in learning more about this new life I’m living and I can’t thank them enough.”

‘A seat at the table’

Last year was recorded as the deadliest year on record for anti-trans violence with at least 57 trans, non-binary or gender-diverse people – many of them being trans people of colour – being violently killed

“It can be a scary time for a lot of folks. Although it is a dark spot right now I do think simultaneously it’s getting there,” Nora says.

“I’ve never been put in a situation where I feel my health and wellbeing was at risk and I hope that’s becoming true in a lot of other places, but there’s definitely still work to do.”

“Having a seat at the table” in the newsroom is something Nora is “grateful for” as it offers her the chance to debunk false information and correct often biased narratives. 

“So often misinformation about people like me is because people don’t have exposure to people like me. 

“I’m in the best position to show folks at home we’re not scary, I have no sinister intentions or anything along those lines.

“I’m still the same reporter, same person as I always was, I’m just a little happier what I’m doing.”

Nora J.S. Reichardt

Nora aimed to make her story was as “accessible as possible” when she shared with viewers that she is a trans woman.(Nora J.S. Reichardt)

In terms of news covering the trans community, Nora says that there needs to be a balance. She referenced the Boston Children’s Hospital being subjected to a bomb scare due to a misinformation campaign.

Nora shared how “disheartening” it is to feel the only people talking about trans issues are trans people.

“I want to shine a light more on those sorts of stories.

“I hope I can try to get people’s attention and help them have a greater understanding of this is the reality for a lot of folks.”