For most individuals, the pandemic lockdowns might be remembered as a time that shrank our worlds, stripping away most of life as we knew it. For Gina Chua, the chief editor of Reuters, it was when her world opened up.
Ms. Chua, 60, transitioned genders throughout 2020, utilizing the time at residence and away from the workplace to, as she describes it, “grow into this skin.” On Dec. 18, she wrote to her colleagues at Reuters to tell them of the change.
“For some time now I’ve been on a journey,” she mentioned within the e mail. “It’s mostly been private, internal and exploratory, but it’s time to move beyond that and mark a new milestone in that passage. I’m transgender. And beginning today I’ll be living and presenting as what I know to be my true self 100 percent of the time.”
Ms. Chua is now maybe probably the most senior transgender journalist within the nation. She mentioned in an interview that she was talking publicly as a result of “it’s good to just have people be able to say, ‘Here is an example of somebody who can transition and not get fired.’”
“There are a lot of people who are 14 years old who would like to know that this is not a death sentence,” she mentioned. “It’s not a millstone. It’s something you can be proud of, it’s something you can celebrate and something you can live with.”
Ms. Chua was promoted final month to the newly created govt editor function at Reuters, overseeing all editorial operations for the multimedia information group, which has 2,500 journalists in 200 places globally. She reviews to Alessandra Galloni, who was named editor in chief in April and is the primary lady to carry that function within the information company’s 170-year historical past.
Ms. Galloni and Ms. Chua are on the helm at a time when many information organizations are grappling with how the views of newsroom management can form protection, and dealing to enhance the range in senior editor ranks. Reuters, as soon as seen by rivals as a staid wire service recognized extra for monetary information alerts than pushing boundaries, seems to have had extra success than others in delivering on these objectives.
“We reach billions of people as an industry, and I think we have a responsibility to ensure that the stories we tell are representative, truly representative, of the world that we live in,” Ms. Chua mentioned.
Ms. Chua is central to an expanded imaginative and prescient for Reuters, which provides tales, photographs and video footage to 1000’s of different information retailers internationally. About half of Reuters’s income comes from a monetary information service, known as Refinitiv, that it as soon as owned. Reuters will get at the very least $325 million yearly for supplying information to Refinitiv’s prospects — making monetary information a essential a part of its enterprise.
Reuters is now attempting to supply a livelier product to a extra basic viewers of execs within the vein of its rivals, which embody Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal. It introduced in April that it might put its web site behind a paywall, although that plan has been postponed amid a dispute with Refinitiv. Ms. Chua is charged with spearheading new tech initiatives that can ship new strategies of storytelling and assist the corporate discover new audiences. It’s a tall order, and one she says she is specializing in with the additional advantage of getting “freed up 20 percent of my brain” that had been dedicated to fascinated about her transition.
“I want to stop hiding. I want to be able to live in the sunlight,” Ms. Chua mentioned.Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Growing up in a Catholic family in Singapore within the 1960s, Ms. Chua mentioned, she had all the time had “a sense of disquiet and uncertainty” however didn’t on the time know of the idea of being trans.
“Back in the day there was no internet, there was nothing to read up on. How could you know?” she mentioned. But she wrestled with a sense of “what is this, why aren’t I more like other people?”
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After finishing a bachelor’s in arithmetic on the University of Chicago, Ms. Chua labored on the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation with the objective of finally going to regulation college, however fell in love with journalism. She obtained a grasp’s diploma from Columbia, after which labored as a reporter all through Southeast Asia within the 1990s earlier than changing into the editor in chief of the Asia version of The Wall Street Journal.
In 2005, Ms. Chua moved to New York City for a senior enhancing job at The Journal, finally operating the publication’s graphics and design departments. It was upon her return to the United States that she started to simply accept that she was trans, she mentioned.
“I was still saying to myself, ‘Fine, but I’m not transitioning. That’s too hard, and it can’t be done,’” Ms. Chua mentioned. “And you live this double life, and that’s painful. You grow up through that period with two sets of friends, two sets of weekends, two sets of activities.”
After one other stint in Hong Kong because the editor in chief of the South China Morning Post newspaper, Ms. Chua took a job at Reuters in New York in 2011 because the editor for information and developed the corporate’s information and graphics groups.
Ms. Chua credit her shut circle of trans pals in New York, who all work exterior the media trade, with serving to her to see that a transition might be attainable.
“I think part of the decision was, ‘I can do it and not get killed. I can do it and mostly not get killed and still go to the bathroom,’” she mentioned. “But the entire thinking is really around the question of, I want to stop hiding. I want to be able to live in the sunlight.”
About two years in the past, she began to speak in confidence to individuals about her intention to transition, together with her boss on the time, Stephen J. Adler, who was the editor in chief of Reuters for a decade and retired in April.
“I did not have any sense of it before she told me, so it was definitely a surprise, but a happy surprise because she clearly was feeling very positive about it and very excited about being able to be herself,” Mr. Adler mentioned.
After her December e mail, Ms. Chua was shocked by the quantity of people that reached out to share their very own experiences or these of family and friends members.
“Everybody who knows me says I’m smiling a lot more,” Ms. Chua mentioned.
“Everybody who knows me says I’m smiling a lot more; I seem happier; I just seem more comfortable,” Ms. Chua mentioned.Credit…Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
At a time when transgender points are usually within the information, with a current flood of payments being launched in principally Republican-led states that intention to limit transgender rights, Ms. Chua mentioned her personal expertise had led her to assume extra deeply about how the media covers tales like hers.
“You have to be careful who your sources are,” Ms. Chua mentioned. “There are organizations who purport to speak for one side or the other and they are not the right ones, even if they are the loudest ones.”
While there aren’t any statistics on what number of American journalists determine as L.G.B.T.Q., an trade physique that represents them has greater than 1,000 members, whereas the comparatively new Trans Journalists Association counts about 400 members.
Ms. Chua warned of the hazard of portraying trans individuals or these in minority communities as victims, slightly than individuals “as fully fleshed out as they would be in any other story.”
Her pals are seeing her absolutely fleshed out in her personal life, too.
“I loved her before, but there’s just this extra level of comfort now,” mentioned Anya Schiffrin, a media scholar at Columbia who first met Ms. Chua in Southeast Asia within the early 1990s. Ms. Schiffrin mentioned she was delighted Ms. Chua was prepared to speak about her experiences.
“All of this talking about her personal life and her feelings is really a new thing for all of us,” she mentioned, including: “We have a few friends whose kids are transitioning, and she’s said she’s happy to talk to them.”
As New York City continues to reopen, Ms. Chua is getting ready for a return to the Reuters workplace in July amid vital modifications: A new job and a brand new public id. It would require some adaptation — a talent she sees as obligatory for the media enterprise as an entire.
“We’re getting closer to rethinking what stories are about, who they are for, or what matters,” she mentioned. “And I think that’s driven in some part by the audience changing and the way stories are being distributed. There are many more avenues for people to call out stories that they feel are lacking.”