Archive for October 2014
Here at the GLBT National Help Center, we’ve seen a fairly dramatic increase in the number of people who are contacting us to discuss gender identity issues. In 2013, 1 out of 6 of our conversations had to do with that. It’s wonderful that so many more people are reaching out to discuss this.
At the same time, we have seen an increase in an attempt at positive trans visibility within the mainstream media (which basically means from virtually zero visibility to something a little more than that). But within this visibility, we are seeing a trend developing, particularly in the depiction of trans women. Ads for Marriott have featured a glamorous trans woman, the District of Columbia city government has run ads showing two beautiful women, and the cover of Time Magazine did the same.
And while visibility is good, what’s not so good is that we are getting a very one-dimensional view of what a trans person is. In effect, according to these depictions, a trans person to be held up as a role model, and imitated, is one who can absolutely, positively, pass.
And that simply isn’t the reality for many trans people. At least not based on the definition of what passing means to the media. According to this, in fact, you might not even really be transgender until you look unmistakably like the gender you feel. And of course, nothing could be further from the truth.
We’ve seen this same separation happen within other parts of our community before. For lesbians, an “acceptable” person to the mainstream media was a lipstick lesbian. For gay men, it was someone who wasn’t too effeminate, and if you were a gym rat, even better. Outside of our community, the African American community has had to deal with those with “light skin and straight hair” being viewed in a higher social status than those without those traits. This has helped none of us.
So let’s hope that as the transgender community finally is given the visibility it deserves, that we don’t allow others to define us, and determine for us what is considered trans. It diminishes us all.