Media Depiction of Trans People
by Avery Dame on Sociological Images
Media depictions of trans people (almost entirely produced by non-trans individuals) tend to be fascinated by bodies. Since the (presumed) inappropriately gendered body is automatically monstrous, weird — or at the very least, available to be gawked at — the accessibility of trans bodies becomes a feature of their depiction.
A big thread that runs through most visual media depictions is a fixation on stripping trans people naked, implying the naked body as “true” ……
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I have so many thoughts about this article I can’t possibly cram them into one post. But I find it particularly frustrating/interesting to look at the comments on this post. There folks try to argue that the sole (or justifiable) reason for these representations is that “the trans experience” itself is heavily focused on the body.
And I don’t mean to undermine the reality that for many of us trans* folks, our bodies are something that we, ourselves, are fixated on. However, the intense and deeply problematic cisgender media focus on our bodies does not produce a reflection of our collective and various experiences.
Though we may sometimes find ourselves in these narratives, these are not narratives that in any way represent the rich complexity of trans* lives. What they represent is a morbid cisgender fascination with trans bodies and the “process of transition.” What they represent is that cisgender fascination can sell out box offices, but it can’t (apparently) provide housing or medical care to trans* peoples.
And even when we are offering self-representation that focuses on our bodies, our transitional experiences, etc. it’s fucking complicated. As trans* people we have been taught for generations and generations that there are particular ways we have to tell our stories in order to gain recognition from our families, our medical care providers, the world at large and even each other.
That is not to say that we never have any agency in the way we tell our stories. However it is important to also be conscious of the patterns of story-telling in our communities and the multiple forces that have shaped their particular rhythm.
I learned how to tell the stories of my queerness and my transness. I learned how to tell linear stories that began with me chucking my barbie out of my bedroom window and end with me working towards testosterone and top surgery. I learned how to tell stories that ultimately obscured my truths while turning my trans* experience into something other people could swallow and/or recognize. I learned to see my life through this particular framework of trans* identity that fully and accurately accounts for the experiences of only a handful of trans* folks.
Anyway, my point is just this: There are very few mainstream representations of trans* folks. And these representations, often put forth by cisgender people, focus on a very limited part of our experiences. I don’t think that this is accurate or liberating in any way and I will always be pushing for more and better media representation that covers the great expanse of our experiences and that does not reflect the cisgender fetishization of trans bodies.