Trans People and the Media   10 comments

Repeated studies have shown that almost every demographic group has lower self esteem immediately after watching television than they did immediately before watching television. The exception to this rule is, of course, white males. That’s one of the ways that the United States is structurally racist and sexist, and that’s also one of the ways that structural racism can hurt people without them even realizing it.

But there are women and people of color on television. The portrayal is negative as often as not, but at least they’re there. Even gay people have gotten to see themselves more on television in the past few years. But portrayals of trans people almost don’t exist. And that matters.

Last night my wife and I read an article about trans young people. There are children that prefer to be a different gender or sex from before school age. Some grow out of this trans preference, but many do not. The article talked about about the hormonal interventions that sometimes take place to make surgery easier once the trans child becomes a legal adult.

At first, I was deeply uncomfortable with this. Some of these drugs actually stop the process of puberty. They halt a child’s physical and even emotional development. And they’re children! How does a six year old know what they want anyway? And then again, I’m just uncomfortable with the idea of trans. I know that this discomfort is stupid and irrational and conditioned by a lifetime of ignorance on my part, but knowing that and actually making the discomfort go away are two different things.

And then something funny happened. The trans kids started talking. They started talking about how they felt. They started talking about what they wanted. They talked about being bullied and being accepted. And at that point, they stopped being trans kids and they just became kids. They were people to me. They had hopes and desires and determination and spunk doubts and fears. And all of my discomfort went away. Because I wasn’t thinking about a child drastically altering their body anymore. Now I was just thinking about people getting what they needed to be happy.

It’s still amazing to me how drastically my feelings changed in the course of a half an hour. That’s why the media is so important to getting help and understanding to the Trans community. I already intellectually understood that the Trans community needs more support and respect than its getting. But on an emotional level I didn’t get that trans were people. Emotionally, I still hadn’t been convinced. Then I got read the words of Trans people. I got to know a Trans person as a person just a little bit. The difference is enormous. We need portrayals of Trans people on television and radio that are more than a punch line. We need it because Trans rights won’t make any headway until the general population can realize that Trans people are people, first and foremost. And that won’t happen until Trans people show up on news shows and TV dramas. It won’t happen until our media pulls its head out of its thoroughly privileged butt and starts giving a voice to marginalized people.


This is my first post that focuses mainly on Trans issues. I imagine it’s glaringly obvious that I’m new to this. I don’t know any trans people personally, and I’m not really plugged into any online Trans community. But I think this is a real human rights issue, so I’d really like to be able to talk about it without being more problematic than helpful. If anyone has any suggestions for how I can talk about trans issues better, you would be doing me a favor by letting me know. Thanks.

Also also, it should be clear from the posts, but if you don’t know about Trans issues, don’t stop with reading this post. Read the words of actual Trans people who know more than I do and who deserve to be represented to you as themselves. Hearing about their issues in their own voices will make them more like people to you, and I can’t express how large a difference that makes.


Posted 07/25/2012 by reluctantliberal in Generic Post

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10 responses to “Trans People and the Media

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  1. I agree that proper representation in the media is a needed piece to understanding, however, it also takes motivation of the part of people to want to learn.

    The best thing I can suggest is to search WordPress using key words such as: Transgender, MtF, FtM, and Gender. Read blogs written by Transgender people, get to know their stories, their thoughts, hopes and dreams. Take the time to search the internet for websites using the same key words, (though do so with caution as Google can bring up some truly ugly things).

    You can also look at LGBT blogs and sites as some of them discuss Transgender issues.

    Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to educate yourself on these issues, we need more people like yourself out there.

    Kira A. Moore

  2. Pingback: Repost: Some Trans People Blogs « Reluctant Liberal

  3. Thank you for being open to listening and learning AND encouraging others to do the same. One of the most basic forms of human communication is storytelling. We put our children to bed at night with stories; we share history and mythology through stories; even our conversations are exchanges of “well, lemme tell you what happened to me …” As more transpeople share their stories, the more the larger community will have a chance to hear the authentic voices of transpeople and hopefully see that at the end of the day, we’re just people.

    • I agree. I actually became a history major for the stories. Granted, the stories I usually deal with are a bit more specific and dry than most, but they’re still stories. Once I got into history. I realized that the stories, once you go deep enough, are mostly stories about people. Even big national histories are just stories about really wealthy/powerful people who make really terrible and self serving decisions.

      Anyway, I’m with you on the sharing stories thing. Some people are willfully ignorant, but most just don’t know any better. Stories can get around that better than anything I know.

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