Trans Rep in Media

Trans Rep in Media

Now seems as good a time to talk about this as any, as in the past month there have been several video games released with trans character, which has rekindled a conversation that never really dies, but sometimes burns low.

TRANS PEOPLE DESERVE AUTHENTIC REPRESENTATION IN MEDIA. 

I’ve talked about this before, when I write specifically about casting cis folk as trans characters. This is something more than that, this is about the trans characters themselves.

In regards to the video game representations, Laura Dale uses her considerable knowledge to discuss them, and I would recommend reading the article linked above. She details what the games actually did, so spoilers, and discusses why these are problematic/encouraging for trans people.

For the record, I’ve been on the trans girl Link wagon for years, because the idea of Link being a kickass girl just out to save her best friend is much more appealing to me than yet another boy with destiny getting the princess. I know it has been stated by the developers that Link is a boy, but considering there are multiple timelines and multiple Links, I am gonna keep my headcannon, thanks.

In tv and films we’re still having the same problems I wrote about before: trans actors being overlooked, trans characters having to have a tragic backstory, or being abused/murdered for storyline. We get that not all trans folk are the same, and there are multiple stories to be told, but can they stop being so miserable? Some trans people are able to adapt their lives and live quite happily. And please stop painting us all as mentally-ill weirdos: cis people have mental illnesses too, you don’t let it define their whole being.

Says a lot when one of the best known and well remembered trans characters is one from a soap who was killed off years ago. Yes Hayley Cropper was played by a cis woman, but she was treated respectfully, and whilst she died is had nothing to do with her being trans. I don’t even watch Coronation Street, and I still knew that she was treated like every other woman on the show. So that’s something.

I’d also like to be able to say those of us who dabble in literature are getting better at trans representation, but we’re falling down there too. Books seem to fall a lot into the same traps as films, where writers feel they need to wring every emotion out of a character that they can, and so our trans characters once more are tragic figures, plagued by abuse, mental illness and supposed loving partners who can’t be arsed getting their name and gender right.

And so much of this can be solved really easily: TALK TO ACTUAL TRANS PEOPLE. Like I’ve said many times before on this blog, and on twitter, being trans is a big part of my identity, but it is because I have made it so. I let it shape my thinking and how I present myself because we need good trans rep. I’m not perfect, but I do my best. I started this blog to get information out there because there weren’t the resources when I was young. I would have killed for a novel that showed a trans character in a positive light.

I would have loved to have seen a trans boy who’s biggest worry was his dog lay on him and put his leg to sleep. Because this happens to me 9 evenings out of 10. It doesn’t matter what your gender or sexuality, a dead leg from 20+ kilos of staffy causes all sorts of problems.

That’s the biggest takeaway from all this: that trans people are just people. We have all the same problems cis people have, just plus a few more. We don’t spend 100% of our time worrying about passing and appeasing cis people because we also have to think about our jobs, homes, caring for ourselves, our families, all the things cis people do to get through life too. It’s not that there are times I forget I’m trans, it’s more there are times when other problems take precedence, and honestly, I’d like to see more of that in media.

I’m doing my little bit, but it would be nice to see more people step up and take their turn.

Advertisements
Trans vs Cis

Trans vs Cis

I’m going to start this post with a couple of statements. I will qualify them as we go on.

  • Trans women are women
  • Trans men are men
  • Saying trans folk are their gender does not erase cis people

There’s been a bit of an uproar this week after Chimamanda Adichie was asked to speak on trans women despite not being trans herself, and royally screwed it up. I’m not going to link to it, as it’s had a lot of air time and frankly depresses me, but in essence she refused to acknowledge that trans women are women.

Some people may point out that she actually said “trans women are trans women”, a statement which is factual, but also others trans women, by refusing to acknowledge their womanhood. It makes the statement that trans women are always different, and always will be, which is the attitude certain right wing politicians use to justify their bathroom bills.

I also don’t buy the “well, she obviously didn’t mean it like that” defence, because Adichie is a writer, and knew exactly what she was saying.

This post isn’t about examining Adichie’s feminism though, as there are breakdowns of what was said and why it sucks from people way more qualified than me. (It shouldn’t need said, but don’t read the comments.)

What I am going to discuss is why the statement that “trans men/women are trans men/women” is so dangerous.

Way back when I started this blog, I talked about passing, indeed, the name of the blog is a play on the fact I don’t. Passing becomes “important” when it is expected that trans men and women will do their absolute best to assimilate with our cis peers. However, this usually comes with the unspoken caveat that we will make sure we disclose our trans status the moment we meet someone, or we will be accused of lying.

Fuck this double standard.

Trans people don’t transition for attention, or on a whim, or because we have pushy parents who wanted a child of a different gender, or whatever bullshit the bigots will trot out every time they’re asked to consider mental health and general health services for trans people. We transition to finally feel comfortable in our own bodies, and to be able to go about our lives.

Contrary to my ramblings on twitter, not every trans person wants their lives to revolve around being trans. I am proudly queer af, but some people just want to transition and quietly get on with their lives. Forcing them to constantly confront the fact they are trans actively stops this.

It gives legislators reason to deny us access to things as simple as bathrooms. It gives companies the chance to discriminate in their hiring processes. It increases the amount of violence and instances of murder the trans community faces. And trans women so much more than trans men: we can grow a beard and slip past unnoticed, but there is so much pressure put on cis women to appear flawless and this is magnified a million times on trans women.

And yes, absolutely the experiences of trans folx are different to that of their cis counterparts. We are not denying that. Neither are we saying our experiences erase those of cis people. We are just asking to be acknowledged.

We’re just asking to be allowed to live in peace.

Which brings it back to Adichie, and this time the non-apology she posted in the aftermath. There was one statement that stood out from the rest, than when paraphrased reads “trans women were socialised male, and that means they had male privilege growing up”.

DO WE NEED TO HAVE THE PRIVILEGE CONVERSATION AGAIN?

That aside, trans women grow up in the same environment with everyone else, where we see ridiculous beauty standards and women dragged for gaining the tiniest amount of weight whilst on holiday. They grow up in that environment the same as cis women, and whilst the vitriol may not be immediately directed at them, it does an even more insidious evil: it shows trans women from an early age why they won’t be accepted for who they truly are, because really, if cis women can’t achieve the standards society demands, how can they?

Society needs to sort it’s shit out.

Lastly, Adichie is well-known for being an outspoken feminist, which is likely why she was asked to comment on the first place, as trans rights often fall under the feminism umbrella. And here in lies the problem: feminism must be intersectional, or it is bullshit.

We are not asking everyone to be experts on trans issues, or gender identity as a whole, or sexuality since that often gets lumped in with gender issues. All we are asking that people accept the identities we are presenting. And funny thing, you don’t have to understand something fully to respect it. I don’t understand the science behind sending a shuttle into space, but I accept that they frequently send folks up to the ISS. That acceptance is easy, and if you’re scared of misspeaking, there are plenty of trans voices out there to learn from.

So to recap:

Trans women are women.

Trans men are men.

Non-binary folx are perfectly valid.

Feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit.

Trans deaths

Trans deaths

[TW death, violence, transphobia, abuse]

So far this year, in the U.S. we have lost 6 trans folks. 2 this week alone in New Orleans, 3 this week, and 5 trans women of colour this year.

It is the 3rd of March at time of posting this.

in 2017 there were 27 reported trans murders, almost all of them people of colour, and a large majority black trans women.

This is fucking atrocious.

And I’m not here to say that trans deaths hold more weight than anyone else, but statistically the number of trans people who will be abused, sexually assaulted, die by suicide or murdered is astonishingly high.

It is because we are not normalised.

We are still treated like freaks at the best of times, and as less than human at the worst. And the heartbreaking thing is, the statistics I’ve quoted above is for trans folks who are correctly identified in death. We don’t know the true number of trans folks who are buried under the wrong name and gender.

So when trans people seem angry, or we always seem to be grieving, this is why. Don’t tell us to toughen up and get on with it, don’t belittle our experiences. I know as a white trans guy I am in much less danger than my black trans sisters, but I mourn them and fear for them just the same.

It’s time we stop seeing these shocking and wasteful deaths, and get to celebrate trans lives for a change.

Words as Violence

Words as Violence

[TW misgendering, slurs]

Words have meaning, and words have power.

The things you say may seem innocuous to you, but they can have devastating effects on others.

For example: calling me a woman when I am not is really fucking horrible. Especially if I gently correct you, and you shout back that you know better than me.

Words like that are violence, and can do more lasting damage than any physical attack.

There’s the obvious things, like “jokes” about trannies, actively refusing to use a trans person’s pronouns or name, outing them to others without permission.

But there are more insidious ways of causing damage.

The making a huge deal every time a trans friend gently reminds you that you’ve gotten something wrong, making out like you’re an awful person, or that they’re a burden for making you have to remember this oh so difficult thing.

The talking over your friend as though you’re more of an expert about their life than they are.

The refusal to do your own research, and constantly using your friend for emotional labour and teaching moments.

Not that your friend doesn’t want you to ask questions and learn more about them. Of course we do, but you need to do it in a respectful way.

Some trans folks are lucky, they know they are trans from a young age and are given full support from their families. Some of us have literal decades of battling with our own sense of identity and internalised bigotry taught by our parents. It takes a long time to unpack, and can be traumatic.

You can’t always tell when trans person has had which upbringing.

So be kind. Think before you speak. Your words may do more damage than you realise.

Shifting Identities

Shifting Identities

So I didn’t get the draft of the sex ed presentation written up like I had planned. Not because it was too much work, or I couldn’t find the words, but because talking about it with friends at Queerfest at the weekend opened up a whole bunch of things about my identity I didn’t know were there. So I’m going to use this to examine some of them instead.

Way back last year, not long after I had started this blog, I wrote a piece about coming out as Theo. In that I spoke about using genderqueer for a while before coming out as trans.

The thing is, I never stopped using genderqueer, and now more than ever it feels apt.

The very first post I wrote on this blog is about passing, and how gender is a spectrum. The most important part of that being that people often move back and forward along this spectrum. And this appears to be where I’m at.

It started when I was at Queerfest, and we had a conversation about what counts as masculine. There’s obviously the stereotypes, but it turns out there are a whole different set of expectations with trans guys.

And I really don’t fit many of them.

This isn’t something that worries me, I’ve said before I’m quite happy messing with peoples’ expectations and being a bit odd, but it is affecting the way I’m thinking about myself internally.

Outwardly it just means I’m using they/them pronouns again, and waffling away on this blog about it. Internally, well, that might take a bit more time to sort out.

All I know for certain at this point is I am certainly more towards the masculine end of the spectrum. I am just about to order another dress for a party, so take from that what you will.

More research needed!

Sex Ed

Sex Ed

Further to LGBT+ History Month, I’m giving a repeat airing to this post from my now defunct blog, with the presentation I talk about at the end to come next week. Because of the nature of this blog, it will likely revolve around trans identities and how that affects sexuality, so watch this space. 

So, further to my little rant on twitter earlier (edit: read last year), here is a space to get a little more in depth on what I was talking about. I will try and mark my sources where possible.

(Please note I can only talk for the Scottish education system, as that is the system I came through. It may vary elsewhere.)

I left school in 2007, which may as well have been a lifetime ago, given how much the new Curriculum for Excellence has changed things up. Given also that same-sex marriage is now a fully legal thing in Scotland, there have been steps forward in terms of sex education. But it still feels like there needs to be more.

When I was in school, probably 3rd and 4th year, so 2003-5, sex ed, whilst mentioning LGBT+ individuals in passing, was still very much focused on cishet vanilla sex.

Some definitions – cishet: cisgender heterosexual. Someone who’s gender identity aligns with their physical gender, and is attracted to people of the opposite gender. This accounts for a large majority of the population.

Vanilla sex: straight forward sex. No kinks, no BDSM or the like, just mutual masturbation and vaginal penetration. It is important to note at this point that most definitions of vanilla sex do not include anal play.

So far, not too much wrong with the curriculum then. It deals with sex that the majority of the population will have, and at a level that teenagers will still find experimental, as it is the first time they have had sex. And that’s fine; I am not advocating for full BDSM workshops in schools, that would be ridiculous and likely dangerous. No, I’m calling more inclusivity.

As I said above, LGBT+ individuals were mentioned in passing. And by that I mean it was mentioned that some people are gay, some lesbian, some bisexual, and then we moved on to the pregnancy stuff. That was it. No real mention of trans people either, as far as they were concerned non-binary gender identities didn’t exist, and it was only by doing our own research that my best mate and I were able to define my sexual identity as Pansexual.

Given the rising visibility of those of us outside the majority gender and sexual identities, it is a little sad that we aren’t mentioned more in these classes. That sexual practices beyond vaginal penetration aren’t mentioned. And again I am not saying that teens need an in-depth lecture on anal, but they do need to know the safety precautions. Teens will experiment, I hope they do, so they can find out what they like and don’t like, and they need to be able to do it safely.

They are trying: there is a draft copy of an updated sex ed curriculum available here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0043/00434767.pdf

The last update on the draft was 2014 though, and there is no info available as to whether this has been implemented in schools. It is something I am going to dig into, and hopefully I will be able to come up with some answers.

I plan at some point to put together a mock lesson plan for a 45 minute presentation on queer identities and sexual practices. Not that I think anyone would actually use it, but because I think it may be useful in highlighting just what is missing from the current system. Watch this space.

LGBT+ History Month

LGBT+ History Month

So this month is LGBT+ History Month.

It’s falling in a time where by merely existing we are performing a radical act, and by speaking out we’re causing a revolution.

Let’s keep that momentum going.

There are hashtags on twitter such as #LGBTHM17 and #LGBTheritage that you should check out, there will be lots of folks posting important pieces there. Do take the time to look for info on twitter, because even if you don’t fall under the LGBT+ umbrella, you should know these things.

There are various events going on around the world too, look out for ones near you, and if you believe you can attend, do. Again, if you’re not LGBT+ yourself make sure you voice doesn’t drown out the voices of those who are, but do go to these events.

Pay attention, because if you can’t do it this month when we are literally screaming it from the rooftops, we can’t trust you to do it the rest of the year.

These are scary times though: various governments are doing their best to ensure LGBT+ folks get their rights revoked, and we all need safety and comfort. Make sure you don’t put your friends in dangerous situations, be there to comfort them even if you don’t fully understand the struggle, and educate yourself. This last one is important, because whilst this fight is going on and in a month where a lot of painful history is brought up to remind us where we’ve come from, chances are your friends are going to be too exhausted to teach you.

Besides, you’re adults, use a damn search engine.

It’s a month of learning and resistance. You’ll find me down on the front lines.