Trans people are finally starting to break through to the mainstream public in a fairly big way. Media is taking notice, and more trans people, both real and fictional, are seeing the spotlight.
Every once in awhile a really good, positive role model steps out and breaks through. Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox comes to mind. She fights the oppression keeping trans people down, turns interviewers’ rude questions back on them, and still remains feminine and popular. Laura Jane Grace, singer for the folk punk band Against Me! is transitioning in the public eye, and rocking it. A personal role model of mine, she came out with an album about the trans experience that won’t be soon matched. A full CD of trans anthem after trans anthem.
But for every Laverne and every Laura, are a hundred jokes with trans people at the butt. A hundred trans people being misrepresented, stereotyped, and disrespected by cis TV writers and magazine reporters, from Bruce Jenner being outed and mocked before Jenner decided to say anything about their gender (including a belittling picture of Jenner posted by the cisgender writer of the show Transparent on her facebook page), to the cliche stereotypes and glossing over important moments that could have been so much more effective on Transparent in favor of dysfunctional family drama. Under the guise of acceptance we’re still being stereotyped and pigeonholed, and trans actors still don’t get to play transgender roles like they should.
And then the are still the “she used to be a man” punchlines in almost every popular sitcom. And those normalize that kind of joke for others. Not three weeks ago we had a temp at work, and a coworker (who knows I’m trans, and even uses the right pronouns) told him a joke. I didn’t catch it, but I caught the punchline (she whipped out her… ) and the other guy’s reaction (hahahaha cause she’s a tranny!). And I was too upset to do anything but walk away to be alone for a minute. I don’t know if he thought the subject of his joke wasn’t the same as me out of ignorance, or that those kinds of jokes are just so part of comedy that it’s acceptable to tell, even with a transgender person across the room.
Until trans people stop being treated as a joke, being trans will be perceived negatively. Until cis people stop trying to tell trans people what we should find offensive instead of asking, we will always be a lower class. Reading the comments at the bottom of an article having to do with anything trans related from mainstream sources is like a highway pileup. You know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help yourself. And then you see exactly what you knew you would – and it’s never pretty. Here’s a drinking game for you – click on some comments, and every time you read the word “it” in relation to a person, drink. Every time you read the word “freak,” or “pervert,” drink. Every time someone comments on biology or chromosomes, drink. Every time a supporter gets accused of being trans or trans people get called ugly or compared to an animal, drink. Someone threatening violence if a trans person ever “tricks” them, drink. If you’re not in the hospital with alcohol poisoning by page 2…
So if we want anything to change, we have to call out trans jokes. Call out sexism. Call out biology-centered gender ideologies. Stop being ashamed about our trans brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and friends and family and co-workers and say something when you hear someone misgendering them or making jokes.
When a piece of who you are is attacked, you have to fight like a grrrl. Progress won’t be stopped by people who still think gender is binary.
Update: I ordered some she/her/hers pronoun buttons the other day, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with them. I’m thinking of asking my night boss if i can wear it to avoid being aggressively misgendered like I was the other week. A woman with a special needs teenager came in, and the woman instructed her to “give your money to the guy.” I was obviously presenting female, and she even looked at my Natalie name tag.
“that’s a girl,”the daughter said. I smiled, but it didn’t last.
“No it isn’t, that’s a guy.”
“But her hair is in braids…”
“It’s a guy. That’s just his style.”
But I’m afraid if I have to declare my pronouns, it will feel less legitimate, and possibly draw more negative feedback by less than accepting people. But I guess that’s the cost of living your own way, sometimes. At least that way I get to declare who I am in no uncertain terms, and not have an identity forced on me.
I also saw my ex for the first time since we broke up. And it was good. Really good. There were awkward spots, but not too awkward. Mostly, it felt like trying to get to know her again. A cross between when we first met and what we already know about each other now. And I wasn’t sad that she left right then, i was happy she is still in my life and that whatever we lost has a chance to turn into something different now.