Transgender people in the media: Anti-trans women bias?

I haven’t touched much on transgender issues so far in this blog, but recently there have been three interesting pieces.

The first is a story on ABC News, I Want to Be Seen as Male, about a transgender (female to male) teenager, Jeremy and his process and struggles around transitioning. I thought it was a (surprisingly) thoughtful piece.

The second is a short film, Mookey’s Story: A Transgender Journey,  that has been entered into the VC Filmfest in Southern California, also about a transgender (female to male) person and his transition. It’s good to see trans people of color being discussed and highlighted as well.

It’s important to note that these stories–which represent trans people in a mostly positive and humanistic light (yay!)–are both about trans MEN (female to male). Trans activist and writer Julia Serano, author of the upcoming book Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity, has written some really interesting stuff about the representation of trans women (male to female) and I think this is another example of her theories about how most depictions of trans women in the media are negative (like trans women prostitutes) and focus a lot on their appearance (particularly the act of getting dressed or putting on make-up).

A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity

The most recent example of trans women being represented in the media is the NY Times video and article about a shelter for homeless transgender youth in Queens, NY. While not an entirely negative depiction, it does paint these women in a light which emphasizes their difficult pasts: broken homes, sexual abuse and drug problems. A very stark contrast to the seemingly well-adjusted trans men in the first two pieces.  

Is this just another reflection of sexism? There has been some discussion around the idea of trans male privilege (that by living and identifying as men, trans men achieve some level of male privilege), and this seems as if it could be related. I also think that people are more frightened by the idea of men giving up their male privilege to become women than the idea of women wanting to be men, leading to what could be called trans woman phobia. Just some thoughts.


2 thoughts on “Transgender people in the media: Anti-trans women bias?

  1. hkornst1 May 17, 2007 / 5:12 pm

    Serano is speaking at Modern Times on Valencia soon! Did you tell me that or just tell me about her? Anywho, I’m really excited to go!

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