I’ll leave what this author has written to sum up my feelings about: (1) The media’s role in representing trans* people; (2) Laverne Cox’s recent appearance on Time.
Though I still stand behind my other statements regarding the video to Arcade Fire’s “We Exist”, I do not agree AT ALL with what the lead singer had said about the video. It seems that no matter how much faith I place in some folks to ‘get it right,’ they continually let me down. It is about dialogue, and being responsible for that dialogue–and bearing upon the truth of what representations we allow to enter into discourse. And admitting that these representations must not exploit old tropes, or enjoin new ones. In the very least, that video has sparked quite the tempest on a number of trans* advocate FB pages (Trans* March in particular).
See the piece to which I am referring here, but this quote sums it up for me.
Each time the media fails so massively in reporting on trans people,advocates remind them that they already have style guides in place, and that organizations like Glaad provide glossaries that can easily give them the basics on trans issues. Yet time and again we see the same failures in the press, because far too many people in positions of power in media refuse to accept the existence of trans people and apparently think that, as journalists, they get to decide if our identities are valid or not.
Despite the positive publicity generated Cox’s Time cover, trans women are still fighting for others in media to recognize our basic humanity. And there are very real consequences of this terrible media coverage: the trans community, particularly low-income trans women and trans people of color, face astronomically high rates of discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations; are far too often homeless or incarcerated; and trans women of color are facing a global epidemic of violence.
I would just like to add that although Time made this wonderful decision, the extent to which Laverne’s or Janet Mock’s stories are relatable are being, and should be, challenged. Time also featured a number of other trans leaders and activists, whose stories were less about the ongoing work they are doing and more about the narrative of disempowerment. Dr. Paisley Currah, for example, has been working for years in trans* advocacy, has worked with Dr. Susan Stryker to set up the FIRST scholarly journal for transgender studies–but that isn’t mentioned. Again, representations…talk about epistemic injustices.
Stay tuned for an upcoming piece I plan to write about Lefebrve, and the use of everyday life as a source of not only critique but resistance and agency.