Thought Catalog: The Trouble With Depicting Trans People

Transgender women are most commonly represented in two areas of media: comedies and documentaries. We’re nearly omnipresent in mainstream humor — practically any half-hour of Comedy Central is guaranteed to contain at least one joke about us, and almost all sitcoms and late night talk shows will eventually get around to making some sort of “tranny” references.

In some instances, we’re shown to be hairy, hulking men in ill-fitting dresses, the very image inviting mockery. At other times, the “humor” comes from a cis man (quick lesson: “cis” means all you folks who aren’t trans) initially recognizing a woman as a woman, and reacting poorly to the discovery that she’s “really a man” — the notion that someone could take her gender history in stride is just unthinkable. Viewers apparently see no need to reconcile the vastly different assumptions underlying the immediately apparent man-in-a-dress and the indiscernible just-another-woman. We can be both repulsively masculine and yet feminine enough to satisfy the well-trained eyes of male heterosexuals, both deluded caricatures of womanhood and also stunning enough to seduce men who would never see us coming.

A supposed remedy to these insulting stereotypes is provided in the form of documentaries about us, almost universally focusing on the process of physically transitioning — as cis people see it. Shots of women doing their makeup, putting on dresses, being wheeled into an operating room and having their bodies cut open are so cliche that they’ve become the subject of their own drinking game. These documentaries are presented as a factual corrective to the overt derision of comedy, offering cis audiences the apparent moral salve of compassion and understanding for trans people. Yet just as in the case of comedy, this is again filtered through cis people’s perceptions of us – cis writers, cis reporters, cis producers. It’s merely the other, more insidious side of the same coin.

If the most effective lies are those mixed with some truths, there is no better demonstration of this than trans documentaries.


If you’d like to read the rest of my article on trans representation in media, please continue to The Trouble With Depicting Trans People, my first post for Thought Catalog.

Thought Catalog: The Trouble With Depicting Trans People

I'll be in Baltimore next week for the US v. Manning trial

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with these developments, I was recently subpoenaed to testify at the court martial of Private Bradley Manning. Manning is accused of releasing classified documents to WikiLeaks, and I’ve been called as a witness due to a series of conversations I had with Manning throughout 2009. All of our chat logs have already been published, so I’m not quite sure what they intend to ask me about, but it’s really not a big deal. It’s more of an inconvenience than anything, and I’m going to have to stay in Baltimore from July 6th to the 13th. I believe I’m supposed to testify that Monday, but I’m not certain on this. In any case, I’ll be stuck in a hotel by myself in a city I’ve never been to, so I’m going to have plenty of free time for just about anything. Lots of videos every day? Marathon live shows? I really have no idea.

By the way, members of the public can actually attend the proceedings at Fort Meade and sit in the courtroom throughout the day. There are instructions for this on BradleyManning.org. If any of you want to be there for this, that would be really cool. If not, the Freedom of the Press Foundation publishes independent transcripts of the trial at the end of every day, and I’ll be keeping you updated about everything I see. I’m just going to focus on getting through this, and I’ll let you know if anything else happens.

I'll be in Baltimore next week for the US v. Manning trial

I’ll be in Baltimore next week for the US v. Manning trial

For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with these developments, I was recently subpoenaed to testify at the court martial of Private Bradley Manning. Manning is accused of releasing classified documents to WikiLeaks, and I’ve been called as a witness due to a series of conversations I had with Manning throughout 2009. All of our chat logs have already been published, so I’m not quite sure what they intend to ask me about, but it’s really not a big deal. It’s more of an inconvenience than anything, and I’m going to have to stay in Baltimore from July 6th to the 13th. I believe I’m supposed to testify that Monday, but I’m not certain on this. In any case, I’ll be stuck in a hotel by myself in a city I’ve never been to, so I’m going to have plenty of free time for just about anything. Lots of videos every day? Marathon live shows? I really have no idea.

By the way, members of the public can actually attend the proceedings at Fort Meade and sit in the courtroom throughout the day. There are instructions for this on BradleyManning.org. If any of you want to be there for this, that would be really cool. If not, the Freedom of the Press Foundation publishes independent transcripts of the trial at the end of every day, and I’ll be keeping you updated about everything I see. I’m just going to focus on getting through this, and I’ll let you know if anything else happens.

I’ll be in Baltimore next week for the US v. Manning trial