Saturday, June 20, 2015

LGBT Pride Month: T is for transgender

by Nani Lawrence, Writing Intern

Surprise, surprise, not everyone’s a fan of change. Oftentimes, those disgusted that queer people exist intersect with those that disparage the concept of LGBT Pride. Sometimes, even allies are against it. The argument is that it divides society into “us” versus “them.” True, lately, LGB people are more “out and proud” after a long struggle. The largely forgotten “t,”--the transgender community--now has popular support and visibility within mainstream media.   On June 8th, Becoming Us premiered on ABC Family. The show is primarily about a young man named Ben and how he deals with his father’s transition.

Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP
In the first episode, Ben’s father, now “Carly,” was in transition. She began hormones a few years prior, while she and Ben’s mother were still married. Carly reveals to Ben that she is getting bottom surgery. His girlfriend, Danielle, is dealing with her own father’s transition as well. Perhaps with quite a bit more understanding than Ben, but she’s helping him get there. With the help of his friends and family, Ben slowly learns to accept his “Dad/Mom” for everything she is.

Trans Pride Flag
Elsewhere, everyone knows about Caitlyn Jenner. You are either sick of hearing about her or heartened that the civilized world accepts her. The link to the Kardashians is troubling to some, and even inspires skepticism. A Texas woman by the name of Jennifer Bradford started a petition to revoke the medals Jenner won back in the 1970s, under the guise of truly “supporting the transgender community.” The International Olympics Committee shot down the idea right away, stating “Bruce Jenner won his gold medal in the 1976 Olympic Games and there is no issue for the IOC." Luckily, her accomplishments are not erased because of her transition, but the whole situation arguably proves Jenner’s intent. There are many other comparatively low-risk ways to get attention. Why would she put herself through all of this?

Another inspiration to transgender people everywhere made news recently, too. Laverne Cox is the first trans-person to have a wax figure at Madam Tussauds in San Francisco. With the release of season three of Orange is the New Black, Cox’s star gets brighter by the day.

Cox shared her support for Miss Jenner via her official Tumblr account, appropriately, the first week of June. Cox stated that she must agree about how gorgeous Jenner looks, but what ”is most beautiful about her is her heart and soul, the ways she has allowed the world into her vulnerabilities.”
Cox gained prominence after the first season of Orange is the New Black streamed on Netflix in 2013. Since then, she has been a very vocal supporter for her community. Having someone as established as she speak out on issues and support her fellow trans-community members is an inspiration. However, even she acknowledges the limits of her fame.

. . . in certain lighting, at certain angles I am able to embody certain cisnormative beauty standards. Now, there are many trans folks because of genetics and/or lack of material access who will never be able to embody these standards. More importantly many trans folks don’t want to embody them and we should be seen as ourselves and respected as ourselves…. Most trans folks don’t have the privileges Caitlyn and I now have. It is those trans folks we must continue to lift up, get them access to healthcare, jobs, housing, safe streets, safe schools and homes for our young people.

Seeing transgender people and understanding why they are the way they are, especially in mainstream media, is probably one of the best ways to achieve equality. Trans-individuals still face many hardships today, just as anyone not born straight and white. The sickening events of the past few days—and the past few years-- have shown us that race relations and equality after several centuries of struggle remains a struggle. It will still be a very long road, full of mostly heartbreak and small victories. But at least the transgender community is breaking ground in a pretty big way.


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