The trans* film canon is not overwhelming. Most people cannot name more than a couple films: maybe Boys Don’t Cry or the more recent Albert Nobbs. Every community yearns to be presented in media, but often trans* films are either exceedingly sad or not good representations of the community. I wanted to bring trans* films and media into Exploring Gender to expand our knowledge of our own culture.
Many people do not know what transgender means. In the fight for gay and lesbian rights, visibility has driven a lot of the changes we have seen. The presence of gay and lesbian characters on television and the willingness of celebrities to be open with their sexuality has created normalcy where before there was fear. And though there is still a lot of fear centered around the community, there are shows like Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, and Pretty Little Liars write characters who, despite sometimes extreme circumstances, are real, just living their lives as who they are. These characters are not just gays or lesbians. They are people, and their sexuality is simply a part of who they are. The trans* community needs more visibility.
Late night television is a good escape for many of us who want to catch the news in a funny way while also seeing some of our favorite actors and musicians either talk about their work or perform. The hosts duke it out with their monologues, trying for the funniest jokes to gain an audience in a timeslot when many are already asleep. But with humor, where must you draw the line between funny and offensive?
Documentaries are a great way to come to new information, whether about life, science, or gender. They create, in the time of about an hour or more, a look into a specific subject using different methods: interviews, the following of a subject, intriguing graphics, and multiple other approaches. Recently, I have watched a couple of gender documentaries, Genderf*kation: A Gender Emancipation and Gender Redesigner.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a trans* character on Glee, Unique. I expressed concern about how the creators were going to handle the presentation of Unique’s storyline and how realistic it would appear because despite Glee’s track record of presenting those who in other outlets are underrepresented, sometimes the verisimilitude of these storylines can be sadly lacking. I was hoping Unique’s storyline would follow the more realistic story of Santana coming out to her grandmother, who was not accepting. Unfortunately, most people who come out do not receive a welcoming reception from family, so to present the situation in such a way more realistically depicted coming out, which is one of the most daunting things people in the LGBTQ* community face. We need representation in the media to allow people from without the community to see what it is really like to be a part of the community. Creating that connection can help us in steps toward equality.
I have watched Glee since its beginnings. A show with musical performances each episode and Lea Michele from Spring Awakening, the soundtrack which gets played the most on my iTunes, sounded amazing. I got pulled in by the characters, the storylines, and the music. The show has had its ups and downs, but Ryan Murphy, the show’s creator, has created an outlet for all kinds of different people. Most shows do not have average looking people, gays or lesbians, or individuals with disabilities. And now a trans* character has also been introduced to the mix.