Welcome to my blog everyone! My name is Sirene Katerina. I live in San Antonio, Texas United States. My family and I migrated here in the States for almost 10 years. I am an immigrant and a trans woman. In the past, and even up to this day, I have faced multiple adversity as a trans woman. The common stereotype that women like me get from people are that we are all prostitutes, drag queens, and severely mentally ill people. The generalization that is often bestowed upon women like me is that we are just “men in wigs” or “men in dresses.” These stereotypes and generalization started because of the media portrayal of girls like me. Cisgender actors are the ones being casted to play a transgender character. So, this resulted with the public thinking that one is a transgender once he/she just throw on a wig, or wear a red lipstick. When it is not the case, I have transitioned medically and socially. I did not just wake up one day, throw on a wig and say that I am a trans woman. I have always felt it since the very day I could remember. For decades, cis people have been cast in trans roles that range from the sympathetic to wildly offensive. Still, in looking back at the evolution of trans roles on the big screen, it’s clear that it’s time to offer trans people opportunities beyond Tangerine and A Fantastic Woman.
Transgender representation is something that is truly lacking in media and transgender characters are often portrayed in a stereotypical and harmful manner. In the few cases there is a transgender character is mainstream media, there is a large chance that the actor playing the character is cisgender. Actors are applauded for “bravely” undertaking the role of portraying a trans person, while actual transgender actors are looked over and ignored. According to Dr. Matthew Kridel who specialises in LGBTQ psychology, poor attempts at representing members of the LGBTQ community leads to “feelings of isolation, shame, and stigmatization for LGBTQ viewers.”
Due to poorly researched and stereotypical portrayals, transgender people are vulnerable to the stereotypes they see and internalise it. Doubts about whether their queerness is valid arise when the only representation they see filled with misconceptions and stereotypes.
Transgender Representation In Hollywood
Hollywood has a problematic habit of reinforcing the myth that trans women are not “real women” by casting men to play the roles of trans women. By taking cis-gender male actors like Eddie Redmayne, Matt Bomer and Jared Leto and putting them in wigs and makeup and calling them trans women, they imply that trans women are actually just men playing a part.
The star Josie Totah known for starring in Moxie stated that “we need to stop awarding white cis straight men for putting on a wig and make up and acting trans.” She brought up how it is “imperative” that trans people get the opportunity to play trans roles and and that cis-gender people should take a step back.
After the casting of Matt Bomer as a trans woman in the film Anything was revealed, the director of GLAAD Transgender Media Program Nick Adams stated that “It’s yet another painful reminder that, in the eyes of so many people, transgender women are really just men.”
There is also the issue that films tend to focus on the impact of a trans persons coming out on the people around them instead of focusing on the trans person. Instead of having meaningful transgender representation, films choose to not focus on the trans character while applauding themselves for their progressiveness. In the film The Danish Girl, where Eddie Redmayne plays the trans woman Lili, the film focuses on Gerda, Lili’s wife and how she feels she lost her ‘husband’. The emotional and social struggle faced by Lili herself are ignored even though the film is supposed to be about her life.
What Should Be Done?
Using trans characters as the butt of the joke or for the character development for others is not the transgender representation the trans community is striving for. It is clear that trans characters in mainstream media are portrayed to be seen through eyes of cis-gender people. Actual members of the transgender community are not consulted or even thought of when a series or movie is produced.
Transgender representation can only improve if more transgender people are involved in the writing, producing, and acting process of a film or series. Trans people know best what type of representation is offensive and can harm the trans community in the long run. At the very least, the people involved in the film or series need to listen to what is being told to them by the trans community. Ignoring constructive criticism while insisting that the film/series is progressive and groundbreaking for their transgender representation is dishonest.
I am Sirene, and I am hoping for a world where media portrays trans women accurately. That we are not men in wigs, we are women. We can do great things and contribute to the society. A lot of us are professors, lawyers, doctors, and many more respected professions. Thanks for reading my blog.