Is Trans the New Trend?
When an individual is first born society automatically categorizes people based on their sex. According to Merriam Webster, sex is defined as, “either of the two major forms of individuals that occur in many species and that are distinguished respectively as female or male especially on the basis of their reproductive organs and structures”. Society categorizes sex based on the genitalia the individual was born with. However, there has been a code for behavior for each aligned sex for both male and female. This code is called, “gender roles”, and these gender roles in society set the expectation for how individuals are expected to behave, dress, and conduct themselves based upon their assigned sex. For example, women are expected to behave in typically feminine ways by being well-mannered, compassionate, and also nurturing. Unlike their male counterparts, men are generally expected to demonstrate strength, aggression, and be the provider. However, as a heteronormative society, current societal trends often dismiss other groups such as the transgender community.
Often times society confuses the difference between gender and sex. Gender is a more ‘fluid’ expression of how individuals choose to identify themselves. By using the sociology of gender examines how society impacts the perception of differences between masculinity (the acceptable dominant behavior that is distinguished among males) and femininity (the appropriate behavior that society deems for women). Cisgender people are people whose sex and gender align. However, when it applies to transgender members of society have a gender identity that does not match their assigned sex at birth. A transgender’s gender identity is one’s private sense of being a man or a woman but, their internal identity’s do not match with what their sex is attracted to at birth. The transgender community is highly diverse. Some transgender people identify as male or female, but then you have some who identify as genderqueer, nonbinary, agender or something else inside of the spectrum of what we comprehend gender to be. Some trans members take the extra steps and take hormones and sometimes have gender reassignment surgery as part of their transition. Others, however, choose to identify as transgender, and while others simply identify as men or women.
In recent years the transgender community has gained more awareness through both the media and politics, they are still struggling to gain acceptance for just expressing themselves. Emmy-nominated actress, Laverne Cox aired a documentary on MTV called, “The T-Word” that shed light on the everyday struggles and discrimination that members in the transgender community face. According to the HRC (Human Rights Campaign) statistics provided by Planet Transgender, a trans woman is killed internationally every 29 hours. Currently, the rate of murder by a cisgender person against a trans woman is 1 in 12, and for trans women of color that rate rises to 1 in 8. Sadly, the average life expectancy of a trans woman of color is 35 years. Another example of the discrimination they face in North Carolina there was legislation passed that forced trans members to only use the restroom for their biologically assigned sex. They have also been used as political bait for political figures who are discriminatory against them, and use their community’s social issue as a counter to increase their persona. For example, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee used North Carolina’s stance trans members as political bait in order to gain more conservative votes at a political rally. The behavior exemplified by Huckabee is a common behavior among heterosexual men.
However, there are other factors that contribute to their discrimination. Society and the media have normalized the discrimination of not only the transgender community but also the LGQBT+ community. In the hit television show, ‘Friends’ like most television series in the 90s and early 2000s the media has used the male gaze to objectify women and LGBQT+ members. The hit television show cast Chandler’s father (Helena Handbasket) as a transgender woman and made Chandler’s nonaccepting behavior towards his father to be acceptable for multiple seasons throughout the show. For years the media only portrayed trans members for comedic or entertainment purposes. Even in the groundbreaking show ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ it shows the hyperfemininity (exaggerated adherence to a feminine gender) of how the contestants try to still appeal to the male gaze by having the fake breast, exaggerated hair/makeup, and to the chic fashions. By magnifying the ideology of hyperfeminism the show sheds light on the independent identity through its portrayal of drag queens. This show broke television boundaries and acknowledges the idea of hyperfemininity and allows to display the range of diversity that is usually portrayed by white, trans women. The platform that this show has brings more diversity and representation into mainstream society.
It is very disappointing to know that there are many homophobic people out there who believe gender is natural and disrespect people of the trans community because they do not conform to society’s gender roles expectations. It is important to realize that transgender people are no different from everyone else they are people just like the rest of society. Living in a world where societies refuse to become educated about civil issues like gender and sexuality, there must be discussions held to shape how as society thinks so change can be implemented. It is very critical that as a society we obtain knowledge and exhibit acceptance to all the diverse gender identities and expressions in order to become and stay a progressive society.