Over the past two or three years there has been an increase in the amount of mainstream news stories about people transitioning. This is, as far as it goes, not necessarily a bad thing. The problem lies in what stories are being told. Pause for a minute and think about the stories we hear about from mainstream media sources. What do they have in common? What are the dominant themes of the stories?
What I notice about the narratives of people who transition in western mainstream media is that they tend to fall into two categories. One category is that of a child who knows at a relatively young age that they are trans*. The other category is that of someone older who has been reasonably successful in their career and transitions later in life. Quite often both narratives discuss the challenges the person faced in transition, but they are doing well. These are wonderful narratives and it is good that they are being told. They also have drowned out the narratives of other trans* people. The narratives that are not so pleasant. I also notice that I do not fall into one of these ‘acceptable’ narratives.
In the mainstream media we rarely see stories about trans* people, almost always women and mostly non-white, who are living on the street, many working in the sex trade. When we do hear about them it is usually because they have been the victim of a violent crime, usually murder. Usually the media outlet then proceeds to follow a path of victim blaming, insisting on using the name the person was assigned at birth and to use incorrect pronouns. It is also not uncommon for the story to dehumanize and degrade the person by using “it” to describe them. It is time to hear more about their stories.
Where are the stories of transmasculine people? Yes, there was the public transition of Chaz Bono, but how many other stories of transmasculine people do we hear about in mainstream media?
We also have many, many stories about people, most often transitioning male to female, who end up losing everything. They lose their marriage, are denied access to their children, lose their employment. If they were part of a faith community they often feel the love of that community in harassment and are essentially kicked out and shunned, given no support.
What about the stories of those who are younger, from puberty to young adulthood, who are denied care and often can’t get puberty blockers, let alone effective hormone treatment. Many schools are unwilling to work with parents and the young person to find accommodations. Parents are not given the information and the support they need for themselves and their children. Yet, we do not hear about their struggles in the mainstream media.
There are many more narratives that we don’t hear about. Mainstream media, particularly in North America rarely talks bout the situation in “non-western” countries.
I first started thinking about this post in October 2012 and it has been in my “drafts” section since. When doing some more current reading and searching I came across a post made on 2013-05-31 and I highly recommend it. The post is “The Emergence & Danger of the ‘Acceptable Trans* Narrative’” This article is from the perspective of someone in the United States where, like Canada, there have been some political gains yet still a long way to go politically and socially. It also goes more in depth into some of the issues I have raised above.