By Jennifer Snook @sirjid
Trans people (or, at least, cross-dressers) have been a part of entertainment media for almost as long as entertainment has existed.
Most commonly throughout Western history, the idea of a man wearing women’s clothing or pretending to be a woman has been seen as comical. Women in the opposite position were either heroes or upstarts.
While these representations were rarely of truly transgender individuals, it did set a standard for when trans people were included in movies and television.
Once truly transgender people began appearing, a few trends also emerged.
Trans women were jokes, whores or sexual predators, and trans men simply didn’t exist.
This is due to a few factors.
The only previous precedent had been cross-dressers, which, as I mentioned, were mostly jokes. Also, the fixation on genital surgeries causes many to believe that sex is the primary drive for transgender people.
Finally, there is the fear of emasculation.
Masculinity is seen as an essential trait for men, and an ideal for many women. As many people believe that a man dating a trans woman must be gay, and being gay is about as far from masculine as you can get, trans women are often treated with fear and derision.
These representations are, for the most part, being phased out in favor of more realistic depictions of trans women (though trans men still don’t exist.)
However, this has brought up a new problem: Trans characters are almost never played by trans actors.
“Dallas Buyer’s Club,” “Transparent,” and “Danish Girl” were all lauded for their representation of trans people. In all of these, however, the main trans character is played by a man. “Transparent” even won a ‘best actor’ Emmy for a female lead character.
This isn’t for a lack of trans actors, either. Laverne Cox, of “Orange Is the New Black” fame, is the first and only name most people think of when discussing trans actors, but there are many others.
Jen Richards and Angelica Ross both performed in “Her Story,” a web series I highly recommend.
“Transparent” has trans actors playing trans characters, including Alexandra Billings, Alexandra Grey and Trace Lysette. They just aren’t deemed worthy of playing the main character.
Even if there were no trans actors, the characters should at least be played by women, especially if they are far into their transition.
It’s even worse for trans men. I can only name one trans male character in any form of media (Cremisius Aclassi from Dragon Age: Inquisition.) And, of course, he’s voiced by a woman.
With the difficulty of finding entirely accurate trans characters in media, it’s difficult to feel fully included in society.
I feel more like an oddity or a footnote than an equal.
While media is not the only measurement of one’s place in society, it often dictates how a group of people are perceived. And at the moment, we’re still seen as men in dresses.