To scandalize a marginalized group, is to further marginalize them.
This year’s edition of Naked Magazine featured a person in a dress with long blonde hair standing at a urinal on the cover. This picture was supposed to relate to an article on gender-neutral bathrooms and their availability on campus for gender nonconforming and trans individuals, an article no more than a few paragraphs long.
However, this eye-catching cover did nothing more than capture attention and enrage students. Not only did the cover not relate well to the article, it offended people of all gender identifications, from cis-gender people, those whose gender is in alignment with their sex assigned at birth, all the way on the other end of the spectrum to transgender people.
After a meeting with the advisor, editor, and writer of the article no conclusive decisions were made other than to issue an apology.
Transgender people have had growing visibility in the past few years, with celebrities like Laverne Cox and Miley Cyrus paving the way for Transgender and gender nonconforming activism.
Even the coming out story of Caitlyn Jenner has made waves in the U.S. towards acceptance, despite the controversy surrounding her own personal opinions and status towards political officials.
According to a study by the Williams Institute, around 0.3% of American adults are transgender, but only 18 states have clearly defined laws protecting these individuals, and they have twice the unemployment rate of the general population. Transgender people face a staggeringly high suicide rate, at 41% compared to the 1.6% of the general population, and are at a massive risk to experience violence and abuse based on the way they identify themselves.
Transgender people continue to be the butt of a very long running joke as portrayed on television, and are sexualized in magazines like Naked, or in the July issue of Vanity Fair, which pictured a very sexually appealing photo of Caitlin Jenner. The everyday experience of these individuals is not far from these media portrayals however.
As a gender nonconforming person myself, I too have experienced violence, sexualization, and much more at the expense of my identity and my emotional wellbeing. I have attempted suicide in my lifetime, I have faced violence while trying to use a restroom of my gender identity, and I have experienced sexualization by the gay male community that I myself am a part of.
Through it all, I have learned so much more about the harsh reality of the world I face than anyone should ever have to know in a short twenty years of life, but having my face associated with this offensive cover is a blow I will not face with fear or civility.
An article about my partner and I was also featured in this edition of Naked Magazine, with a picture of us as the first page of the story, preceded with the cover story. The article about our lives was well written with a few mistakes that were to be expected as people continue to learn about transgender individuals.
The preceding story on bathrooms featured a mixed up story told by my partner, grammatically incorrect versions of words relating to the trans* community, and a lack of relation to its cover photo.
The offense that we take away from this, however is unrelated to mistakes of a young journalist and is instead related to the lack of education around a topic they wished to portray with respect. From an artistic standpoint alone, the cover is well made and provocative, however adding personal experience is extremely important to the artistic process, and when you lack the experience in a subject it is hard to know why something might be offensive to a community without feedback.
This is my feedback, and only mine.
Very few people of trans experience would be comfortable in this position. A transwoman would face dysphoria, or extreme unease, so crippling in a male restroom that they would possibly not even be able to use a urinal. A transman would face dysphoria because of their inability to use a urinal without assistance from a device known as an STP, or stand to pee. However neither category of persons would truly feel comfortable in a tight black dress with long blonde hair looking extremely feminine in a masculine environment in the first place.
The only situation that would generate such an image would be that of a drag queen, usually a male identified person who cross-dresses for fun, or as a form of entertainment, using a public bathroom at a gay club.
The anxiety even associated with the image used and its implications of a trans person using a bathroom in such a manner stirs up bad feelings inside me. My partner faces a larger amount of anxiety surrounding restrooms than I do, and often has me see if there is anyone in a public restroom to confirm that it is empty before he enters.
No one should have to face that kind of fear when all they want to do is go to the bathroom, something every person must do.
To not understand this and to put out of a cover photo with the implications the Naked Magazine made, is not only offensive, but a great disservice to the people you are trying to advocate for.
Not every trans person is comfortable being this vocal, but in a world with little representation, some of us must be willing to put ourselves out into the world and speak the truth that must be spoken, even in fear of the great adversity we face.
I am David Sawyer Martoglio, I have been asked to speak on panels from New York to Los Angeles, and I make videos every week on a YouTube channel made up of transmasculine individuals like myself called AmbiguiT.
I am afraid every day for my safety and the safety of my partner, but I will not stay silent.