Phases. Its always about phases. First they hate us, then they make fun of us…
That’s one trope that the trans community seems to have picked up on. Another, which sort of emerged from the appearance – if such a word can be applied to a radio performance – of Paris Lees on Radio 1 at the weekend, is the sense that the trans community is gaining acceptance. But only so far.
The girl dun well: a creditable performance. Some good points communicated effectively. End result: the great unwashed probably ended up feeling that teeny bit less wary of, a bit warmer towards, the trans community.
Still, there are detractors: and while detraction can at times be little other than “cat in manger” stuff, just because someone unsheathes their claws doesn’t mean they haven’t got a point.
Keep young and beautiful…
One such detraction, which at first sight is of the media, but goes to the heart of the trans dilemma too, is the sense that the media love peeps like Paris because she’s young, beautiful, glam.
That, in fact, this love affair is nothing new, and merely continues a recent and hitherto untapped vein of press sport, moving on from depiction of trans types as mostly figures of fun – the “burly scots guardsman wants to be a woman” sort of thing – to “you won’t believe it’s a bloke” story.
The problem is: this approach is also perpetuated in part by the trans community itself, which does, at times, go to great lengths to point out that where someone has successfully transitioned, er, you won’t believe they once had a rather more blokeish exterior, either.
Lists of “top ten” trans women, based mostly on their ability to make it in the world of modelling or fashion!
That, in turn, interacts with conversations about “stealth”: whether a “real” trans person should be stealth. And whether this is a healthy thing to perpetuate.
So, without further ado, I’ll suggest that Paris’ interview highlights three issues that the trans community at least needs to talk about – irrespective of what it eventually thinks about those issues.
First is the likelihood that the media is on the brink of moving from antediluvian to merely stone age in its take on transition: to starting to adopt a subtle segmentation, with those who pass, are beautiful and young at one end of the scale – and those who don’t fare so well still out at the other end, targets for mockery.
Second, this is nothing new. Its an issue I have…being less young, less glam, a woman of a certain age. It’s a problem that has tortured feminism for yonks and remains, still: however much we all know it shouldn’t happen, that society should respect older women, it just doesn’t. This ain’t a trans issue. It’s a women’s issue.
Third, there’s the in-community debate. Nuff said about that, although I think it segues into something else quite important: that placing so much emphasis on passing…and worse, seeing that emphasis apparently gaining mainstream media endorsement, is likely to do damage to the esteem of those who don’t: who late transitioned; who for a variety of reasons will never look as “feminine”, outwardly, as they would wish.
Bottom line: we need the likes of Paris. We should not, as a community, be quite so picky about her. Because until you’ve been out in the media spotlight, it may be you have no idea how hurtful supposedly innocent remarks bcan be.
But we also need the less glam, less right on: the Vivienne Westwood brigade, if you like. The outrageous, the couldn’t-care-less, and the still carrying on. In every sense of the word!