The Changing Roles of Gender: Second Part
Transgender: Identity and Popular Culture
Although the process is happening slowly, the views on gender stereotypes are changing and the line between male and female has blurred. Nowhere is this more noticeable than in the increasing transgender visibility in popular culture. The term transgender is an umbrella term used to describe people who have a different gender identity or expression than the one that society assigned to them from birth.
Through the 90’s and the early 2000’s transgender characters has appeared with increasing frequency in movies, TV series and music. A groundbreaking moment came with the release of Netflix series Orange is the New Black in 2013. The series contributed to normalising being transgender. Rather than using Cox’ character as a shock element it was just another of the many stories of the inmates at Litchfield Penitentiary. Ever since Orange is the New Black there has been a rapidly increasing number of movies and TV series, such as Transparent, Sense8, The Danish Girl and Glee, tackling the issue of being transgender. The success of these films and series has lead to the commission of several new projects with transgender characters. In addition to these changes in the entertainment industry, more public figures are coming out as trans, such as director Lana Wachowski and former Olympic gold medal-winning and reality star Caitlyn Jenner.
All of this is providing people with new role models for an accepting and fluid view on gender and identity. It also provides people with recognizable faces and names and most of all success stories to associate with the word “trans”. In an interview with Times magazine Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox commented on the difference of being trans today: “There’s a way to connect through the Internet that I didn’t have. So you can connect with people who are like you, who may be in another part of the country. That didn’t exist when I was a kid. I think there are more media representations that young trans people can look to and say, that’s me, in an affirming way. There’s just so many resources out there now that it makes you feel like you’re less alone and gives some sort of sense of, okay, this is who I am and this is what I’m going through, as opposed to being ‘What the f*** is wrong with me?’ That was what I grew up with.” For a young teenager struggling to come to terms with his or her identity such a sense of community can be crucial. Especially within a group where as many 41% has attempted suicide at some point in their life. There are still major challenges for trans people. Discrimination continues to be a big problem in people’s daily lives. The issue is mainly society’s prejudices and attitudes towards gender. Addressing and correcting this is a process that will take time, but the new awareness that has been raised in popular culture and the openness of several public figures in the last few years is a step in the right direction. A new conversation regarding the fluid and unstable nature of gender has started. How does people identify as male or female and what is gender really? At heart of the discussion is the idea of the self as something that is completely separate from the body. This is understandably an issue that is difficult for many to come to terms with, especially if one has never experienced such a disunion of identity. Over the last few years there has been a change in the sense that although it is most likely impossible to understand the situation unless you are in it, more people are working to accept and recognize people who are transgender.
Equality can benefit everyone, so whoever you are help fight for change and create a new normal.
By Nora Fiskaa Ljostad (embrACE) & Olivia Hobden (Credo)
This article is a collaboration with embrACE the magazine for the International Faculty Association for the faculty of Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC). You can pick up a printed version of this article (and many more) from the outside the ACE offices in M7 and around campus.