Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone, but it wasn’t until Laverne Cox appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 2014 that trans people have been the media forefront in a way which has been needed for decades. Prior to this, tabloid talk shows such as Maury and Jerry Springer have simply exploited the “shock value” of trans women which has kept us confined to the realm of being the media’s side-show freaks and focused primarily on what’s between our legs.
Now that the mainstream media has (mostly) rallied around Caitlyn Jenner, paving the way for a certain degree of acceptance for trans people in society, where do we go from here? Activist and IT specialist Breanna Clayton suggests that “…we need to be humanized. No more transition stories. Show the real daily struggles.”
The mainstream media would do well to follow her advice. The fact is, the media doesn’t report on the daily struggles that trans people face. There was a brief highlight on those struggles when Leelah Alcorn killed herself in December of 2014, and her heartbreaking suicide note begged that we “fix society”. As if to embolden those words, beginning the following January, trans women in the United States began being murdered at the alarming rate averaging once per week.
But everyday trans women shouldn’t have to keep dying in order to make the news. More privileged trans women need to start amplifying the voices of their trans siblings. We face discrimination at an alarming rate. Regardless of our talents and abilities the unemployment rate among us is incredibly high, and many trans women have turned to sex work in order to simply survive.
In a recent interview, Grooby Girl Becca Benz mentioned how she got into the Adult Industry. “I worked eleven years for a university as the Operations Manager for a research center, and later handling the administrative and fiscal duties for the employee wellness program. Prior to that I worked eleven years managing environmental remediation projects for the Department of Energy. But then I transitioned and can’t seem to get a job.” She was let go after her “job was suddenly reclassified” and she was told that she “was no longer qualified for it. This was several months after I went to living full time as a woman.”
Employment (or lack thereof) isn’t the only type of discrimination trans women face. We face harassment and violence on the streets. Recently in San Francisco a trans woman who wishes to remain anonymous, reported that she was attacked by a homeless man after he realized she was transgender. Activists Sophia Banks and Sabine Isca have tweeted many times about experiencing open transmisogyny in the streets of their cities. Banks told the story of one of her assaults.
“Last Summer  I was attacked. I was riding my bike and a man ran at me and threw me off my bike and into a concrete poll where I hit my head. I was scraped and bleeding and it total shock as this man called me a ‘freak’ and a ‘tranny’ and held up his fists like he wanted to fight me. I was dazed, but just got up and rode off. What bothered me the most was how people saw as this happened midday and just stood around. No one got involved or asked if I was okay. Nearly a year later and am still working through this… working through the pain in my neck and knee, working through my paranoia about men… how I don’t even feel safe riding my bike.” When asked if she contacted the police about the unprovoked attack, Banks said: “No, I don’t trust the cops. I never really dealt with cops before I came out as trans. Never had a reason too. As a trans woman I have had several encounters and contacts with them. I have had cops call me ‘freaky’. I have had cops call me ‘sir’ directly after I told them I was a trans woman. I have had to explain to cops what trans is. I have [had] cops refer to trans women as ‘those men on Jerry Springer’ to me. Unless it was very serious I would not approach the cops on anything.”
These are the kinds of stories the media’s Transgender Darlings need to speak of now. Perhaps Caitlyn Jenner should use her clout to petition that tabloid media (like the Jerry Springer show) stop running (and pull?) shows about transgender people, as we have seen the random violence tabloid shows like that cause. The media must begin to focus on real struggles, and get their brains out from between our legs.