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British Media Has Failed Trans People
The thought “British media has failed trans people” pops into my head approximately 10 times a day. It's a hard thing to reconcile when you’re trans, British and trying to work your way up in the media. You could say, I’m a little bit conflicted.
It really comes to the forefront for me when there is some kind of public discussion about our rights on TV, which inevitably leads to a big, messy discourse on the internet. I don’t want to seem like a broken record, because I feel like I harp on about this a lot, but I’m really struggling to see a place for myself within it at the moment. (Besides, without broken records we’d never have discovered sampling, would we? I assume that’s how it came about anyways, I dunno don’t think too hard about that analogy). It’s just deeply troubling to me that our inclusion is still relegated to fleeting tokenism. Trans people are mainly seen on British television as reality TV subjects, a world which is already by its very nature othering but when a trans person is featured in, say, a dating show - their presence is other even to the others.
And when we actually are given some kind of opportunity to express ourselves publicly, we inflict a sort of self-imposed tokenism on ourselves because we’re conditioned to believe that society couldn’t handle us at our most legitimate. It suddenly becomes our job to yet again explain and justify ourselves to the “ignorant public”. By the end of all that, there is no time left on the runtime for trans people to express anything original or interesting.
I’m tired of feeling like I’ve missed out because one singular trans person has obtained an opportunity that I haven’t - which they probably totally deserve, and I probably don’t. I can’t dance, what do I care that I wasn’t picked for Strictly? But that’s just how it feels when you know that the opportunities are in such scarcity. Trans people have been gaslit for decades to believe that we have no value, except as specimens of exploitative documentaries which poison and distort our truths. Then, predictably, this influences the way society then views us.
Almost every single piece of media ever created in this country about trans lives has been made by people who have no real clue about the truth of our experiences. For that reason, the entertainment industry has such a huge debt to pay for it. In my opinion, this can only be amended through years and years of reparative work to rebalance the scales and give us the opportunities to retell, reframe and reassemble our frankly tattered reputation. I’m at the point now where I cannot enjoy anything I see on the screen, because all I think while I’m watching something is: “that’s another thing with not one singular trans person in it” or “wow, they really tokenised us with that attempt at representation”. Don’t get me wrong, some people in the industry are trying. They have good intentions, which mainly center around an attempt to portray us as ‘just like everybody else’, which of course, in some ways - we are. But what it inevitably does is it relegates us to a position of victimhood and infantilizes us. It says to the viewer: Trans people are getting a lot of abuse right now, and we want to remind you that they don’t deserve it. Yes, that’s better than nothing and has its heart in the right place - but it’s not what I want to watch. I want to watch things that are made by others like me and resonate with my experiences. We’re so far away from it right now, and it makes me feel utter despair.
At the end of the day, ‘feel-good’ trans inclusion like the recent Married At First Sight gives the public something heartwarming to talk about for half a day, but it’s a plaster on a fractured skull when it comes to healing the damage the broadcast media itself has inflicted upon our community over the past four decades.
The British media has failed us, and at the moment at least - it’s not doing anything to make up for it.
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