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Trans Is the Flavor of the Moment—But Here’s the Danger With That

Written by Michael Muston, originally published on out.com

Trans people are hot right now. They’re fabulous, they’re chic, and they’re the toast of the media. Isn’t that great? What could be more swellegant than that?

Well, kindly excuse me for a second while I choke on my metaphorical martini olive. I actually get a little bit nervous when large groups of oppressed people are suddenly swept up by the mainstream and declared OK. First of all, they were always OK. I’ve written about trans people since I started my journalism career in the 1970s, but now that they’ve been deemed trendy, we’re supposed to suddenly sit up and notice them? Furthermore, the mania to brand them as really cool accessories du jour is rather disturbing since a lot of the people jumping on the trans bandwagon would never have gone near anyone openly LGBT for years, not until they signified some kind of cachet in the commercial marketplace. Furthermore, they’re mostly picking up on flashy, famous trans people, not environmentally challenged trans teens, trans people in professions other than show biz, and those who don’t seek the spotlight at all.

Mind you, it’s nice that the populace is finding out more about trans issues and being educated as to their triumphs and challenges. Last year, it was a real coup when Orange is the New Black’s Laverne Cox scored the cover of Time magazine, among many other media appearances that made her excitingly visible. Then all at once, some department stores and designers started coveting trans people as models, talk shows sought them as spokespeople, and now Caitlyn Jenner has marketed her transition in a very savvy campaign that’s going in stages and, believe me, has only just begun.

This is potentially eye- and mind-opening for the public, but the reality is, I first heard transition talk about Jenner back in the ‘80s! It’s fine if it took her that long to make a change and go public about herself, perhaps waiting until trans was the hot topic on The View. But I have to pause and think, “Sure, she’s brave – but is she that brave?” Are those of us who’ve been out for decades (albeit in a less public arena) supposed to get hoarse cheering a celebrity’s late-life revelation? And are the media really expanding their horizons by eating this up or are they simply embracing a buzzed about issue that they plan to drop the second it isn’t “sexy” anymore?

After all, we’ve been this route before. In the late ‘80s and early 1990s, the phenomenon of “lesbian chic” took over the media thanks to Madonna gal-palling around with Sandra Bernhard, and Cindy Crawford doing some sapphically tinged poses with k.d. lang in a 1993 Vanity Fair. Lesbians were suddenly fab, and the straight men that run so much of corporate America were licking their lips and loving it, especially since it fulfilled one of their deepest sexual fantasies. But we learned just how much integrity the trend had when Crawford and then husband Richard Gere went out of their way to take out a newspaper ad the very next year stating, “We are heterosexual!” (The ad went on to specify that they were monogamous and were totally not divorcing, despite the gossip. They were a happy, straight couple, OK?) Well, a few months later, they divorced, and one wished they’d spent the money on a charitable donation to an LGBT organization instead.

And then, suddenly, lesbians weren’t so chic anymore. It eventually became drag queens, then gay men, and now it’s trans people who are the new double breasted suit or perhaps the navy blue of India. True, all this trend branding exposes people to a side of our culture they could be enlightened by, while also furthering acceptance and understanding. But on the other hand, I want to yell, “Leave us alone, world! You’re superficial, you’re hypocrites, and we don’t need you in order to be chic!” I’ll definitely feel more comfortable once the smoke clears and trans is no longer fabulously hot and hip. Hopefully, it’ll just be.

About shakespeareanwalter

Walt Shakes(@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter.

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  1. This writer could be a little over protective of the transgender community.
    Yes, some quarters of the media may be making Trans seem like this new fad. But it also means the community is finally getting its fair share of attention. And that’s a good thing. Publicity generates conversations and conversations bring about change. And the change Trans people need is recognition of the fact that they are people too, that they exist. People are just beginning to acknowledge them and talk abt it more and empathize with it – Which is a good thing. Instead of comparing it to a fleeting fad, the author should be appreciative that this is even happening and enjoy the moment while it lasts.

  2. That dig at Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere though… lol

  3. Sigh, I think I understand where the author is coming from, his anger at the world for glamourising something that has been in existence which nobody seemed to acknowledge until the famous ones identified with it and suddenly it’s a new trend that everybody is happy to embrace. I can imagine Kris Jenner and her clan holding their breath and wishing that the revelation will turn out well and subsequently heaving a sigh of relief that majority is playing nice. But he shouldn’t be so mad, at least it’s been talked about and the response shows that the world has become more open minded. And the late-life revelation shouldn’t be criticized so much, it’s like asking a woman why it took her years to open up about being raped or abused; it takes courage for anyone to admit these things since no one knows how it’ll be received. So yes, Mr Jenner/Miss Caitlyn is brave.

    What makes me nervous about this whole thing is how fast the world is changing, but I wonder if the right response is understanding and acceptance instead of trying to get help for these people since the bottom line of the dissatisfaction with who they are is that the body they were born in doesn’t make them “happy”, there’s a disconnect between their inner self and their outer self. Our generation that are newly married with lil kids, those about to get married and the ones coming behind should just find a way to prepare, cos anything can happen since all is possible now

  4. Hmmmmm….I’m walking away…. #singing

  5. GreY blog, glad I discovered it

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