When it comes to the question of transgender representation, Guy Debord’s ideas and work may be useful.  It’s the same concept as working against sexism, homophobia, and classism, taking the words of the oppressors and turning them against them.  It’s the intersection of art and politics, highlighting the way they are intrinsically tied together.  Also fitting is the Situationist International’s idea of the spectacle, representing only the people in power, in this case cisgender people.  It uses the tool of media representation to keep trans people down, to maximize ignorance, bigotry, and violence. 

            Another relevant theory is Freire’s.  His teaching methods, tailored to empower the oppressed, could be very useful for the disenfranchised trans community.  Reinforcing the word “oppressed” is valuable, because it emphasizes the fact that there is an oppressor, that this isn’t something that’s just happening; it’s something that’s being done to us.  The state of oppression is not natural, it’s not normal, and it’s not acceptable—it’s something that can be changed.  We should not accept the state of things as gospel, but rather keep moving forward.  He uses education as an instrument of change and empowerment, and that’s a tool that is absolutely necessary to create representation, accurate representation, of trans people in media.

            Guerrilla TV’s theories are useful as well.  There are indeed different ways of going about the problem of increasing trans representation—whether to work with mainstream TV directly, or make one’s own media completely separately.  In this case, it’s necessary to get trans representation into mainstream media, because exposure is one of the most important points of change.  However, producing independent work is an excellent way to start, and many people and organizations already do that.  It’s a great way to network and produce solidarity among oppressed people, to make a community, and many people have been doing just that.  Over the past few years, awareness and community have skyrocketed among various subcultures.  It’s mainstream media that now needs to be focused on.

            In Marlon Rigg’s discussion of his work in black gay representation, there are many parallels to transgender representation.  In both cases, there is very little representation to begin with, and mainstream culture thinks the mere existence of these people is dirty, perverted, and absurd.  These groups are very much thought of as other, even as objects, not as real people—and the strength of media representation is its ability to change this mindset, and to show trans people or black gay men as real, multi-dimensional human beings.  Mainstream culture will do its best to repress all representation of these groups, in an effort to maintain the ability to see them as subhuman, but this can’t last forever.  The more accurate and positive representation there is, the more understanding and tolerance there will be.  The difficult part is convincing mainstream media sources to take the risk and include this representation in the first place, even with the possibility that they will face a backlash.

            All these theories could be useful in the struggle of trans media representation, and many are already being utilized. 

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One response »

  1. cmaas3882 says:

    I think Marlon Riggs’ model is a great way to address the under-representation of trans people in mainstream media. When trans groups are able to take expression of their identity in their own hands and present it in a really positive way, much in the way Riggs’ attempted to redefine the image of black homosexual men, representation in the mainstream will increase at the population at large becomes more comfortable with the concept.

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