Is 2010 Really the Year of the Transsexual?

Within the first two paragraphs of today’s New York Times article, “Bold Crossings of the Gender Line,” William Van Meter states that “2010 will be remembered as the year of the transsexual.”  He goes on to state that “not since the glam era of the 1970s has gender-bending so saturated the news media. The difference now is that mystery has been replaced with empowerment, even pride.”  Yes, Mr. Van Meter, even pride. (I know Susan wants me to withhold on snark, but even I have a limit.)

We asked our readers to tell us their reactions to this article’s bold assertions, and we’ve posted some of them below.  Take a read and let us know what you think in the comments, too?

Candice Comisi via Facebook:

How can 2010 be the “year of the transsexual” when trans people are murdered and disrespected nonstop? And when we still use the very medicalized term “transsexual” to describe a wide umbrella of gender difference? And when people are stared at and ridiculed for crossing people’s rigid ideas of what it means to be a man or woman?

As we’ve seen with gay and lesbian people, positive media representation is extremely important in terms of being respected as human beings (slowly but surely), but I agree with Ady Ben-Israel’s standpoint – trans people who are models don’t change the entire world, and they further reinforce current beauty ideals.

Also, since when is androgyny in fashion a new thing? How did it make a comeback when it never went away? Fashion can be about playing a role and modeling that role, attitude and look – and I worry about the negative connotations that has for trans people, who are often told that they are simply putting on a dress or a suit instead of fulfilling the outward part of their ideal self.

At the same time, we should all have the FREEDOM to put on as many genders as we want.

Colleen via Facebook

The author lists a number of people who are transgressing the gender binary but who don’t necessarily ID as trans – i.e., James Franco, the Daphne and Princess Boy kids – and then uses them to support the headline “Is 2010 the Year of the Transsexual.” I saw 3 people on the subway yesterday in gray jackets, and 2 in black jackets. Gray is kind of like black. 2010 is the “Year of Black Jackets.” As is the case with many NYT trend pieces, the examples in this article are mainly linked by one thing – the author has heard of them.

@hardcorps80204 via Twitter

If this is “Year of Trans” we got a raw deal…I’d hope for more.

Karalyn Shimmyo via Facebook

First impressions, having just sat down and read: this is Fashion & Style feature, hence the focus of the article, however I think that it’s worth exploring the idea that gender transgression acceptable to mainstream culture comes in the form of performance and idealized beauty. What is feminine, beautiful, and non-queer seeming is deemed as acceptable and even celebrated by this account. Commentators on the Times Blog made excellent points – if 2010 is the “year of the transsexual,” where are the achievements in employment protection, access to competent healthcare and other important issues?

This is a largely superficial, surface-scratching account, although it does report on mainstream media visibility of “transsexuals” (while never elucidating the distinctions of how different individuals may identify, ie; transgender, genderqueer, etc). What it does not do is provide any other type of cultural context to indicate whether true progress has been accomplished in 2010 within social, political or other arenas.

So – is everyone just smiling for the camera, or what?

S. Leigh Thompson via Facebook (read his post on the subject here)

Wait, 2010 was the year of the transsexual? Gee, they wait until December to tell me? As a transsexual I kinda expected a parade with some confetti, discount days at Marshalls or at least a coupon for a discounted bacon cheeseburger. But nope. Nada.

The year of the transsexual is almost over and what do we have to show for it?
• A consistent bevy of violent attacks on transgender people across the country and around the world.
• A lack of federal protections for transgender people who want to work for a living.
• Dwindling statewide employment protections.
• A continuing stream of anti-trans rhetoric that targets transgender people as the reason why pro-Gay legislation doesn’t pass.
• Transgender people being arrested for going to the bathroom.
• A transgender model.
• James Franco dressing up as a woman.

Yep. This must be THE year.

Leave it to a fashion guide to reduce a population of people, a vibrant, loving community, to a fashion icon. Sure, the majority population doesn’t want trans to work in the cubicle next to them, serve their food or teach their children, but aren’t we interesting to look at on a fashion magazine? Let them nod their heads, applaud, then cringe when we sit next to them on the subway.

This article proves that 2010 isn’t any different than any other year, that the covers of Candy, Industrie and ads of Givenchy no different than the thousands of gawkers we “transsexual” people pass each day: people like to stare at the trans folk. We are seen as novelty, sideshow, oddity and exotic, but time and time again we are reminded that we are not seen as people.

@avatarkoo via Twitter

The NY Times often has style/culture stories that make me wonder if they’re hitting the sauce. Or just desperate to sound hip.

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