Media and Transgendered People

by ProvocativeTrash on February 6, 2015 - 1:37pm

Glossary of Terms

1.Transitioning: The process of socially and physically transitioning into one’s desired gender.

2.Passing: Successfully being perceived as one’s gender identity.

3.Gender Dysphoria: A condition where an individual does not identify with their sex at birth.

4.Gender Identity: The gender that one emotionally feels like.

5.Sexuality: Attraction to one’s sex.

6.Sex: Female/Intersex/Male. Physically determined.


7.Gender: Female/Male/Agender/etc. Emotionally/Psychologically determined.


Hollywood has always been a place where the paparazzi will analyze everything in a popular person’s life. Their decisions will be scrutinized, their outfits judged and their person will be harassed for a mere magazine picture. This was especially applicable during the 90s (and even now) when people of stardom who were rumored to gay and lesbians got unusual amounts of attention. While this may sound negative, this also somewhat normalized gay culture, because as more and more people in the public scene came out as LGB, it became more and more acceptable. What has failed to happen is the normalization of transgendered people, mostly because our society’s gender structure is so deep set.


The Daily Mail wrote an article on Bruce Jenner, a former olympian who also previously played basketball. Jenner also attracts much attention for being the stepfather of Kourtney, Kim and Khloe on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”, a popular reality show. Now 65, Jenner is undergoing a male to female transition[1].


Back before it was confirmed that Jenner was undergoing transition in the midst of the divorce case between Bruce’s and his* wife Kris, his* mom said in an interview to MailOnline “I want to tell you one thing Bruce, I don't care if what they're putting out is true or false, it's not going to change my love for you, and it's true that's exactly how I feel, but I don't like it [Bruce’s appearance].” Now that Jenner has confirmed she is undergoing transition, Jenner is ”being supported by his mum, [and] it appears that he actually has the full support of his entire family over the big change.”


While I am glad that Jenner has a support group, I do feel a sense of anger towards the media in the whole case. While Bruce Jenner still has not confirmed a new name, their gender identity[4] is misrepresented across the media. While it even felt redundant and difficult to not use male pronouns such as  “him” while writing this very piece, I feel that reporting across all boards could be more gender[7] neutral. To the majority of people living outside the trans community, this sounds like an incredibly minute detail, but the misuse of gender pronouns can be interpreted as an “insult” for transgendered people. Bruce Jenner, while having lived as a man throughout her life, identifies as female, thus she should be considered as such. She might not categorically fit into the definition of a “biological (XX) female”, both in shape and in function, but her identity is as such. The issue of pronouns is a very confusing one for friends and loved ones but the general rule for pronoun usage is to [implictly] reach a conclusion about the preferred pronouns (in Jenner’s ase, these are female pronouns) or to ask what pronouns to use if confusion persists.


To give you personal insight, I’ll just explain what this all is as a now transitioned trans person. I live in the 21st century, where the gay movement has somewhat aided the acceptance of trans people. Nowadays, standards of appropriate treatment of transgendered people are being applied to an increasing degree. For example, a doctor (who will remain unnamed) established in the Children’s Hospital of Montreal treats gender nonconforming children and aids them with both physical and psychological aspects of the transition. Bruce Jenner did NOT have access such treatments when she was growing up. This, combined with the fear of social backlash, prevented an optimal transition, because of the irreversibility of male puberty. I can honestly state that I am surprised Jenner did not commit suicide because almost 41% of trans people in the United States have attempted suicide [Tanis, Justin et al.]. When it comes to gender dysphoria[3], great amounts of psychological trauma often leaves the affected person in depression for the majority of their pre-transition (and sometimes even post-transition) life. Taking my experience as an example, I remained depressed for ~65% of the time when I was pre-transition and in the process of transitioning. It’s a very taxing process, even more so when your birth sex[6] puberty has completed. The problem is that attracting so much [implied] negative attention to trans issues in the media is what causes many trans people to either wait until their puberty is irreversible, not transition at all, or to commit suicide as the most dire option.


If trans acceptance became mainstream overnight, I could guarantee to you that from that point onwards, the suicide attempt figure of 41% would dramatically drop, as trans people will be able to gain easier access to treatment. This would allow the majority of transgendered people to, aesthetically, fit into the definition of their desired gender and live a life free from the shackles of gender dysphoria. A drop in the median age of transition would result in better results from Hormone Replacement Therapy and a higher chance of passing[2].


Passing is something to be very much stressed, because for the majority of trans people, not passing means discrimination until the end of one’s life. That is why, for many people, it’s passing or suicide.


Mapstone, Lucy, Enriquez, Justin. “Bruce Jenner's mother confirms that the reality TV star IS transitioning into a woman”. The Daily Mail. February 3, 2015. February 4, 2015. Web.


Tanis, Justin, Motett Lisa, et al. “National Transgender Discrimination Survey Report on health and health care”. National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. October 2010. February 6, 2015. Web.





Very thoughtful and powerful article. I agree with everything that you stated and I especially enjoyed your personal input on the situation. It brought another perspective to the issue and it made the article a lot more meaningful because it made me realize that a lot of people don’t have the proper treatments to aid them physically and psychologically while they are transitioning.

I really appreciated your point of view on this topic. Your personal experience with transitioning that you wrote about really made this piece feel more personal. I often feel alone as a gay person (although the discrimination that cisgender gays face is difficult to compare to the discrimination that trans people face on a daily basis) and your article really helped me to feel a little but less alienated on here and in this class.

I think that it's lovely that Bruce is out and is deciding to live her life the way the way she wants to. My heart goes out to her because I can already see the criticism coming her way. It is so unfortunate that trans people are so judged in our society, and I only hope that it will get better as time goes on.

I would first like to commend you for writing such an eye opening piece about gender labels and how they are affected by the media. Your post is not only informative, but it also sheds light on an issue of growing concern. The media is a scrupulous entity, which will attack those perceived to be weak or vulnerable. However, as a supporter of gay and transgendered person rights, I would argue that just because individuals don't fit the gender norms or the stereotypical exemplifications of gender does not mean they should not be able to transition or present themselves in whatever way they choose.

In your post, you seem to be arguing a utilitarian point of view. Utilitarianism is an ethical philosophy that emphasizes the importance of achieving the greatest good for humanity by maximizing utility (or what is useful for society). In this post, you argue that, "if trans acceptance became mainstream overnight, I could guarantee to you that from that point onwards, the suicide attempt figure of 41% would dramatically drop, as trans people will be able to gain easier access to treatment". From this statement we can see that the current pressures put on transgendered people to fit into the stereotypical function of a gender have lead to high levels of attempted suicide among the transgendered community. From the utilitarian perspective, the hardships facing these individuals are not achieving the greatest good for humanity and are not creating the most happiness. In order to reach the utilitarian ideal, we need to remove the stereotypes that surround genders. We need to educate people about the various states a transgendered person can be in (transitioning and passing). And finally, we need to explain the importance of letting someone be themselves. Achieving the greatest good for humanity needs to start from a society that accepts others for who they are and how they wish to be.

An example, that would make any utilitarian, or LGBT supporter happy is the story of Montreal student Bry Bitar. They are a 13-year-old student at Royal West Academy, who prefers to go by the pronoun they since it is less confining. This year, with the approval of school officials, Bry has switched from wearing the boys uniform to the girls. Not only has the school accepted Bry for themself, but their family is mirroring similar levels of acceptance, despite the fathers more strict Lebanese cultural background. Bry is a model for transgendered teens, because they are truly just being themselves; not conforming to society's gender norms. If everyone could adopt this model of acceptance, our society could much more easily achieve the greatest good for humanity that utilitarianism so desperately seeks.