Representation of the transgender community: a blessing and a curse

By Pranavi 

Member, Creative department

 

To be heard, to be noticed and to be cherished is one of the greatest forms of comfort one could experience. Every fight comes with gains and losses, and when we’re fighting for something so powerful, widespread, and important, such as the deserved respect for the trans community, representation is the right weapon. It is the weapon that can change minds and hearts like the directions of the wind, It is the weapon which gives birth to one of the most precious and angelic essences of life- hope.

For a long time, the true voices of the trans community have been suppressed. It took a long time for the media to acknowledge the fact that the trans community doesn’t exist to be the butt of their jokes and that these “jokes” and “depictions” about the community have snatched many people’s dreams, lives and dignity right out of their hands. The irony is truly uncanny because it was the media itself that gave me, and many others, a deeper insight about their lives and struggles.

Representation defines how trans people see themselves and how others see them as well, and that goes for both the bad, unrealistic manner and the real, powerful and beautiful manner they are portrayed. This is one of the many things that I learnt while watching Disclosure: trans lives on screen- a documentary about the impact of hollywood’s depictions of transgender people. As mentioned in the documentary by these incredibly talented trans artists: the media has taught people how to react to trans people and for decades, movies had portrayed them as dangerous, psychotic and atrocious- as either serial killers or perverts. This portrayal has been positioned in a lot of minds for a very long time and I could not realise how intensely this had been done until I had a conversation about this with my mother.

My mother was born in the late 1970s – a time when transphobia was widespread . While speaking to her on this topic, she remembered how when she was around 10-13 years old, one of her relatives-who was trans-had visited her house. “He was a man but always dressed and acted like a woman”, she said. When I asked if she ever had the chance to speak to them, she simply answered- “Oh no, me and my siblings were asked to go and hide in a room by our parents, we were horrified- we were taught to be”. On asking if she was able to overcome that fear, she said “I try to. But I get a bit startled when I see someone who is trans”.

When trans folks are represented negatively in movies, and media in general, it doesnt only encourage transphobia amongst cis gendered people but also contributes in the decline of trans poeple’s self esteem and mental health.Two thirds of trans people (67%) have experienced depression in the last year. Seven in ten trans people (71%) have experienced anxiety in the last year.One in five trans people (19%) have experienced an eating disorder in the last year.

On the contrary to problematic fictional representation, when real life stories by the people of the community are shared- filled with raw emotions of struggles, fear and joy all at the same time, the impact is truly captivating. Given that not many people have personal contacts with members of the trans community due to marginalisation, representation is the only guidance for young children who are going through the same thing- it holds the power of reassurance and provides comfort at the time of uncertainty and confusion. Elliot Page, a Canadian actor and producer, recently shared his graceful story with the world and his impact on the industry has been massive. Other talented celebrities who are part of the community such as Laverne Cox, Sam Smith, Demi Lovato, Chaz Bono, Hunter Schafer, Elliot Fletcher and many more have played a great role in the process of making the world understand the community. In India, Stylist Saisha Shinde, actor Gauri Arora, dancer Narthaki Nataraj-who is also the first trans woman to be awarded India’s fourth-highest civilian award- the Padma Shri, are great reminders of how far our country has come.

Even though the trans community is still courageously paving their way through the hardships, a lot of change is yet to come. Slurs used for the community like hijras and chakkas have always had an insulting tone to it and should be discouraged. Members of the community are still struggling with basic human rights and dignity like unemployment, death threats, etc. 

The process of figuring out your true identity and falling in love with it should never be looked down upon. Too many people have sacrificed so much for the freedom and respect of the trans community and now it is our responsibility as humans to help them win this fight of equality, respect and accurate representation, and celebrate their existence with pride. 

 

References:

https://mhfaengland.org/mhfa-centre/ceo-blog/trans-mental-health-stonewall-simon-blake/

Disclosure (Netflix series) – https://www.netflix.com/in/title/81284247

 

image asexuality

What is Asexuality? Mental well-being of individuals who identify as Asexual

What is Asexuality?

Asexuality refers to experiencing little or no sexual attraction, with varying involvement in sexual behavior. (Brotto, 2010) Sexual attraction is not the same as sexual arousal and, so lack of sexual attraction does not mean a lack of desire to have sex. This means that the person can still be aroused but not feel sexually attracted to others. Many people identifying as ace experience libido though not always directed towards any particular person. They often relate to different terms with regards to their sexual identity, some as sex-positive, some sex-negative, while others feel indifferent or neutral towards the act.

Asexuality as a Spectrum

Understanding asexuality offers us an insight into understanding sexuality through the unique lens of a spectrum. The Asexual flag explains the concept of the asexual spectrum through its different gradients. The black is for those identifying as asexual, the color grey is for the identities lying in the grey area between asexuality to allosexuality such as people identifying as demisexuals or greysexuals, white represents sexuality and purple represents the community. (Ralatalo, 2017) Demisexuality refers to experiencing sexual attraction only when there exists a deep emotional connection with the other individual. The connection can be romantic, platonic, or some other form. Greysexual individuals rarely experience sexual attraction or experience it at a low level of intensity. Aceflux have a sexual orientation that fluctuates but generally remains on the asexual spectrum. Other identities included under the ace umbrella are recriprosexual and akoisexual among many others.

Sexual and Romantic Attraction

We often associate sex with romance, as occurring together. However, contrary to popular opinion, romantic relationships are not the same as sexual relationships. Certain psychological and evolutionary theorists believe that sex and romance, although often co-occurring, are two different things. (Bogaert, 2015) The Split Attraction Model also explains how romance does not always hint at a sexual component. (James, 2018) For example – Asexual individuals who experience romantic attraction do not always experience sexual attraction whereas, some people experience little to no romantic attraction, also called aromantic.

Ace Mental Health

Contrary to existing myths and misconceptions, asexuality does not imply celibacy nor is it a result of trauma. It is wrong to assume that it is just a phase or a hormonal issue. These false societal notions around asexuality contribute to the existing ace-phobia. Sexual minorities grow up in heteronormative societies that pressure them into having heterosexual relationships, constantly dismissing their actual sexual identity as a “phase”. Questioning a person’s gender or sexual identity and creating fabricated assumptions around the origin of their orientation can feel condescending and demeaning. Bullying and discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation is another unique life stressor experienced by the community. (Coulter et.al. 2018) To add to that, discrimination and dismissal is manifested in various forms often within the queer community making asexual individuals feel like an outlier. The lack of knowledge and ignorance among the mainstream health care providers contribute to the failing mental health structure. Mental health care providers who work with sexual minority communities need to be informed and abreast with the affirmative therapy trainings in order to provide the right space. Developing mental health interventions that are affirmative and in alignment to the community’s needs should be looked into.

When we acknowledge our privilege and build the right knowledge base, it helps us become better allies to the asexual community. Information will also help reduce the existing prejudice in society and institutions that do not accept or understand their sexuality. At You’re Wonderful Project, we believe in eradicating all forms of discrimination and prejudice that affect an individual’s identity in any manner. We promote and provide inclusive and accessible mental health services.

 

 

References

Ace/ Aro Spectrum Definitions. University Of Oxford LGBTQ+ Society. (2021).
http://www.oulgbtq.org/acearo-spectrum-definitions.html.

Avia James. (2018). What Is The Split Attraction Model? Betterhelp.
https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/attraction/what-is-the-split-attraction-model/.

Bogaert, A. F. (2015). Understanding asexuality. Rowman & Littlefield. Brotto, L.A., Knudson, G., Inskip, J. et al. (2010) Asexuality: A Mixed-Methods Approach.

Arch Sex Behav 39, 599–618. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-008-9434-x
Coulter, R. W., Bersamin, M., Russell, S. T., & Mair, C. (2018). The effects of gender-and sexuality-based harassment on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender substance use disparities. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(6), 688-700.

Morag A. Yule, Lori A. Brotto & Boris B. Gorzalka (2013) Mental health and interpersonal functioning in self-identified asexual men and women, Psychology & Sexuality, 4:2,136-151, DOI: 10.1080/19419899.2013.774162

Ralatalo. (2017). Flags of the LGBTIQ Community. OutRight Action International.
https://outrightinternational.org/content/flags-lgbtiq-community.

University of North Carolina. (2019). Asexuality, Attraction, and Romantic Orientation. LGBTQ. https://lgbtq.unc.edu/resources/exploring-identities/asexuality-attraction-and-romantic-orientation.