By Elizabeth Kim
This winter quarter’s GHUs at GlobeMed Northwestern has focused on gender and sexuality, of which transgender has been a topic of discussion. The overwhelming consensus in the discussions and in US classrooms is that there is not enough education regarding these issues, especially defining specific terms such as transgender, travestite, and transexual. Despite the general lack of information and understanding, recent events in the media have triggered conversations about the transgender community in the United States.
On February 5, Barry Williams of the TV show Brady Brunch appeared in an interview on Huffington Post Live. Toward the end of the clip, Williams suggests he should go transgender as former Olympian and Kardashians father Bruce Jenner, who recently got a lot of publicity for a car accident, did for publicity of his show and career. When the host tries to explain the internal complexity of transforming into transgender, Williams replies, “I am an actor, I can handle it.”
There are certainly some people who will have just the same response as Williams. Some will persistently ignore the fact that there is a deeper mental and emotional process underlying those questioning their identities. As incorrect as they may be, these are the opinions that instigate further nationwide conversations on critical issues.
But this should not be the case every time an important discussion needs to be held. A negative comment cannot be the basis of a social movement in a country that boasts of freedom of speech and right to participate and pursue happiness.
Those who believe in their right to have an equal part need to let their voices be heard because until the conversation starts going two-ways, there will still be people who will make light of and continue to deny someone else’s personal emotional and physical struggle to become who they want to be.
Aydian Dowling, a trans model, recently set an example of combatting the ignorance about the trans community with his latest photoshoot. Dowling recreates the look of Adam Levine’s naked photoshoot in Cosmopolitan UK in 2011. While Levine’s photo promoted raising awareness for prostate cancer, Dowling’s sends a positive yet urgent message about the need for transparency and visibility of the trans community worldwide.
The author of the Refinery article who reposts the picture closes by saying, “We’re also looking forward to a day when it isn’t necessary to recreate the action of a cis celebrity to prove that the relationship between gender and appearance is more than meets the eye.”
Celebrities and on-air personalities tend to pervade the media on a daily basis; as a result, they are often the ones to start conversations and movements and receive strong criticism. These are short-lived, however, if they are not supported by informed citizens who want to stop perpetual cycles of ignorance about not only the LGBTQ community but also other racial groups and nations as well.