What is Transgender Culture?

By Danielle Arena

Posted on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at 11:27 PM PDT

In April of 2015, 16.8 million people watched an ABC television news special for an in depth interview about a once uncomfortable and little understood topic. At the heart of the controversy was the decision to transition from being a male to a female, as personally described by former Olympic gold medalist, Bruce Jenner, now known as Caitlyn Jenner. During an ABC TV special, Jenner said, “For all intents and purposes, I am a woman.” With the transition, Jenner became one of the most well known figures of the transgender community.

Those in the the transgender community often feel rejected and misunderstood, which can lead to permanent and negative consequences.The recent media attention to the transgender community allows for better understanding and acceptance by the larger public. The advocacy group,  Trans Student Educational Resources, defines transgender as

• Identity does not adhere to strict binary categories of a man and woman

• Persons whose physical body is considered to be incongruent with their self-perception as man or woman

• Those who desire or have undergone hormonal and/or surgical interventions to alter their physical presentation (specifically secondary sex characteristics) to better align their internal (gender) with their external appearance, male or female

Defining oneself as transgender most often means that a person does not feel comfortable with the sex to which they were born,  and they take steps to change their gender presentation. This is an important definition for those reporting on the issue. The Wall Street Journal describes this frame in their article,  “Transgender Surgery Isn’t the Solution.” The story defines the term “transgender” as: “Those who say they don’t identify with their biological sex.”            

Within the last five years the media has spotlighted information from the transgender community and has recognized transgender individuals as having a legitimate gender designation. This was helped when famous celebrities and pop culture icons addressed the issue. Jenner’s announcement and decision to begin transformation shocked the world and created a lot of controversy. She described never feeling like she could be herself in her body, that her soul did not belong in her current male body. After winning gold in the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics, Jenner admitted to taking estrogen pills to fulfill her natural gender identity and described cross dressing throughout her lifetime.

Another transgender celebrity is actress Laverne Cox. Best known for her role on the Netflix original series Orange is the New Black, Cox was born as a male twin. Her journey of transformation was an extremely difficult one, especially when she was young. Cox notes on her website that she is the “first trans woman of color to have a leading role on a mainstream scripted television show.”       

The media sometimes presents opposing views of transgenders in an attempt to facilitate discussions concerning the different thoughts. On debate.org, the question was posed: “What is wrong with being transgender?” Many readers responded, with some saying it was “unnatural” and “not part of their genetic makeup.” Another question was asked about which bathroom  transgender person should use. One participant argued that, “As a parent, you want to be able to know and see what type of a person who walks in and out while your child or children are using the bathroom.” Another reader argued that a transgender person should be able to enter the bathroom of the sex they identify with. For those in the audience who support this view, they support the theory that even though individuals may be biologically born male or female, their identification is truly what defines them.

Most transgender people and experts believe that being transgender it is not a choice. It is similar to raising the argument about those who define themselves as gay or lesbian. For most transgendered people, they do not make a decision to feel different and possibly undergo ridicule and bullying for trying to just be themselves. With any strong issue, like the transgender community, there will always be positive and negative views on the topic. Journalists have a responsibility to bring forth the many voices to continue public discourse, awareness, and education.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons