What It Feels Like For A Girl: The Price of Being Trans and the Misrepresentation of Trans Women in the Media. (Final Project Paper)

By: Douglas Reyes


Trans Flag.

Transgender people are classified as one of the largest misrepresented groups within the spectrum of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender) community. This is largely inflicted by the negative connotation indoctrinated in the mind of the masses by popular media outlets. Several media outlets slander the image of transgender women with crude, and obscene depictions of them within popular media culture. They are portrayed as sluts, prostitutes, deceitful and/or misleading of oneself to others. Several media outlets, such as television and film represent transgender women as mentally ill, and/or psychotic/killers; such as movies like Sleepaway Camp, Silence of the Lambs, and demonically possessed and/or evil as most recently portrayed in the character of the ghost “Bride in Black” in both Insidious 1 and 2. Mainstream portrayal of transgender women in the media is greatly inaccurate and in the long run damages the social representation of transgender women overall.


Buffalo Bill, Silence of the Lambs.

Media defines transgender women as controversial spectacles within any format of television and/or movies they’re featured in. They’re made fun of, called out of their name; depicted and classified as males within popular news media/periodicals they are featured in, even though they clearly define as women. For instance, popular media news outlets including FOX News, The New York Times, and The Post to name a few, have come under attack by transgender rights groups, and civil liberties organizations for incorrectly defining, slandering, and purposely misinterpreting transgender women, and their preferred gender identity within news/media stories. They are seen and represented in popular mainstream media/shows as vile, disgusting, loud, uncanny, uneducated, disrespectful, trashy, and ill-mannered. Transgender women are the largest misrepresented minority group in existence within popular media and culture. The ridicule and misrepresentation of transgender women in popular mainstream media needs to stop! Transphobia needs to be addressed accordingly, and taken seriously as would any expression of homophobia, or racism within popular and mainstream television, movie, media/culture.


RuPaul’s Drag Race using transphobic terms.

The misrepresentation of transgender women is not exclusively to blame on the media. Transgender women are also negatively represented within the LGBT community! Yes, the same community that is supposed to be there to help any LGBT identified individual flourish and express themselves openly and accordingly to their preference and gender expression. Words such as “tranny”, and “she-male”, are used within the linguistics of the LGBT community to identify and describe transgender women. These forms of expression are completely disrespectful, and derogatory to the gender identity of transgender women. For example, the popular television show RuPaul’s Drag Race, featured on the LOGO TV network, came under attack by transgender rights groups for its use of these words within the verbal and scripted context of their programming. During its current six season, the use of these words have been strictly prohibited, and measures have been taken in order to exclude this type of verbal context from being used within the show. With this move, hopefully LGBT identified individuals understand that the use of the terms “tranny” and “she-male” to identify transgender women is highly derogatory and completely unacceptable.

6a00d8341c730253ef010535ee7bfe970b-640wiNot only is the use of these terms a problem within the LGBT community, but also the lack of acceptance of transgender women within. Gay men, as well as lesbian women tend to scrutinize, and outcast them. They are oppressed not only by society, but also the LGBT community. A community that should be accepting and open to people’s identity and preference is also suppressing one of its main key individuals! If it weren’t for two transgender women, Sylvia Rivera along with Marsha P. Johnson, LGBT identified individuals would not have the rights, limited as they are, to express themselves freely as they do so today. These transgender women fought for the rights of LGBT people during the Stonewall Riots, their legacy should be respected. As well as the forthcoming transgender identified women who are fighting for the sake of the LGBT community for acceptance within mainstream society. They should be given the respect they deserve as the “daughters” of these pivotal members of the LGBT community.

TransgPCtrans-g1-051313ender women face many obstacles in life in order to freely express and help bring forth the person that is truly inside. There’s a psychological struggle and pain transgender women are exposed to, before they come to terms with their identity. Often times, transgender women are scrutinized and rejected by family members, and kicked out of their homes at an early age. They are faced with extreme hardships, and in desperation, and strive for survival, some transgender women resort to prostitution in order to make ends meet. Transgender women have more of a risk of being poor, and homeless, and are left with the choice of prostitution due to discriminatory factors, such as employment agencies, jobs, housing agencies, and social service administration centers. Within these centers, transgender women are denied their civil liberties and their basic rights as people. Their need for services, food, and shelter are all the basic necessities these women strive for, and are often times turned away.

trans_sq_1A common factor why transgender women resort to some dangerous means in order to make money (prostitution) is the lack of healthcare, and insurance benefits for them. They often resort to extreme and dangerous methods in order to feminize themselves through hormonal, and aesthetic surgeries within the black market industry. They are given cheap alternatives, fillers (usually hardware store substances not licensed for internal use) by supposed “healthcare” professionals to enhance and feminize their appearance. In certain cases, these “procedures” are done in highly unsanitary, and unhealthy conditions. In many cases they lead to tragic results, which sometimes end in irreversible damage, internal harm, and/or even death. There have been several accounts of media outlets that have reported on the dangers of these street procedures done by unlicensed, and unprofessional “doctors”, who play on the insecurities, and vanity of transgender women in order to trick them out of their hard-earned dollars. There needs to be an awareness, and exposure of these fraudulent “doctors” who falsely mislead transgender women into receiving these cosmetic surgeries, which they are not licensed or even medically certified to perform. Through an exposure of these so-called “doctors”, and procedures transgender women can become more aware of the dangers that lurk close by, and expose the opportunistic people who will play on their insecurities in order to make a quick buck. It’s of great importance to expose these issues either through more televised media news coverage, and mainstream periodicals on the subject.

Transgender transgender_hate_crimes_111810women are the number one target group within the LGBT community, in regards to cases of hate crimes (beatings, slurs), discrimination (job, community), and harassment; transgender people across the continental U.S. experience three times as much police violence as people who don’t identify as transgender (in reference to individuals within the LGBT community, as well as the heterosexual community). A common factor is that there’s also a connection to this when it comes to trans identified individuals who are part of a particular minority group (African-American, Latino). When it comes to the aid of transgender women who were the victims of hate crimes, discrimination, and harassment there is a greater cause for outrage when it comes to the reaction of authority members (mainly police). Often times, authorities that are sworn by the law to defend and protect them mistreat transgender women. Many times they are turned away, laughed at, and even ridiculed by police officers. This discourages transgender women to seek help from authorities when in need, but also creates a greater chance for sick individuals out there to keep tormenting, and taunting them for pure pleasure and amusement.

TvT-TMM-Map-2008-12_ENA great, and concerning issue is the lack of exposure in the media, as well as newspaper articles on the subject of trans crimes. During the past years, there has been a rise in homicide that receives little to no exposure within mainstream media outlets. These homicides unfortunately are of transgender women. These murders, often times are thrown under the table and are never discussed, or even heard of. On several occasions, there are stories of other transgender women, and officials who expose these crimes. These personal accounts, and police recorded evidence, give exposure to tragic occurrences were transgender women are found dead, chopped up, and abandoned under beds in suitcases in hotel rooms all over major cities. Not once have these crimes been reported on televised networks, or newspaper articles. You either have to seek the help of officials (if they’re willing), in order to find out about these cases. A majority of the time these crimes are left unfounded, and remain unsolved for the entirety of the investigation. It’s a complete and utter disrespect to transgender women to carelessly exclude these cases from the media, and even a greater travesty to not put much attention in the desire to find who committed these horrendous crimes! These crimes need to be exposed, and taken more seriously within the context of media, but more importantly by the authority personnel who are responsible for these cases!

tumblr_mhsiukKYe01rt1b3do1_500The transgender community is a diverse, complex, and interesting entity that needs to be better represented, and explored within popular culture and media. People need to become more educated on the lives’, and struggles of the transgender community; either through better representation, and/or education. This can come about through more exposure, as well as media outlets with informative services that educate people on the major issues of the transgender community. It is also important that transgender individuals voice their opinions, and become more active within popular mainstream media. They must work diligently with mainstream media outlets to give more exposure to influential transgender people within popular and mainstream culture/media.


Janet Mock.

There’s a lack of positive reinforcement on the accomplishments of trans women in the media. Young transgender women need to be presented with positive transgender role models within media, and popular culture. Transgender celebrities like, Laverne Cox (Great character actress, Orange is the New Black, writer, producer, activist), Candis Cayne (Nip/Tuck, Dirty Sexy Money, Drop Dead Diva), Janet Mock (former staff editor, People Magazine, activist, author), and Carmen Carrera (Model [Elite Model Management], burlesque performer, reality TV. personality, activist), a few among the vast transgender identified celebrities, create a more positive outlook on the eyes of young trans spectators, and creates positive media role models of transgender women, that greatly represent transgender women in a positive light. These are transgender women who are striving for a change, and have a positive image to look up to. By concentrating on these transgender women the ridicule of transgender women within mainstream media will come to a halt, and they will be treated, and respected accordingly to their great accomplishments.

tumblr_lxpbprEG3t1qek1nqIn conclusion, even though there’s a poor track record when it comes to positively representing transgender women within media, there has definitely been a slight rise in the exposure of the transgender community. Not strictly in a great light, but in due time positively represented transgender-identified women, will indeed be a commodity within mainstream television, and will become something of the norm. In time, we can only hope there will be better representations of transgender women within popular media outlets, influenced through the activism and exposure of rising, and popular transgender celebrities. As a people, we have much to learn about the transgender community, but we should embrace them as you would any other minority group, and cherish them as the amazing, and inspiring individuals they are. No harm or disrespect should come to them, in the end of the day they have the same desires we do… to strive, and better themselves as a people. Welcome them with open arms, accept them as they are, and only then we will rise above, and against all odds!

I AM: Trans People Speak is a project created by the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) and sponsored by GLAAD to raise awareness about the diversity of transgender communities. It will lift the voices of transgender individuals, as well as their families, friends, and allies. Transgender people have a wide range of interests, experiences and backgrounds that are too often ignored because of their trans identity. Together we can make a positive change in the visibility and representation of transgender people by focusing on the full individual.

For more information, go to http://glaad.org/transpeoplespeak or http://community.transpeoplespeak.org/

I AM: Trans People Speak is a campaign created by the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition (MTPC) and sponsored by GLAAD to raise awareness about the diversity of transgender communities. It will lift the voices of transgender individuals, as well as their families, friends, and allies. Find out more at http://transpeoplespeak.org and http://glaad.org/transpeoplespeak.

Part 1: Barbara Walters catches up with a girl who says she was born in the wrong body.

Part 2: How will puberty affect Jazz’s quest to live as a girl?


All imagery, videos, and captions are copyright of their respective owner. I do not own or am affiliated with these companies, and do not condone the use, or distribution of these images and/or videos. Use is solely restricted to informative and educational purposes.

Here’s a link to my personal blog http://dareyes2013.wordpress.com/. Included is the photo-spread Identity, featuring LGBTQ identified residents of Newark, as well as Rutgers-Newark student body. This was a collaboration with the students of Rutgers-Newark, and Hycide Magazine for the class Photography Workshop run by Prof. Nick Kline. Thanks to the members of Rutgers-Newark LGBTQ & Diversity Resource Center, as well as Newark residents for the wonderful photo-shoot. Visit http://lgbt.newark.rutgers.edu/ for upcoming events, and gatherings catered to Rutgers-Newark LGBTQ community.


“Day Of The Woman: Trans Women and the Horror of Misrepresentation.” Day Of The Woman: Trans Women and the Horror of Misrepresentation. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2014. <http://dayofwoman.blogspot.com/2014/02/trans-women-and-horror-of.html>

“An Article I Wrote On Misrepresentations of Trans People in the Media That the Media Misrepresented.” Elliott DeLine –. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2014. <http://elliottdeline.com/post/20839916061>

“Transgender Woman Arrested after Injecting Fix-A-Flat into Patient’s Rear End .” NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. < http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/transgender-woman-arrested-injecting-fix-a-flat-patient-rear-article-1.980273>

“Posts Tagged ‘12th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance’.” Standing On The Side Of Love. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014. < http://standingonthesideoflove.org/tag/12th-annual-transgender-day-of-remembrance/>

Are Police Profiling Transgender Americans? | Al Jazeera America.” Are Police Profiling Transgender Americans? | Al Jazeera America. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2014. < http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/america-tonight/america-tonight-blog/2013/10/16/rise-in-transgenderharassmentviolencebypolicelinkedtoprofiling.html>


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