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Trans activist responds to ’11 insanely hot men you will not believe are trans’

Trans activist responds to ’11 insanely hot men you will not believe are trans’

My children and I were involved in a discussion on Tuesday evening. My son was asked about what it was like growing up without a male role model.

‘Well,’ he replied, ‘it’s not as if there aren’t other men in the family, like uncles and grandfather and cousins.’

‘And there are hundreds of ways to be male,’ I chipped in, attempting to puncture the stereotype that was slowly emerging – not that I considered myself remotely capable of being a male role model, whatever that’s supposed to be.

Trans people are subjected to a lot of stereotyping. It’s almost as if, once people are aware you have that ‘T label’, you’re attached to a flashing neon sign which entitles folk to make all sorts of wild assumptions about you.

Even though I’m pretty openly trans, I don’t go around telling everyone I meet, so when people I’ve known for a while discover my history you can see a process of readjustment going on.

This seems to be a very common experience for trans people, hence why headlines such as ‘11 insanely hot men you will not believe are trans’, used on a Gay Star News article two days ago and now read by over a quarter of a million people, can be controversial.

While recognizing the piece as celebration of trans men, I feel, as do some other trans people, the headline set the wrong tone. Other trans people, however, have defended the choice equally rigorously.

Lots of people, possibly most people, have completely incorrect assumptions about trans people, particularly when it comes to acceptability. The idea of trans men being ‘beautiful both inside and out’ clearly challenges those assumptions.

The inadvertent danger of that is the headline has been read by some to imply that ‘hot men’ cannot be trans. Perhaps this is click-bait gone too far.

But, on the other hand, there is a serious problem here facing media who do want to give a positive portrayal of trans people, including GSN.

How do you encourage positive exposure about and for trans people without feeling the need to piously educate all the time? Because pious education certainly isn’t digital click-bait and the risk of sticking to that is nobody reads and nobody is educated.

How do you ensure safety for those who do stick their head above the parapet, or who are simply just visible? Because a level of basic education is needed.

Any minority community is always on the lookout for visible, high profile role models. I also saw this in my years in evangelical Christianity. But people who gain media attention may not actually want to be a role model.

It’s why I’m pleased when the trans status slips under the radar, as it did a few months back for a friend of mine who appeared on a competition on national television. That’s educational in its own way – you know what, trans people aren’t always identifiable as trans.

It’s similar to John Humphreys grilling Professor Stephen Whittle on the radio last month. ‘So,’ intoned the legendary broadcaster, ‘did you get grief because you looked like a woman?’ ‘No,’ replied Whittle, ‘because I looked like a man, but had girl on my birth certificate.’

Whittle always reminds me of King George V – and I don’t recall anyone mentioning that the late King ever looked less than manly.

Around the time I transitioned, someone I knew who was struggling with my news one day expressed amazement that one of his neighbors had revealed that he was a trans man – a possibility that simply hadn’t dawned on my acquaintance. That process of readjustment was clearly going on.

Then there’s the perennial debate – should trans parts go to trans actors? Except, of course, they might have already done so. How would you know? The question is really ‘should trans parts go to openly trans actors?’ which is a different thing entirely.

All news outlets exist to sell stories – GSN is no different in that respect. So I can understand why a click-bait headline was chosen – other similar ones simply wouldn’t have been so strong. I’m not convinced it was the right choice.

But equally I don’t want to discourage positive portrayals, because positive media is the only way that society at large will learn that it’s not OK to kill trans people just because they are trans.

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