Throwback Thursday: Evolution of Trans Visibility and LGBTQ+ Rights

Students attend the Millennium March for Equality in April of 2000 (Photo courtesy of Michael Key)

Students attend the Millennium March for Equality in April of 2000 (Photo courtesy of Michael Key)

Christine Mbagwu, Staff Writer

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This week the Raider Review revisited the Millennium March on Washington that occurred in April of 2000. LGBT+ individuals and the Human Rights Campaign created the march with the goal of raising awareness and protesting anti-gay legislation.

The Millennium March for Equality, as well as the internationally recognized Pride Festival, highlighted a significant turning point in history—the turn of the decade, an introduction into the 21st century. Since 2009 United States has seen trans visibility and rights gradually increase according to the NYTimes compared to the earlier years. A number of these changes involve increased representation through pro-trans and LGBT+ legislation, the entertainment industry, and other unseen influences.

This school year Eleanor Roosevelt students joined in the celebration and acknowledgement of trans visibility. When asked what trans visibility and representation means to her, senior Lindsey Hite shared that it signifies how “trans people are shown equality and inclusion like any cisgender person would be.” Trans visibility “addresses the issue that society has with acknowledging and validating trans identities, so proper visibility and representation helps to support trans people and provide a safer, less judgmental place for them,” she stated.

Senior Joy Pase shared that it means “the world being able to see that trans people tend not to adhere to stereotypes, especially aesthetic stereotypes, and that those people are still valid in who they are.”

Hite believes that trans people have many influences that go unnoticed. A lot of the “overlooked trans influence mostly stems from trends in the gay community as a whole,” she shared. “[Trans individuals’] right to acknowledgement for breaking barriers is taken from them because society tries to erase their identity [and] the only change in gender roles that is ever acknowledged is a white cis man in a dress on a magazine, not the trans people who organize groups, parades, protests and other activities that help to destroy confining gender norms,” she continued.

In light of Trans Day of Visibility, popular Pokémon character, Meowth, was revealed to be voiced by trans actor and artist Madde Blaustein in the early 2000s. It is a reminder that trans artists exist all around us at all times. Hite commented that Blaustein has “impacted children’s experience with the show by giving them a memorable wholesome program to remember from their childhood while demonstrating to the public that trans people are as normal as everyone else, and that they can have a positive influence the same way that cisgender people can.”

Other shows that featured trans actors and the work of trans artists resonated among several student throughout their childhoods. Hite shared that Orange is the New Black star, Laverne Cox, and deaf activist Chella Man are her role models who “work tirelessly against social norms that seek to silence their identities.” Even then shows like Sense8, which was canceled despite its popular rating of 8.4/10 on IMDb, funnel more into the fact that trans representation is simply underfunded and underappreciated among widely heteronormative environments.

Redefining gender expression has contributed to the movement toward advancing trans visibility. In countries where minority groups are prevalent, social norms tend to exclude trans people and the LGBT+ community. Artists such as Bad Bunny, who is also known as Benito Ocasio, popular for painting his nails and wearing colors seen as bold and feminine, are breaking barriers in an effort to change gender norms. “Hispanic or Latinx groups aren’t used to seeing gender norms being broken so bad bunny is somewhat closing that gap,” Hernandez shared.

Hite supported that those who are redefining gender expression are demonstrating “to cultures and demographics – that are typically resistant to homosexuality and alterations to gender norms – that cis men can still maintain their masculinity, security, and inclusion within their cultures while breaking gender barriers that are destructive to others.”

In reference to Bad Bunny’s tendency to be negatively critiqued by homophobic bigots, Joy Pase criticized their actions relaying that he sees “a lot of people on the internet calling Bad Bunny gay for his award show attire [and it] is not okay.” He believes that it is “great that there are people who are comfortable enough with themselves to go against the grain like that and change sometimes incredibly toxic norms.”

Relatively recently, gay marriage was legalized in all 50 states in 2015. Hite remarked that it has made “it possible for people that she is close with to marry their loved ones without legal interjection.”

Joy Pase supported that he “can now get married in any part of [his] own country” as can many of her friends, yet “it still shocks [him] that there are people out there who actively or even passively oppose [gay marriage].” However, the movement for LGBT+ equality and trans visibility still has much left to improve on.

Misconceptions that many have about trans people are that “trans women are actually men and trans men are actually women,” shared Hernandez.

Back in late 2018, the Trump Administration released a memo proposal that would legally redefine the definition of sex, requiring any citizen to adhere to female or male pronouns. The Trump Administration has not shown support for the trans community. Hite sustained that she does “not see these rights improving because of the current Congress and President that we have who are actively working against LGBTQ+ rights.

Hernandez supported stating that the president serves as a constant obstacle to advancing trans rights because “he is very transphobic.”

Other obstacles that trans people face are mockery, according to Pase. Transphobic people create “parodies” or introduce “straw man” arguments meant to deter trans visibility and attention.

Everyday is trans visibility day. Trans and LGBT+ visibility serves as a reminder of the constant movement toward equality. It is a reminder that trans identities do not have to be built around the idea of manhood or womanhood nor does it have to be built around sex reassignment surgery and hormones. It’s about identity.

Pase shared in a concluding statement that “there should 100% be total protection for trans folk.” And that’s on period.

In words that could not be said better, Hite shared that “trans people, despite all the hardships that they have faced and still continue to face, are not a weak group of people and should not be made out to look like one; they don’t want pity or sympathy, they want raw and open support for their fight to simply exist.” Eleanor Roosevelt students remind everyone not to be oblivious to trans people or leave them out of existence.

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