When you’re looking for representation of marginalized groups in mainstream media, you’ll likely be disappointed by the lack thereof. And whatever little representation you find tends to lack diversity and intersectionality and overtly attempts to homogenize an entire group or subcultural phenomenon. One such phenomenon is the abundance of intra-transgender romantic relationships; or put simply, when two or more trans people are engaged in romantic relationships (trans cisgender people). I find these relationships beautiful and interesting, showing that even though we’re constantly made to believe that we’re not beautiful, desirable, or loveable, we are in fact all of these things; we are enough for one another. And when we’re looking at romantic relationships between trans binary folks (trans men and trans women), another interesting characteristic is that, from my personal experience/observation, it is much more common to find trans men dating other trans men and trans women dating other trans women. But when we look to corporate media networks to mirror the reality and commonality of intra-trans relationships, what you will find are relationships between trans men and trans women.
Let’s take a gander at an example, shall we? The popular, online, British newspaper, Daily Mail, published an article titled, “Trans or not we would make great parents’: Married couple who are BOTH transgender share their dream of starting a family as they desperately search for a child to adopt” this year containing a video produced by Mode.com from their My Life series, with this video titled, My Life: We’re A Trans Couple. In said video, we are introduced to Clair Farley (a trans woman) and James Howley (a trans man), who are a married couple living in San Francisco. Right from the get go, it’s easy to tell why Clair and James were selected, to be the public face of the trans community and represent what a trans couple looks like. They’re white, straight, middle to upper class and professional, monogamous and married, adhere to traditional gender expressions of manhood and womanhood, and want to have children. They’re practically the picture perfect American couple, complete with heteronormativity, with the only thing setting them apart from the American ideal is their failure to adhere to cisnormativity. I call this: transnormativity. They even want to recreate the cookie cutter nuclear family! How respectable and wholesome they must be! You think the editors at the Daily Mail should have titled the article “Trans People: They’re Just Like Us!” or “Trans People Can Assimilate Too!”.
And while this is but one couple’s story and narrative, it fits within a larger scheme of very similar representations being regurgitated to straight, cisgender audiences in hopes that these similarity politics will help cishets be a little less horrible to their fellow non-cis human beings. And while I wish these couples the best and feel no ill will toward them, I’m sick of the role that respectability politics and palatability plays into this broader narrative that erases the existence of trans couples who aren’t straight, who aren’t white, who aren’t rich, or who don’t want children, just to make cishets feel more comfortable. This type of thinking is along the lines of, “Well, if you can’t be cisnormative, then you can AT LEAST be heteronormative! Being a decent and open minded human being is hard, so let’s not add too much queerness or complexity in the mix so that it’s an easier pill for cishets to swallow! Let us get used to you one identity at a time! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!”
And while I understand the neoliberal politics behind presenting the most respectable and ”normal” faces of trans couples, my radical and punk leniencies let me know that this form of slow, incremental change is hog wash, and it’s not enough to achieve trans and queer liberation. I want to see trans lesbians, trans gay men, trans bisexuals and pansexuals, trans people of color, poor and working class trans folks, polyamorous trans folks, non-binary people and genderqueers; basically trans couples of varying intersecting identities and marginalizations instead of almost the exact same story recycled over and over again until it cannot be recycled any more. Not all of our love looks exactly the same; and a lot of times it’s super fucking queer, and cishets need to get over the misconception that the dynamics of all forms of romantic love must perfectly model their own or it’s somehow invalid, strange, or illegitimate. I’m here to tell you that our love is diverse, unique, and sacred, despite the fact that we almost never get to see our romantic realities reflected in mainstream and corporate media. It takes place all around you, despite the fact that some would rather have us be invisible. We’re too creative and imaginative to follow society’s scripts, so we write our own. We know it makes a lot of people scared and uncomfortable, but they’ll just have to learn to accept it.
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Ruth Sybil May is a junior undergraduate student at SCSU, studying Gender and Women’s Studies, Human Relations, and Film studies. Ruth is a transfeminine, non-binary person from a poor, working class background with a passion for feminism, fashion, film, and rad tunes.