The thoughts and opinions expressed in this post solely belong to Anti intellect – FUNKY DINEVA DID NOT WRITE THIS
I look forward to the day when a straight man taking a picture with a trans woman is not an issue. If social media is any indication, we have a while to go before that vision becomes a reality. Over the weekend, a picture surfaced of former NFL player and reality star, Chad Johnson, posing with Amiyah Scott, a trans woman. Judging by the number of ignorant comments leveled at both Johnson and Scott, you would have thought that the two had committed a serious crime, and in a sense, they had. In our transphobic world, a straight man taking a picture with a trans woman is seen as a “crime”. What is the crime, you ask? The crime is respecting a transgender woman.
As I watched the hoopla over Chad Johnson and Amiyah Scott, taking a picture together, unfold, I was glad to see that Johnson did not distance himself from Scott simply because she is a trans woman. I have my issues with Johnson, his violent response to former wife Evelyn Lozada being one of them, but I was proud to see a straight man affirming and respecting a trans woman. All too often, straight men throw trans women under the bus when they are shamed and ridiculed for taking a picture with a trans woman, befriending a trans woman, or being romantic with a trans woman. Johnson responded to those attacking him by stating, “I rock with everybody, no matter what.” In the midst of so much ignorance, Chad Johnson showed that trans women are people too.
Most of us are no stranger to transgender women. We know them as friends, family members, and coworkers. We have grown up with depictions of them in the media that have all to often relegated them to the realm of jokes or monsters. We are inundated with shows like Jerry Spring that depict trans women as predators who “trick” straight men into sleeping with them. The trans woman is brought out and her “secret” revealed as the straight man she “tricked” reacts wildly while the audience claps and screams in glee. Or we are shown depictions of trans women on shows like The Parkers where there existence is solely for comic relief. One episode, in particular, revolves around “T” being attracted to a trans woman as the other cast members tease and taunt him over the fact that he does not know that she is transgender. The episode ends with “T” screaming in horror, at the top of his lungs, once he finds out her “secret”.
Media representation has the potential to make us comfortable with people from different walks of life, but it also has the potential to make us see a community in a monolithic way. Trans women have all too often only been seen as predators and/or comic relief. I am here to tell you, however, that the lives of trans woman are diverse and multifaceted. Yes, there are trans women who have not revealed their gender identity, often for good reason, but there are many who live there lives with honesty and openness. Trans women come from all walks of life, and it is long overdue that we start to recognize their diversity within their community. We need to look beyond the stereotypes to see the trans women who are enrolled in college and trade schools, the trans women who are journalists, motivational speakers, doctors, executive directors, hairstylists, actresses, wives, mothers, and almost any other role imaginable.
The importance of respecting respecting trans women is a serious matter. Violence against trans women, particularly Black trans women, remains extremely high. When we disrespect trans women, regarding them as predators and jokes, we are not just “picking on them”, but actively contributing to a culture that makes existence for trans women both a difficult and dangerous thing.
Trans women like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Isis King, Monica Roberts, Amiyah Scott, and many others are standing in truth in light to make sure that there community is respected. However, trans women cannot do it alone. The onus is on each of us to examine our own transphobia. We must constantly examine our consciousness to ensure that we are not being complicit in their dehumanization, whether it is trying to shame someone for taking a picture with a trans woman or calling them slurs like “tranny” and “shemale”.
Let’s use the ignorance shown directed at Chad Johnson and Amiyah Scott as an opportunity to move from disrespecting trans women to respecting them.
Anti-Intellect is a DC-based social media activist and essayist.