I’m beginning to think that we’ve past impatient and have gone to full-on insane-and-wishful-thinking when it comes to progress we’ve made in the fight for full GLBT equality. There are a lot of people out there who are pissed at Jared Leto for giving an Oscar-winning performance of a trans-woman.
They are screaming the same angst that we heard back when Jack MacFarland was the only visible gay man who actually did gay things – like kiss boys, and swoon over Cher. And still to this day, people are pissed that this character existed at all, because he was, I admit, a horrible stereotype. And some people are saying the same about Leto’s role as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.
But here’s the thing: We need to be seen. All of us. And being seen is the first step in being seen as equal. Let me state that again:
Being seen is the first step in being seen as equal.
And there are other steps, but let me outline how it works for any marginalized group that the majority would rather not think about because something about them is “icky”.
- We are not seen, and therefore cannot be understood. Never mind liked or equal.
- We are seen, but not understood, certainly not liked, and still not equal.
- We are seen, and liked, but still not understood, and not equal.
- We are seen, liked, and understood, but still not equal.
- We are seen, liked, understood and equal.
Right now, the L&G parts of the movement are on step 3, and getting really close to step 4. In many ways, we are on step 4, but not all ways, and there are plenty of places where we are still on Step 1. (In Uganda and Russian, we’re back to Step 0: Move so you are not murdered in the streets.)
The “B” contingent is kinda all over the map. They are somewhat ahead of the L&G in some ways, and somewhat behind in others. But they are visible.
Trans folk are in a really hateful place on this progression because they are visible, but they aren’t well understood by the masses, and they aren’t portrayed well by the popular stories, and are still shunned in many, many ways. The upside is they are on the path, and that’s the only comfort, cold tho it may be, that I can offer, aside from my support. And I fully support trans people.
I do, however, want to point out that bitching about Leto not being the right choice, or that Rayon should have been played by a trans actress, misses the bigger point. Trans people are not invisible. You have to be seen to be understood. And that first step has been made.
We still have a lot of work to do, but focusing your anger at not being equal at our allies is a good way to lose allies and this fight. Let’s not do that. Celebrate Dallas Buyers Club for what it is – a good story, with a great cast, with some trashy, throw-away material that we’d like to evolve past. And then show us what you want to see next. There’s nothing stopping you from writing the next Oscar winning movie with a trans lead, is there?
I didn’t think so.