I was first introduced to concepts of gender diversity two and a half years ago, when one of my closest friends came out as transgender and began transitioning from female to male. Although his journey has often been difficult, I feel lucky to be able to have been close to him. I’ve grown in my understanding of gender diversity and fluidity not only through our conversations, but through a heightened awareness of sexism, gender difference and gender divergence in society and the media.
The concept of ‘being transgender’ can seem mysterious and elusive to many, and the often toxic combination of curiosity and ignorance can have a devastating impact, not only on people going through such an important journey, but on the celebrated diversity of our society. For many, the only ‘news’ one receives about transgender people are funny ‘odd spots’ at the bottom of newspapers, or novelty pieces plastered across the internet. Apart from the subjects of inappropriate and degrading humour, vitriolic hate and intense social prejudice, Trans* people are highly underrepresented in mainstream media. This not only breeds greater ignorance, but can leave some young gender-questioning people without strong role models.
There are many young Trans* people who create YouTube channels and write blogs to document their emotional, mental and physical journey through life, which can be a great resource not only for those transitioning but also for their family and friends who may have questions. As a cisgender ally and a young media producer, I wanted to do what I could to help get young Trans* stories and voices broadcast to an audience who may not otherwise seek them out online.
In the formation of this recording, I spent about an hour with Lucy West and Keitaro in a private room, where we had more of a recorded discussion than an ‘interview’. I invited them to lead the discussion wherever they saw fit, sharing whatever they wished to share, and made absolutely clear that we didn’t have to talk about anything they would prefer not to.
What was really important to me was that Lucy and Keitaro felt in control of how their stories were being shaped and presented. As people who are faced with a barrage of questions about their gender and transition everyday, I felt it was important to not treat them as curiosities, but instead as intelligent, engaging conversationalists who had important stories to tell. Although I did ask questions, they were used more as prompts, and I took most of my voice out of the final piece because I wanted their stories to shine through, rather than having myself constantly interject.
This interview was broadcast on 3RRRFM earlier this year, and is also part of a longer documentary which I worked on with Elle Marsh, Cassandra Steeth and Blaise Marshall, entitled Transforming Gender, as part of the Bachelor of Communication (Media) course at RMIT. Although there are a few minor technical issues with the recording, I am incredibly pleased with the connection that Lucy, Keitaro and I established, and honoured that they opened up to me and shared their wonderful stories.
As a society, we still have a long way to go regarding the fair representation of minority groups in mainstream media. However, the channels for discussion are widening every day, as long as media-makers such as ourselves see issues of social injustice as important, and work towards broadening understanding.
Cassandra Wright is a recent communications graduate, and a presenter and producer for 3RRRFM’s Room With A View (12-1pm, Monday) and SYN’s technology program A/S/L (8-9pm, Saturday). She is passionate about digital culture, gender and equality issues, and stories that traverse the boundary between the personal and political. You can find out more at: http://cassandrawright.net