Trans people need more positive representation

By: Jasper Griswold, Columnist

Transgender representation in the media is very important. So often there are transphobic caricatures, or cis people playing transgender characters. There was a lot of controversy not too long ago about Scarlett Johansson being cast to play a trans man, though she later dropped out. South Park features an episode on trans athletes, including a “trans woman” that started identifying as trans “two weeks ago” and had a very deep voice. This all furthers the idea that trans people are just men in women’s clothes – or women in men’s clothes – wearing some makeup.

But the Saved by the Bell reboot is doing it right. Josie Totah, a trans girl, was cast as the lead role for the reboot of the sitcom. She will play Lexi, who is the most popular girl at Bayside High. It’s important to note that this is a transgender actress playing a cisgender character, at least, it seems this way from early information. Transgender actors are often stuck playing transgender characters. But this is Hollywood admitting that trans women are women, and casting as such. This will give hope to many trans kids hoping to act.

Josie came out as transgender in a Time magazine article entitled “My name is Josie Totah, and I’m ready to be free.” 

In that article, she states, “I realized over the past few years that hiding my true self is not healthy. I know now, more than ever, that I’m finally ready to take this step toward becoming myself. I’m ready to be free.” 

It’s important to note that her gender identity crystallized from another piece of transgender representation – the show “I Am Jazz,” which follows the life of another transgender girl named Jazz Jennings. When I was a kid, I didn’t have that. My transgender representation was trans beauty pageants, where trans women were paraded around and the point was to show how much they looked like cis women. And I remember in “Friends” when Chandler’s dad, was a laughingstock for wearing women’s clothes and being overtly feminine despite – gasp – being a guy. All of that gave me a sense of hatred for myself and my identity differing from the gender I was given.

As the media shares more positive transgender representation and people see kinder views of trans people, they may grow to understand the community more and it could decrease the hatred. And it could help more transgender kids understand their gender identities.

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