First trans* respect ads in the USA
September 16, 2012 10:22 AM   Subscribe

District of Columbia government launches Trans* Respect ad campaign. First in the United States.
posted by floatboth (50 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Saw this yesterday and liked it. There seem to be some negative reactions from the trans community, claiming these people are "too perfect looking" (they "pass" really well). Still, it's a very important step. Trans people suffer a rate of discrimination and violence that's ridiculously disproportionate, and more visibility = good.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:34 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Good.
posted by entropone at 10:35 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's pretty cool. I'd like to see the other posters in the series.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:36 AM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The full set (I think).
posted by chrominance at 10:37 AM on September 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


these people are "too perfect looking" (they "pass" really well)

If they showed people who were in a more awkward phase of transitioning, what good would that accomplish really?
posted by hermitosis at 10:38 AM on September 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


More here with background links to recent violence against transgender people in DC.
posted by peeedro at 10:41 AM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


While I respect her (the lady pictured in the link, scroll down) choices, I'm not sure I would ever call anyone who wore a leather skirt over acid-washed jeans "perfect"!
posted by PapaLobo at 10:45 AM on September 16, 2012 [9 favorites]


More of this, please. Much, much more.
posted by odinsdream at 10:51 AM on September 16, 2012


"too perfect looking" (they "pass" really well).
Yeah, I don't understand this criticism
posted by Bwithh at 10:52 AM on September 16, 2012


This is where I read about some backlash: http://caitlinsong.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/trans-dignity/

(full disclosure, I do not know the blog writer, but I do know one of the people featured in the ads)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2012


I'm honestly surprised congresspersons from random far away states didn't find some way to make this not happen.

Because states rights, unless they're fucking with DC residents.
posted by inigo2 at 11:02 AM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


This has been floating around on my facebook for a few days. I'm glad to see it.
posted by rtha at 11:09 AM on September 16, 2012


I like the inclusion of someone who doesn't fit the binary, people who aren't thin, and people of color. I also like how it focuses on them as people instead of othering them as victims or objects of pity.

I feel like it's a very positive first step towards something that can continue to grow with input from trans and other non-gender-conforming people.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:23 AM on September 16, 2012 [17 favorites]


Did the 'they pass too well' people ignore the ad that's explicitly about not passing as any gender?

I can't help but think finding five people to be in the ads was a fairly tall order--it's rather more out than being out usually entails. (I'm kind of assuming they are people active in local trans organisations.)

I pretty much wholly reject the argument in that blog post. For a start, I don't know that the 'average' person doesn't pass. It's way too open to some form of confirmation bias--if you notice a trans person on the street, you've done so because they're visibly trans. But then the idea that it will provide fuel to bigots just feels like blaming the people in the ads for their 'acceptable' appearance. And even if those people were never going to be beaten up for being trans because they passed, they just stuck their necks out and lost that 'advantage'.

It'd be majorly problematic if they'd turned volunteers away for not passing, but we don't have reason to assume that happened. But we're still judging people on their passability.

And after having said 'pass' a zillion times in the above, I want to note that it's a completely problematic word. But it's what we've got. (I don't know that 'blend' is any better, which I have the impression some people are trying to use instead.)
posted by hoyland at 11:35 AM on September 16, 2012


This is a very good step. I hope more cities do the same.
posted by jiawen at 11:51 AM on September 16, 2012


Good. I hope it makes some people's lives easier, and leads to similar efforts elsewhere.
posted by Forktine at 12:03 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a great step.

PapaLobo: "While I respect her (the lady pictured in the link, scroll down) choices, I'm not sure I would ever call anyone who wore a leather skirt over acid-washed jeans "perfect"!"

Come out as a transgender woman, and you too can be criticized for your fashion choices on the internet!
posted by yaymukund at 12:03 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every time I write off the DC government for being an incompetent cesspool of corruption, they turn around and do something like this.

This is a very good thing, and it should be noted that DC's police department takes anti-LGBT hate crimes incredibly seriously. On that level, I'm actually pretty proud to say that the existence of this campaign doesn't surprise me.

I've also got to say that the messaging in this campaign is fantastic. I think it does a good job of connecting with DC's residents without being condescending or talking down to them. It's sometimes funny to see the "locally-tuned" ads in the Metro that were written by somebody who has obviously never set foot in DC. My favorite has to be: "Get an insurance quote in less time than it takes to ride from Shady Grove to Glenmont!" (second only to the political ads promoting issues that are just hilariously out of touch with DC residents and the federal workforce).

Tangentially-related, I also love the CDC's "We > AIDS" campaign that has been running in DC for the past few months. While I wish a similar campaign had existed 20 years ago, it's great, and the messaging is expertly-crafted.

I'm pretty proud of my city today.
posted by schmod at 12:18 PM on September 16, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's a good way to start, but ringed by the sadness that it needs to be said. No way to deal with the subtle permutations possible, only male to female, female to male, same to same. All that potential tender interaction--a dozen flavors--codified as if it can be understood during a the handful of heartbeats it takes to scan the list. Not too minimize what dangles or folds, but maybe the topography isn't really the point.

We should live long enough to look back and laugh. Weep.
posted by mule98J at 12:45 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Awesome. Thanks for sharing.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:11 PM on September 16, 2012


Come out as a transgender woman, and you too can be criticized for your fashion choices on the internet!
Oh, please. I came out in the 80s.
posted by PapaLobo at 1:17 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


So nice to see - gives me hope for the future.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 2:48 PM on September 16, 2012


More positive steps in the right direction. Bravo!
posted by arcticseal at 2:51 PM on September 16, 2012


I love the ad about being no one gender and stating they deserve to be treated with respect as a person. I've never seen that described at all in any sort of media and was an "AHA!" moment for me. I'm on the starting journey of trying to figure out how to define my non-usual gender and not knowing how to start or where to look or even what words to use (especially as I'm in a small place that will never be accepting). It made my day that there are places where people that I may be like are represented like this. And I do admit to being surprised that it is from a place where I think of conservatism coming from. America confuses this Canadian.

And I suppose it sounds naive and too optimistic and missing the nuances that some transgendered people find with it, especially with the vast internet, but how damn great is it where this can come about?! Where I can sit in my small island town in another country and see an image that tells me I'm not the freak I've thought I was for 37 years that is basically an tourism ad. Great time to be alive!
posted by kanata at 3:33 PM on September 16, 2012 [10 favorites]


DC itself is pretty far to the left, and has a really big and visible gay community. The Conservative Political Insider stereotype you're imagining? He lives out in the suburbs in Northern Virginia.

(Congratulations on taking a step towards figuring out where your gender is at! I'd buy you a beer or send you cupcakes or something to celebrate, but you still can't send those over the internet, so here, have some demographic trivia instead! That's almost as good as cupcakes, right?)
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:45 PM on September 16, 2012 [6 favorites]


" If they showed people who were in a more awkward phase of transitioning, what good would that accomplish really?"

Gee, I don't know--showing the transition phase of things might make it more realistic than, one day you're "a man/woman", then [POOF!] you're suddenly a woman/man! Like every documentary I've seen about SRS, which just shows the before surgery, then immediately cuts to post-recovery; it doesn't happen that way: it's not fucking magic.

(P.S. I'm passionate, not angry.)
posted by SarcasticSeraph at 4:29 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


""too perfect looking" (they "pass" really well).
Yeah, I don't understand this criticism"

It's the same criticism a lot of people have about actors: that's not what the average (in this case trans*) person looks like. Here in Houston, most people I have met hanging around the Transgender Center are (honestly) not passing. Call me ageist all you like, but it's because they started much later in life than people like me, who were lucky enough to be born when we were.
posted by SarcasticSeraph at 4:36 PM on September 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


never understood why one would give a damn what gender another is. Have really never understood why one would be so incredibly hateful towards someone based on nothing but their looks. How can one hate all transgendered people when they are unique individuals. It is stupid enough to hate all people sharing a certain race, creed, political belief, etc but to hate everyone who just happens to be born with genitalia and gender that don't match just doesn't compute.


I grew up in Hawaii. The Polynesian culture is much more accepting of homosexuals and transgendered. Mahu was the term for a man who lived as a woman. I don't think there was a specific term for the reverse. They were not thought as being transgendered but a third gender. Of course the missionaries screwed up the full acceptance of the mahu to some degree.

I imagine the criticism towards those who can pass for their gender is related to the criticism some African Americans get for "not being black enough". The transgendered person who can pass presumably faces less hate/discrimination than one who is obvious.

Of course at the same time I imagine being able to pass so well can cause its own set of problems when some bigot is angry when he finds out that this cool person s/he has gotten along with so well is not fully what s/he thought they were.
posted by 2manyusernames at 4:47 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Gee, I don't know--showing the transition phase of things might make it more realistic than, one day you're "a man/woman", then [POOF!] you're suddenly a woman/man! Like every documentary I've seen about SRS, which just shows the before surgery,

I think you have to both pick your battles and maintain a focus. The focus in the as campaign appears to be consciousness raising and acceptance. Further education about the process is a great thing but I think that may be an entirely different campaign.

I'm glad that they chose normative appearing people in the campaign. All of my TG friends as well as myself appear all too average. I'd really like a lot more PR that says "Hey look, we're not all that different from you really."
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 5:21 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


The criticism isn't against individual people who can pass. It's against the ad agency, for deciding only to depict people who pass.

(In other words, the equivalent complaint isn't "You personally are not black enough," it's "Dude, why doesn't this PSA about racial diversity have anyone darker than a paper bag in it?" Which seems like a much fairer complaint.)

I actually think the ad agency did a good job. There's a fine line they had to walk here: if they portrayed people who weren't passing well — and especially if they portrayed them as trying and failing to pass — I suspect they'd have gotten a lot more flak, for perpetuating the idea that trans women are "not real women" or trans men are "not real men" or whatever. I'm glad that the women in particular here are portrayed as real women, as counting as women 100%, because there is so much cultural effort being exerted against letting trans women be portrayed that way.

But I also see where the critics are coming from. Not that long ago, someone might have said "Well, black people are getting so many portrayals in the media as ugly and dark-skinned and so we oughta combat that by getting some nice pretty light-skinned people to be the public face of the community," and now that idea sounds unbelievably problematic. Maybe what I'm saying here will sound just as problematic in 50 years. I mean, if so, it'll be awesome news in my book. If we've made enough progress on this shit in 50 years that I sound like a retrograde cissexist moron to the average guy on the street, then oh man drinks are on me everybody this is cause for some serious celebration. But still — point is, I think there's room for debate here.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:21 PM on September 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, I suspect that this being an Official District Of Columbia Project probably limited what they could do. A private organization can push the envelope a bit. A civil servant who gets too daring with this sort of thing gets publicly humiliated and then fired.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:26 PM on September 16, 2012


This is really wonderful. I have a trans-female friend who's doing a music tour in Europe right now for the second year in a row, and she's having a few unpleasant interactions. Last year was more difficult because she hadn't started on hormones yet and I guess didn't know the culture/foreign stereotypes she was walking into, but even this year she got her boobs grabbed by some random Dutch guy because he thought she was just a guy in drag (which would obviously makes such harassment ok).

So, yes. More of this.
posted by hopeless romantique at 5:58 PM on September 16, 2012


Progress is always worth celebrating, but ... in sad contrast, there is this.
posted by NetizenKen at 6:55 PM on September 16, 2012


This is a very good thing, and it should be noted that DC's police department takes anti-LGBT hate crimes incredibly seriously. On that level, I'm actually pretty proud to say that the existence of this campaign doesn't surprise me.

It's worth noting that they've come a long way, to the extent that EMS and MPD are connected.
posted by hoyland at 7:16 PM on September 16, 2012


I was expecting these ads to be full of totally gorgeous, airbrushed supermodel types, and had that been the case, I would've agreed with the people complaining about the unrealistic depiction of transgender people. But to be honest, the people pictured did look like a fairly representative (if small) selection of transgender folk to me. The women were pretty, but no more pretty than the supposedly "average-looking" genetic women I'd expect to see in a PSA about breast cancer or whatever.

The really surprising part was that I actually found the men less passable than the women... There are a lot of totally passable F2M transgender people out there, because F2Ms are generally going to have an easier time becoming passable men than M2Fs have becoming passable women. (Pump enough testosterone into Marilyn Monroe, and you could turn her into a passable man.) With so many totally passable F2Ms out there, I'm puzzled by the models they decided to use. I'm not complaining, and it's not meant as a knock against the guys they used. It's just puzzling to me.

I think these ads a very good thing. It's pathetic that we need things like this in 2012, but we do need them.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:13 PM on September 16, 2012


On my best day, I barely pass as human (being an old and tired white guy), so I say "good on you" to all these brave folks.

I've known a couple of transgender people in my time, and I can only imagine their struggles in this society, this world. I wish them all peace and serenity.
posted by SPrintF at 10:09 PM on September 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm puzzled by the comments suggesting the ad campaign somehow highlights only "passing" trans persons. While such assessments are necessarily subjective, my first impression of the ads was exactly the opposite. It seemed to me that they intentionally picked individuals that weren't perfect visual models for either polar extreme of the gender spectrum. Like kanata mentioned, I don't think I've ever seen a public campaign acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, it's not all about a gender binary, and that's really fantastic.
posted by odinsdream at 5:31 AM on September 17, 2012


With so many totally passable F2Ms out there, I'm puzzled by the models they decided to use. I'm not complaining, and it's not meant as a knock against the guys they used. It's just puzzling to me.

Oh, man, there's so much wrong with this comment. You are knocking the guys in the ads. I'm sure they want your commentary on their appearance. It tacitly assumes 'passability' is all that matters in a successful transition. Some people don't care. Some people explicitly don't want to pass. Some people wish they did, but just don't pass. Some people might not pass now, but will in the future. And so on.

If we're going to comment on the passability of the models at all (which we definitely shouldn't be doing in any degree of specificity--it's absurdly rude), it's to say "Hey, wait, they seemed to have used people at different stages of transition and/or different ways of expressing their gender and that's a good thing." One person in this thread knows one of the models. The rest of us have very little information on these people's thoughts about how they present themselves, aside from being able to hazard one has a non-binary gender identity. Otherwise, we have no information about which of the zillion perspectives on passing these people have. Nor, for that matter, other than the one person, do we have any idea whether they pass in their daily lives--how someone's gender is perceived is way too dependent on factors we can't magically impute via the internet.
posted by hoyland at 5:49 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


nebulawindphone: "DC itself is pretty far to the left, and has a really big and visible gay community. The Conservative Political Insider stereotype you're imagining? He lives out in the suburbs in Northern Virginia. "

These two things are definitely true, but don't conflate the Democratic Party's stronghold over DC politics to be an indicator of actual liberalism. DC votes Democrat because the Republicans are racist fuckers who hate DC. The churches are highly influential, and add a deep (social) conservative streak to our politics. A lot of them would vote conservative if there was a conservative ticket without so many dealbreakers.

So, don't say "Oh, DC can only do that because they're a super-progressive city," because we're not. We can do this, because we take human rights very seriously, and against all odds, have some very competent people working in our city government. Evidently, you can still do that in a community that has some fairly conservative facets.
posted by schmod at 7:29 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The rest of us have very little information on these people's thoughts about how they present themselves, aside from being able to hazard one has a non-binary gender identity

Why are we supposed to not be able to guess that the models care about passing but we are able to guess that the models have a non-binary identity? Because I am a TG woman and I care about myself "passing" and I have what you would call a binary gender identity. Perhaps it's best not to make any suppositions at all other than its a great campaign that should be repeated in more cities.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 8:18 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why are we supposed to not be able to guess that the models care about passing but we are able to guess that the models have a non-binary identity?

This is a fair point. A non-binary gender identity or presentation seems to be what the poster about being read as both a man and woman is getting at, though we can't know for certain. That's why I said hazard.

I never said there was anything wrong with you or anyone else desiring to pass. If i implied there was something wrong with using passing as the measure by which you judge your own transition, I apologise. I meant that discussing whether the people in the ads pass is fucked up.
posted by hoyland at 8:42 AM on September 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


...but we are able to guess that the models have a non-binary identity?

I don't think any guesses are necessary for at least one of the ads:

"Some think I should dress more like a woman, some think I should dress more like a man. I may not fit some ideas about gender, and I am a proud part of DC."

The message is consistent with the imaging, and I'd assume the subject was involved in crafting both.
posted by odinsdream at 8:45 AM on September 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


hoyland: "It's worth noting that they've come a long way, to the extent that EMS and MPD are connected."

hoyland, can you give more information about this? As a trans woman, I'm still generally scared of DC (largely because of what happened to Tyra), but if things have really changed there, I'd love to hear more.
posted by jiawen at 6:38 PM on September 17, 2012


hoyland, can you give more information about this? As a trans woman, I'm still generally scared of DC (largely because of what happened to Tyra), but if things have really changed there, I'd love to hear more.

I don't know. I was taking the comment that the MPD takes hate crimes seriously at face value. I have the impression that the MPD are not awful, but that it'll still be a long time before people trust them. (Of course, the last time I was in DC, LGBT people kept getting beaten up, which isn't exactly confidence instilling regardless of the police.)
posted by hoyland at 7:31 PM on September 17, 2012


Or, said another way, I don't think people expect that they'd leave someone to die, but everyone is still well aware that they did.
posted by hoyland at 7:32 PM on September 17, 2012


Oh, man, there's so much wrong with this comment.

Well, thanks for such a thorough scolding. If any of the models happen to read my comments and their feelings are hurt, well, let me repeat that I didn't mean what I was saying as a knock against any of them. I think they're very courageous for being a part of this campaign. My comment was speculating about the intention of the ads. I still think that's a potentially interesting discussion, but perhaps there isn't any way to have it without commenting inappropriately on the models.

I usually take pains to never criticize anybody's appearance. But in a situation like this, where it's a campaign that's being discussed all over the place and people are weighing in with all sorts of opinions, I never imagined that my rather dispassionate remarks would ever reach these people, let alone cause them any pain. If it turns out that I did, they can let me know, and I will gladly discuss it with them.

Please do not presume that you really know anything about my attitudes about transitioning and passability, based on a superficial read of a comment that wasn't terribly deep to begin with. Passing is a very complicated matter, and since this thread is probably winding down, I'd rather not get into it unless I have to. Long story short, I don't pass, I've gotten my share of crap for it, and I'm still out there in the tranny trenches. So don't lecture me, thanks.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:10 PM on September 17, 2012


hoyland: "Or, said another way, I don't think people expect that they'd leave someone to die, but everyone is still well aware that they did."

Ah, I thought maybe you'd seen a survey or report or something. Yeah, while a lot of police forces and emergency services say they're working to prevent bias, I don't think trans folks (in particular trans women of color) feel much safer.
posted by jiawen at 7:44 AM on September 18, 2012


There are a lot of totally passable F2M transgender people out there, because F2Ms are generally going to have an easier time becoming passable men than M2Fs have becoming passable women.

We had a talk at work from someone from a trans organisation who said the stereotype of a trans woman is a strapping, bulky person*, and the stereotype of a trans man is someone 5ft 5 with a beard. The interesting point was that although you see transexuals in the UK media now and again (Coronation Street has had a M2F transexual character for some years) it's rare to see trans men at all. I was surprised to see a non-binary person in these ads, purely because I do think people are still getting their head around women becoming men and what have you.

*I'm a cis-gendered female who is 5ft 10, clumsy, and with huge feet - when I sold some shoes of mine on eBay and looked up previous auctions, I learned that I'd get more bids if I included 'TV/TS' in the title.
posted by mippy at 7:46 AM on September 18, 2012


Sorry, that first sentence was a quote.
posted by mippy at 7:47 AM on September 18, 2012


mippy, you understand that that's a stereotype, right? Generalizations like "trans women pass less often than trans men" are just that -- generalizations. Especially tricky here, precisely because if someone is passable, then they're not going to stick out as obviously trans. It's fairly accurate to state that trans women have greater hurdles to passability, but stating that trans women pass less well than trans men is taking the generalization too far.
posted by jiawen at 10:36 AM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


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