VIDEO: Isis King and Janet Mock Talk About Trans Women In the Media, Are Awesome

“In the Life” Media aims to expose social injustice by chronicling the true stories and real experiences of LGBTQ people and they’ve done great work for the transgender community, most notably their show Becoming Me, which trailed eight families with transgender and gender nonconforming children and attempted to “elevate the discussion” past “spectacle” level into the “honest and helpful” level.

This week they released an especially awesome “In Conversation With…”, which is – surprise!! — a conversation with activist, writer & People.com Janet Mock and model Isis King, both transgender women who have become increasingly visible over the last five years (Janet is the lovely face behind #girlslikeus, in fact). They talk about trans representation on television, the counterproductive attention from trashy daytime talk shows, and the frustration of interviewers asking the same questions every time, without any regard for manners or privacy or even relevance. These are issues we’ve touched on here in instances like Jenna Talackova’s Barbara Walters interview and Nightline’s “Transgendered Special.”

“After Top Model, I went and did all these interviews. People are still asking the same Trans 101 questions,” Isis recalls. “‘What was your name? How old were you when you felt like you were different? — all of these questions where I’m like, ‘OK, when are we going to move past this?”

“I get very angry when I see depictions of Trans 101 through mainstream media,” Janet agreed.

It’s interesting to think, while watching this video, how rare it is that we ever hear from transgender people talking about their own lives and telling their own stories without any cisgender people in the room.

See for yourself:

 

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Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

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19 Comments

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    This is fantastic. I would love if we could get past trans 101, but it’s apparent that the VAST majority of people are completely ignorant about trans issues. Even some well-meaning ones. So frustrating. These women both have really interesting things to say, so it’s a shame and a waste for people to ask them about their adam’s apples. I admire their patience in educating people, cause that shit gets old.

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    i could learn a thing or twelve about being the bigger person from these women. i love this so much. usually i’m meh about interviews but i love how the idea here is that they both have something important to say.

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    This conversation is so meaningful, and not that I know what questions to ask, but I’d love to hear/read more features on authentic trans* issues.

    Also Janet Mock is gorgeous. And eloquent. And gorgeous.

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      Wait, what? Are you saying that anyone who identifies as a “transwoman” isn’t as purely a woman as someone who’s a “gaywoman”, “straightwoman”, or “ciswoman”? Because I’m a transwoman who’s also 100% woman. And guess what? Gay women, straight women, cis women, and trans women, are all 100% women.

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          Creating a compound word tends to imply a wholly separate category, women and transwomen, and all the othering/third gender classification that comes with that. Using “trans” as an adjective modifying “woman” places it in the same category as a gay woman, i.e. a certain kind of women, rather than something other than a woman. Thus people tend to find the “trans women” form less problematic than the “transwomen” form.

          It’s a bit like how there is a preference towards transgender and transsexual being used exclusively as adjectives, and not as nouns – a transgender women rather than a transgender, a trans women rather than a transwoman.

          It’s not really a huge thing. But it is something I’d change in a text I was editing.

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        “Because I’m a transwoman who’s also 100% woman. And guess what? Gay women, straight women, cis women, and trans women, are all 100% women.” That, and that I think that using “transwoman” as one word implies otherwise, was what I was trying to say. I’m sorry I didn’t word that better!

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    What an incredible interview! It’s so refreshing to hear two transwomen talk about just…being themselves, you know? It must be exhausting being in that position and almost being obligated to act as an educator and constantly have to answer “those” questions instead of being able to just focus on their careers as regular women.

    Also chiming in with the other posters on how gorgeous and intelligent Janet is.

  5. Pingback: INTERLINQ-ED: News and Media about LGBTQ Diaspora Around the World (June 29th-July 5th) | QWOC Media Wire

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    I have struggled with some very complicated feelings on transgender issues. In my head, I thought/think that being transgender is a birth defect, corrected by gender reassignment, giving the individual the chance to live their life as the whole person they are.
    For whatever reason, what I felt conflicted with what I thought. It was like a pain, or a discomfort, or a doubt similar to the kind I imagine some feel about gay people, “are you sure?” “Why would you want that life?” “Have you really tried being ‘normal’ yet?” And I couldn’t put my finger on it.
    I’ve spent a good long time trying to educate myself on the issue, and I think I’ve realised the root of my problem was my own ability to manage problems. As someone filled with self doubt and whose ability to focus and resolve one thing at one time is so non-existent, the thought off being born with a problem that you need to recognise, expose and correct the thing that is holding you back is SO foreign, that I feel trapped just thinking about being born in the wrong gender.

    I wish I could speak to these women and thank them, and others like them, for showing me that these people don’t need my empathy pains, these are some of the strongest men and women on the planet. They’re not just showing young trans people that it doesn’t have to equal a tortured existence, they’ve shown me to sort my fucking prejudice shit out. (also, Janet Mock is going on my list of women who I can’t hear talk about their boyfriend without going “WHYYYYY!” daaamn.)

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      I appreciate what you’re trying to say here and I thought I would offer you my perspective.

      For me, being trans is not a birth defect. I have a lot of birth defects, but that isn’t one of them. I am also not terribly binary identified (that is, strictly male or female)–though there’s some of that–so for me SRS/GRS is not really a ‘cure’ for my ‘birth defect’. Basically what I am getting at is that trans narratives are quite unique and for many, even hormones don’t feel necessary. While some trans people certainly feel as you describe, just be careful with assuming it’s all of us. I know you said you have done a lot of thinking so I am only addressing this because your post implied you still feel this way.

      I appreciate you doing so much research and thinking on your own. Most people don’t care enough to, or don’t know to look.

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