If I must believe up-to-date numbers, only a small percentage of people in society are transgender. Numbers vary, but the highest number I’ve seen is 4%. That’s a minority. Most people say they don’t know someone who is transgender. And as is usually the case for minorities, there are many misconceptions about that minority. And for transgender people these misconceptions are usually created in media (television, films, etc.). Today I want to share a documentary which highlights these misconceptions and show us how much we still need to change. I’m sharing the documentary: Disclosure.
Disclosure: representation comes with hate
The documentary Disclosure starts with a positive message. When we look back now, transgender people are represented much better and more than about 50 years ago. But because of this, a negative paradox is showing. The more representation of trans people there is, the more the violence against these people is growing. And that violence is horrific, to the point of murder. This makes this first positive message not so positive anymore. But what makes cisgender people hate transgender people?
There’s no simple answer to this question. However, the documentary Disclosure shows that representation in media (mostly film) plays a huge role in this. The documentary follows a chronological order. Once the introduction is over, the documentary shows the first films that show transgender people. Alongside, we see the negative way they’re portrayed. From showing transgender people as crazy, to criminalizing them, portraying them as people with a huge secret, cultural appropriation, outing them, etc. There’s even a whole group of films where the narrative is the same each time: transgender people are secretly killers.
Alongside with that chronological order of films showing the representation of transgender people, there are all sorts of famous transgender people telling their personal stories in the documentary. People like Laverne Cox and Elliot Fletcher. They tell us what all this negative representation has done to them and their lives. How they struggle to see theirselves represented at all on television and how that has caused so much confusion. It shows how hard their lives can be.
The documentary ends with a more positive narrative. Representation of transgender people is getting better. Not as fast as it should, but there is progress. One great example of this is POSE, a series I personally loved so much that I shared it on this blog before. More great examples are stories of parents who are proud of their transgender children. I loved one scene in the documentary where a father talks about his daughter, calling her a unicorn, because she is so special. He said that because she is transgender, she is very close to herself and brave as well. I found that a beautiful example of what life should be like for transgender people.
But this documentary does not end with a happy message. It’s not like it used to be bad and now everything is good. No. Things are getting better, but we’re not there yet. Like the documentary showed in the beginning: with more and better representation comes more hate. And it’s us cisgendered people who need to do better. We should educate ourselves, our families, friends and kids better. Just today, a few a hours before I was writing this, I heard a transphobic message on the radio. We should fight that. We should fight for transgender people. For a future where everyone can be theirselves and live their lives happily.
The first step is always to educate yourself. Watch the documentary Disclosure and learn from all the mistakes that were made by other people. And then do better. Also, vote for parties which recognize this issue and want to do something about it. And speak up when someone says something transphobic in your presence. There’s usually false information behind these comments people make. But eventually I think we should abolish all gender norms in general. Nail-polish or skirts should never be called girly anymore, nor should soccer and the color blue be consider boyish. Let’s break those gender norms. To make sure that all of us are safe and happy.
Watch Disclosure on Netflix.