How Portraying Negative Reactions to Trans People Does Real Damage

CN: discussion of the trans panic defense and related transphobia

There’s a particular trope I have seen a lot in the media. A straight man is attracted to a woman. He then finds out that the woman is trans. The man immediately reacts with significant disgust. This trope is despicable and gets trans people like me killed.

It is a trope I have seen a lot throughout my life. The Crying Game, The Simpsons, Family Guy, and many others have used it. In fact, Ace Ventura’s particularly over-the-top handling of this trope was my first exposure to trans people in the media. I was six when I saw that. In fact, most of the portrayals of trans people I saw growing up involved this trope. Think for a moment how seeing oneself portrayed that way would impact someone.

It gets even worse than that however. The trope plays into the very mindset that results in people murdering trans people and using the “trans panic defense” in court (this is a viable legal defense in most of my country in case my country’s hostility towards people like me wasn’t already blatantly obvious). You see, a lot of cishet men think that trans women are actually men and that their attraction to trans women is emasculating. Due to toxic masculinity, they take out this groundless sense of emasculation on the trans woman they are attracted to, often killing her. This is the subtext behind this trope (though Ace Ventura made it partially explicit by having the protagonist outright call Einhorn a man and strip her to her underwear in front of people to “prove” it). By portraying attraction to a trans woman as an attack on a man’s masculinity or by portraying a trans woman as inherently disgusting, the media normalizes this mentality.

Put simply, this is a bad trope. It has no redeeming qualities and serves no purpose other than to express and normalize transphobia. Usage of this trope needs to end.

1 thought on “How Portraying Negative Reactions to Trans People Does Real Damage”

  1. This is exactly correct. This is also why I love Super Girl! Because it’s finally a world where a trabs woman can be a super hero and her friends treat her like a human being. The trope is slowly, but surely, changing.

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