私 think it started in 2017, または 2016, the year identity stuck to our ambitions. In a litany of newly profitable labels, I had a full deck: Latina, 女性, poor, trans. I was part of the think-piece boom, and everyone had a story to sell. Plucked from Tumblr by a new crop of feminist media, I was assigned the futile task of representation. People called me “brave”. I wrote personal essays, bravely. I modeled for magazines, bravely. At first I was happy to share, even proud of my participation in this anti-Trumpian effort of branding. It felt urgent, because it was. We learn about ourselves through images, and the inclusion of marginalized people was a beginning.
I played along. The personal was political, and monetizable. “Doors” had been “opened” – we had no clue what we’d let out. I didn’t intend to step before a camera, but it happens if you’re at enough parties. These were the decadent years, when everything required a “launch”. Every look, tweet and interaction was an audition. Casting directors circled dance floors searching for their next It girl.
When you’ve ripped through all your magazines and stuck them to the wall, at some point you (私) want to try being the girl in the picture.
If you’ve come to know yourself through fashion, in an Eddie-Redmayne-in-The-Danish-Girl kind of way, it is understandable to want to right some of its wrongs. Clothing can be a disguise, or lead to new guises. Millennials of a certain age are still recovering from the brain rot of the fashion era in which we came to be. We grew to call ourselves models, photographers and stylists, all in opposition to a skinny white reality that didn’t fit. We posted online, and cultivated followings until we saw our ambitions through. はい, we were seeing more trans people, but what else?
I want to do more than just be seen. And that will demand a departure from certain narrative appetites and representations of the moment.
When we first meet Jules, the teenage trans character in the hit HBO show Euphoria, her assault is our point of entry. It isn’t a false representation, but it isn’t a good one either. Her tragedy is the audience’s opportunity; an educational moment at her expense. This would be less tiresome if the public portrayal of trans girlhood was more varied – or if the growing number of real-life assaults didn’t loom all too large. もちろん, violent attacks are a reality for many trans people, but are we ever allowed fantasy?
Trauma hasn’t made me brave. Instead I am angry, vengeful. 今のところ, the culture industry has won, and it’s turned a community into a contest. I’ve begun to think of its gaze as something I am stealing. In my mind, it’s better to be a criminal than a victim. The flattery of participation has worn off, and now I am stuck. Do I finally decide to opt out? That would make me feel less crazy, but I’d still scramble to make rent. I’m here to work. I keep taking the diversity jobs, either because I’m hopeful, foolish, or broke.
Glamour is hard to resist. I receive a DM offering a spot in a photoshoot featuring an “LGBTQ+ cast” and $100 for a day’s work. I don’t turn it down right away. I feel uneasy: what if this is who I am? I don’t want to exploit my image, but I could use the money. It might be worthwhile if the ask to bring my identity to set was in service of something that excited me. It hardly ever is.
The pay isn’t the problem. I know $100 is a weekly MetroCard, pizza and manicure. It’s the “LGBTQ+ casting” for me. お気に入り, it’s always on these sets, where I’m “celebrated”, where I’ll be asked my pronouns repeatedly. That’s fine, I know it’s the right protocol – just not while my tits are out. Sure, I’ll tell you why I haven’t spoken to my dad in 10 years – but do you promise to pay the invoice within 30 日々?
But it’s fun to be put in drag, even when it sucks. That’s how they seduce you. The whir of blow-dryers, the hushed communication between photographer and stylist, the feeling of being part of it all. So I responded to the message.
I sent in my measurements and waited for three days. I never heard back. Somehow rejection feels worse when you didn’t want it to begin with. I laugh, I write and I wonder if they’ll read this.
I’m optimistic. I’m also bored. I’ve been sold authentically trans stories, but I still don’t see them on TV or in the movies or magazines. They’re out there, just not on our social media feeds. They’re uptown, and down south. In huddled bathroom stalls, where ideas are traded between snatches of gossip. Group chats where people say the things they dare not tweet.
I want to see trans women experience pleasure. Something that is unafraid to frame us boldly, even harshly. Give me liars, cheaters and thieves. They deserve our attention, あまりにも. I want something sexy, rather than didactic. Glamour without a sense of mourning. If I must be trans – and it seems I must – then let it be dangerous! Or joyous, with better dialogue and beautiful lighting. I don’t care what it means to be trans, or a woman. I want to be told stories.