Let's stop shaming trans women and the men who love them

Last week, transgender women and allies took to the media to talk about the stigmatizing of men who are attracted to transgender women, and its repercussions. Much of the media attention centered around the story of hip-hop icon and radio DJ Mister Cee, who resigned (and later rescinded his resignation) from his position at Hot 97 in New York City after his sexual history with transgender women was brought to wider attention.

On her blog, trans writer and activist Janet Mock wrote about how trans women are ultimately targeted by the shame that is consistently placed on the men who love them:

"This pervasive ideology says that trans women are shameful, that trans women are not worthy of being seen and that trans women must remain a secret — invisible and disposable. If a man dares to be seen with a trans woman, he will likely lose social capital so he must adamantly deny, vehemently demean, trash and/or exterminate the woman in question…For a man to be associated with a trans women, in effect, is to say that he is no longer a “real” man (as if such a thing exists) because he sleeps with “fake” women (as if such a thing exists)."

Mock later joined transgender actress and Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox on HuffPost Live for a discussion about what the media attention on Mr. Cee says about how trans women are viewed in the public sphere:

"The extent to which men who date us and are attracted to us are stigmatized is so intense that most of these men feel like they can never tell anyone, can never be out about it…So often, when a man is found to be in a relationship, or attracted to, a trans woman, it's the misgendering, and it's the denial of our womanhood that we see happening there. That kind of stigma leads to violence against trans women. That kind of stigma leads to us not being able to get a job. That stigma leads to us not being able to get healthcare, housing, and it really is a state of emergency for trans women."

This past weekend, MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry also took up the issue on her show, referencing Janet Mock's essay in her weekly letter. Harris-Perry's letter was addressed to Mr.Cee's program director Ebro Darden, who urged Cee not to resign from his position at the radio station:

"I was surprised, Mr Darden, when, instead of joining the shame bandwagon, you encouraged an open and human dialogue with Cee about the complicated realities of manhood, identity and sexuality...You took a stance that wasn’t easy, or obviously commercial, or even widely supported. In short, you demonstrated some real courage. And I wanted to pause and recognize that you did. Because it just might be the beginning of real change."

Contributing another form of media to the discussion is the debut music video by KOKUMO, a trans woman of color, artist and activist. The music video for KOKUMO's song, There Will Come a Day, tells the story of a trans woman of color dealing with issues of disclosure, anti-trans stigma and violence in an intimate relationship. 

"It sounds like silliness on the surface, but often times when gossip blogs are the public’s only exposure to trans women, it spreads misinformation, validates stereotypes and causes irreparable damage," writes Janet Mock in her essay. This must change, and GLAAD urges the media to continue elevating the voices of transgender women as they address sensationalism, shame, and anti-trans violence.