For #TransWeek, GLAAD goes "Beyond the Surface" of what it means to be trans

This Trans Awareness Week (#TransWeek), GLAAD sat down with transgender people and their families for a look beyond the surface of what it means to be trans. This video series explores a variety of issues affecting the trans community.

The people spotlighted in "Beyond the Surface" speak about their experiences with trans representation in the media, societal expectations and gender roles forced onto children from a young age, and the specific risks transgender people (especially trans youth) face. But they also talk about the positive—family bonds that are stronger than fears, the ways in which things are changing for the better, calls to action against anti-trans policies and rhetoric in our daily lives, and messages of love and resiliency for transgender youth.

Here is a deeper look beyond the surface:

Ivory Aquino, she/her

"Claim your power...Don’t wait for anyone else outside of yourself to validate you…You're worthy of love, you are enough as you are. "

Ivory, an actress known for her role in the ABC miniseries When We Rise, discusses her experiences as a trans actress and shares a message for trans youth of self-acceptance. Ivory discusses how seeing beauty pageants helped her realize her identity a a trans woman, and how the expectations society put on her made her realize that she was different. She also talks about childhood bullying and how hopeful she is for the future, given the increase in trans representation in the media.

Transgender people are disproportionately at risk for harrassment, homelessness, and suicide. Though transgender representation in the media is on the rise, it is still marginal: only 17 transgender characters were counted broadcast, cable, and streaming TV shows in GLAAD's recent 2017-2018 Where We Are on TV report

Jodie Patterson, she/her

"And then Penelope said, 'No Mama, I don't feel like a boy, I am a boy…The more I started listening to Penelope, those initial fears went to the background."

Jodie, owner of her own beauty company and mother of five, discusses her experiences raising her transgender son, Penelope. She talks about her concerns as a parent of a transgender child, especially given the violence transgender people face. Penelope began telling his mom that he was a boy at the age of three, and Jodie talks about how she raises her children to love and respect themselves. She talks about the importance of acknowledging that, while Penelope being trans is a part of his story, he is so much more than his one identity as a trans kid.

Violence against trans people, especially transgender women of color, is on the rise in the United States. Transgender youth are disproportionately at risk for bullying and harrasment at school. Despite this and other adversities, there are very limited legal protections in place for transgender people. 

Tiq Milan, he/him

"It's really important for us to see that we exist, and that we're happy and that we're healthy, and that we're loved, but at the same time what's even more important is that we are in control of the images that we see."

Tiq, an advocate, journalist, and media consultant, discusses why he works as a media advocate. He talks about the need for trans people to be represented in all aspects of media content creation, the specific risks faced by trans people, especially trans youth, and the dangerous false misconceptions behind current anti-trans policies. He also discusses the difficulties in being out and visible as a trans person, how the media narratives around trans people need to shift, and the importance of beginning conversations that will ultimately lead to a shift in opinions around trans people.

Chris and Courtney Rhodes, he/him and she/her

"I wish I had an easier or smoother life... or it would be easier if I was cisgender... but this awakening and falling back in love with myself – I don’t know how I could have gotten it any other way.”

Chris and Courtney Rhodes are identical twins that discuss their experience of coming out together initially in high school as lesbians, and then again once Chris realized that he was trans. They discuss their relationship and how it has evovled as Chris has transitioned, family reactions to their coming out while living in rural Texas, and the lessons that they both have gained from Chris's transition. They also talk about the importance of respecting everyone regardless of identity, the strength it takes to be authentic, and Chris's journey to self-acceptance. 

Family acceptance can be so important for those in the transgender community. There is research that suggests that family acceptance can be an a large factor in positive mental health outcomes for transgender people. In fact, the 2015 U.S. Trans Survey found that trans people whose immediate families were supportive were less likely to report a variety of negative experiences related to economic stability and health, such as experiencing homelessness, attempting suicide, or experiencing serious psychological distress.

Transgender people and issues of particular importance to the trans community are more than the surface-level representations and narratives often presented by the mainstream media, and it's important that we all have a deeper understanding of them. All of the hardships discussed in this series contribute to a climate of hostility that makes it difficult for transgender people to simply live their lives. But these negative conditions are not irreversible, and they are not the entirety of what it means to be trans, as these videos show. The stories of Ivory Aquino, Jodie Patterson, Tiq Milan, Chris and Courtney Rhodes and so many others show how complex and intricate this really is, and why all we need to continue pushing beyond mere surface-level representations of the trans experience.  

In addition to producing this video series for #TransWeek, here are more actions GLAAD is taking to accelerate acceptance, and foster a climate of acceptance:

We're proud to be going Beyond the Binary, and to provide examples of how our language can change to be more inclusive of people of all gender identities. Take the pledge to go Beyond the Binary today! 


For Trans Awareness Week, GLAAD's offers some ways to take a stand in the fight against anti-trans policies.

In addition, GLAAD hosted a Q&A Twitter chat on the subject of trans masculinities:

Want to share your story, speak out, or read more from others? Use or read through the hashtag #TransWeek on social media, and join the conversation today!