“11 insanely hot men you will not believe are trans.” The online LGBT publication GayStarNews (GSN) published this article three days ago, unknowingly providing the perfect example from which a discussion about gender ideas in this society can stem. You can see the article by clicking on the following link: http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/11-insanely-hot-men-you-will-not-believe-are-trans181114-0
Why would we not believe they are trans? Because they don’t look trans? What is a trans man supposed to look like? For that matter, what is a cis-gender man supposed to look like? And why is the ability of a transgender man to fit into the societal definition of the default man something we need to laud with an article dripping in praise?
“No matter where you start from, you can be who you want to be.” Yeah, sure, so long as who you end up being looks like a Calvin Klein underwear model…otherwise you’ll be stared at, ridiculed, and definitely not be called “sexy” in a magazine.
“Beautiful both inside and out.” Just remember that only the outside beauty actually matters enough to go into a publication’s article as “sexy” because, no matter what your personality says about you, if you aren’t conventionally beautiful post-transition we don’t care.
Write whatever positive, inspirational words you want, but when they lie under the title “11 insanely hot men you will not believe are trans” they are simply groups of letters with zero meaning behind them.
This article is overflowing with hypocrisy and negative underlying messages, but the worst of it might very well be the sentence saying that these 11 transgender men “prove you don’t have to conform to a certain body type to be sexy.” Really? Because all eleven are tall and muscular, most of them have facial hair, and all except one are white. Almost all of them are also either shirtless or wearing shirts that can easily reveal their muscles, hence, the default man of our society.
GSN might think their article is promoting body confidence and trans acceptance, but in reality it is only reinforcing rigid gender expectations and encouraging trans men and women to strive to look like what men and women are supposed to look like.
This article is just one of thousands spanning decades of media conveying the message that, if someone wants to be called “sexy” or “beautiful” or “hot” they have to look a certain way. This effectively equates self-confidence with outward appearance…yet again.
But what’s even worse about this article than those in any copy of Vogue or GQ is that now we’re pushing this on transgender people. This article sends the message of conditional acceptance; it’s okay if you’re transgender, so long as when we look at you we can’t tell.
Make no mistake, this article brings this mindset into the spotlight, but it has prevailed since the advent of the transgender community. The truth is, in this society we are unnervingly comfortable with the status quo; we can demonize the idea of gender roles all we want but we still fall back into them the second we experience something which calls them into question.
It’s comfortable in our society (in addition to it being comfortable to assume the gender binary) to expect men and women to look a certain way. Seeing someone who looks somewhere in between, a place a lot of transgender people find themselves at some point during their transition if not for their entire lives, brings to cis-gender people a sense of confusion and subsequently fear, so they retract into the safe haven of social constructs.
By writing an article praising these 11 trans men for being “hot” by the definition of what our society calls a hot man, GSN is sending a message to the whole of the trans community not only that they have to fit into certain gender expectations to be deemed attractive, but even more so that they need to fit into gender expectations to be accepted enough to be published.
We need to stop this. We need to stop putting so much importance on how someone looks. We need to stop equating one’s outward appearance with their worth as a person. And we definitely need to stop promoting conditional acceptance toward the trans community.
What I find interesting about this article particularly is that it’s published by an LGBT publication, which just goes to show socially constructed gender expectations are just as pervasive in self-proclaimed progressive groups.
Be careful what you write. Double-check your words before you post them. Don’t let problematic social ideologies permeate your good intentions. Doing so will only reinforce an infrastructure that many would benefit from bringing down.