At this point in our lives we should understand that gender is a socially constructed term to give people a sense of identity. We are men or we are women, that's it, right? That's far from the truth; gender expression is fluid and dynamic and not just black and white. We can identify our gender as female but choose to express ourselves in masculine ways or even identify as male and choose to express in feminine ways. It's best to see gender as a spectrum since we have a little bit of everything making up our genders.
An expression on that spectrum in transgender, when your gender expression does not match their physical sex. Most people who identify as transgender explain that they feel as though they were trapped inside their own body. Though people have identified as transgender for years, it has become more visible in the media with famous people representing and speaking out for the transgender community. Here are the people you should look out for who represent the community well.
1. Laverne Cox.
Laverne gained her fame when she starred on Netflix's original series Orange is the New Black. That role paralleled her own personal transition toward becoming the woman she always knew she was. After her performance, she became the first transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. Since rising to fame she has become an active advocate for trans rights and education for society. She has spoken about the trans community:
"The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people. And then we don't get to really deal with the real lived experiences. The reality of trans people's lives is that so often we are targets of violence. We experience discrimination disproportionately to the rest of the community. Our unemployment rate is twice the national average; if you are a trans person of color, that rate is four times the national average. The homicide rate is highest among trans women. If we focus on transition, we don't actually get to talk about those things."
Her work has revolutionized the way the world sees the trans community and has changed the conversation from transition to expression.
2. Jazz Jennings.
Jazz is a teenager who took the world by storm when she was named as the youngest spokeswoman for trans awareness at six years old when she was a guest on The Rosie Show. At 11 years old she produced a documentary, I Am Jazz: A Family in Transition, that debuted on Oprah Winfrey's network. Shortly after she released a children's book called I Am Jazz.
Her work didn't stop there and she continued to speak out on her YouTube channel where she became a celebrity, making her the youngest and most influential spokesmodel for trans children and teens of the decade. She has done countless interviews with the media from Barbara Walters and CNN. She is a fast growing force who educates the world on understanding trans children and teens rather than shaming them. She has become a trusted and loved voice of the young trans community.
3. Bruce Jenner.
Bruce Jenner most recently expressed his identity with Diana Sawyer in mid April proclaiming, "I am a woman." Over the past years, media speculation has belittled Bruce on his personal journey to expressing himself truthfully. As a member of the Kardashian family he has lived in the spotlight for the better part of the decade, but has been struggling since he was a child with his identity. He is most famous for winning the gold medal for the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics. He expressed in his interview that he had to be this macho man like the world thought he was but explained himself quite differently.
"My brain is much more female than it is male. It's hard for people to understand that, but that's what my soul is," said Jenner.
Since expressing his current gender identity, he has received immense support from his family and the world for his honest and brave display and expression. Many comment that Bruce has just paved the way for other people who are afraid to express themselves and to finally break free.
We are part of an evolving and eclectic world that cannot be easily defined. We establish false categories of identity but the people above have shown that categories don't work and they will never work. Current examples of representations of the trans community have demonstrated on a larger scale that you cannot put humans in a box. We are not one thing or another but something entirely mixed and diverse. As we continue on I hope as a human race that we become more open with ourselves and others so we can all be a true representation of who we really are.