Transgender Representation within the Media

An old school report – feel free to use/reference details below.

The idea of changing sex or gender has been a common feature of science fiction literature, and to a lesser extent fantasy for some time. there are many reasons for this, ranging from comedy, to making a point about the a nature of medical science in a future world, to arguments about the nature of gender. However, while there are no robots, aliens, dragons or hobbits to complain about being caricatured within the media, there are people who change gender in our reality. From studying several forms of media (news articles, film, TV, literature etc…) the evidence is clear that transgender individuals are presented differently all over the globe.

Transgender people have a gender identity that differs to the one that they were assigned at birth. The way that they are treated within the media is often representative of the way that they are treated within society. A study conducted by TransMediaWatch found that “we [transgender people] are portrayed in the same stereotyped way as those of minority races were in the 1950’s” A comparison from a historical perspective suggests that both groups are presented negatively due to their position in society, monetary and status and the views of the general public.

One of the common comments and themes in the media, past and present, (but far more common in the past – pre 2000) is, that transgender women are “gay men who have gone to far.” Many people often confuse gender identity and sexual orientation – for clarity gender identity is who you are and sexual orientation is who you love. 1992 saw the release of The Crying Game, in which an IRA member falls in love with a transgender woman called Dil. The Crying Game has been praised by the transgender community being one of the most sympathetic movies to date. 1992 was a time when it was more common for society to associate trans women with gay men, and the movie doesn’t do such a great job of making that distinction; some of the reviews were calling Dil a gay man in drag. There is also very in the film that says that Dil is anything more than a gay man in drag.

Another of the common themes is that being transgender comes with mental health issues, or the individual is only transgender because they are mentally ill, coverage of which is something that fluctuates in the media. And whilst mental illness is prevalent within the transgender community, gender dysphoria, which is the main “symptom” of being transgender is itself widely regarded to be a mental health disorder. As previously stated the rate of mental health stories involving transgender people in the media really does fluctuate, and there can be large periods of  time where there are none, but all of a sudden, there are lots. This was the case after the tragic passing of Leelah Alcorn.

The suicide of transgender teen Leelah Alcorn in Ohio, United States, made headlines and in the months that passed it was alwaya segment on many news channels, this all occurred after her suicide note was posted on popular social media site, Tumblr. Due to all of the press coverage (both positive and negative) Vice President Joe Biden pressed to pass Leelah’s law, a law which bans conversion therapy for LGBT individuals.

All of the evidence suggests that the transgender community isn’t widely accepted and their portrayal in the media still leaves a lot to be desired. In conclusion, there is little support or role models that transgender individuals can look to for a positive outlook in their transition.

If you want to reference any of the above:

Leo Tomas, 02/08/2016 Transgender representation within the media Available from:  OR – whilst the latter is still active (and the access date)

This is only a partial essay, if you want the full essay to reference or read, message me at either leo_foxz on Twitter or


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