Why Media Representation Matters

Originally posted on Geeksout.org

In Honor of LGBTQ Pride Month

I must admit that I didn’t know much about Alexis Arquette. I knew she came from a famous acting family and I believe I had seen more of her brother David’s work than any of the other Arquettes. So my first real introduction to Alexis was when she starred in a season of the VH-1 reality series The Surreal Life.

Alexis proved to be quite the spitfire and a force in her own right. But what was really enlightening and sobering was to witness the casual transphobia and misogyny she faced in her day to day on the show. Too many episodes featured her being mocked and harassed by passerby idiots while simply minding her own business.

In one episode she scored and danced with a really cute nerdy guy (my favorite kind) at a restaurant only to catch jeers, insults and taunts from obnoxious a crowd of assholes.

More than pissed off (and rightfully so), Alexis flipped her shit as well as tables and chairs. She made it clear that she was more than ready to beat the hell out of some transphobic ass.

I won’t lie. I was worried for her. Not because Alexis wasn’t entitled to bring the rage (because she was more than well within her rights to do so) but I was worried that she might be physically attacked or worse yet, get arrested. Even though she was being harassed, she would be the one facing legal troubles. And given the police’s track record with trans people…it doesn’t take much to understand why I had my concerns.

While visiting Vancouver a few years back, I had a chance to catch a VH-1 segment where Alexis was interviewed about the altercations on the show. She explained that she was aware the cameras were rolling and she was broadcasting a message to the rest of the world. Knowing that trans people are often misperceived as weak, defenseless, and easy prey, she was putting society on notice not to come for trans people because they will not only fight back but will go Fallon Fox on that ass.

With a huge grin on my face, I simply replied, “Nicely played.”

So what does representation in the media matter?

Alexis’ display of rage probably saved a trans person’s life. Because by showing that she wasn’t afraid to fight back and kick someone’s ass, a basher might have had second thoughts about targeting a a trans person.

It matters because Alexis’ treatment is a sober reminder of the dehumanizing bigotry that trans people face. Said treatment should remind us all that trans people are entitled to the same human dignity, compassion and respect that all of us should have but so few are afforded.

3 thoughts on “Why Media Representation Matters

  1. It often seems like humanity is some sort of club that only certain types of people are allowed to join. There are members of the club whose job is to police the outer edges of this exclusive club and keep all the undesirables out of it or on edge or constantly on the defense.

    I think if marginalized people didn’t have to expend so much energy against humanity’s gatekeepers, the world would definitely have progressed much farther along than it has.

    I’m not even sure what the gatekeepers are getting out of excluding people from participating in the activities of the world. What’s in it for them, to try to keep as many people out as possible?

    Women, PoC, TransPeople, PwDisabilities…why? I’m honestly baffled as to why there are people who will fight and argue against the humanity of other people. I just don’t get it.

    1. I think it’s because society believes it can decide the identity of an individual instead of giving the individual that right.

    2. My thoughts exactly. I don’t understand why how someone else has chosen to live, especially a stranger, has anything to do with me.

Comments are closed.