Why Hiring Trans Writers is the Key to Inclusion
In September the Acne Studios director cast his 11-year-old son in his campaign of women's jackets, sending the internet abuzz.
But this beautiful display of fashion fluidity left some publications angry about the industry's lack of representation of women with curves. And a few of these publications confused their frustration — a legitimate concern around body positivity — with the need to spew transphobic "no boy's allowed" remarks.
I'm all for the celebration of curvy bodies. But there are plenty of ways to do that without putting down trans women / men who wear women's clothing, etc.
Elle introduced their criticism with a "we're not transphobic" disclaimer:
"Now someone's going to bring up boundaries, and respect, and transsexual rights."
As a trans reader, this brings up a huge red flag. Defensiveness never serves you well, nor does using outdated and offensive words.
Like much of pop culture, Elle has given increasing visibility to the trans community. Faran Krentcil, the writer of this piece also interviewed trans activist Laverne Cox in a respectable piece that focused on her work rather than her transness. From this it would appear that Faran Krentcil is a friend to the trans community. But her criticism around the Acne Studio campaign leaves us with some questions about Elle's allyship. She goes on to say:
"This gorgeous Acne Studios kid, whose name is Frasse, seems like an awesome little dude. But he's never going to get period bloating. He's never going to wonder if a lace bra will hide his stretch marks. He's never going to worry that if he wants to walk home at night, his favorite short skirt might not be a "safe" choice. And he's never going to wonder if eschewing heels before a job interview subtly cost him the position."
There are many reasons to find problem in this statement. For one thing, Krentcil is assuming that this kid is going to identify and present as male for the rest of his life. Way to box him in!
Secondly, she says that period pains are the only true way into womanhood, which reduces womanhood to only access cis bodies. (And implies that manhood requires a lack of female anatomy.) Language like this that claims to be feminist is some of the most dangerous transphobic language out there, because it works to keep trans women out of feminist movements. To demand that you must have a uterus to be a woman is attempting to erase the women in our world who are statistically at the highest risk of violence, unemployment, homelessness, and lack of access to healthcare.
The murders of trans women is one the deadliest issues facing women's issues today. And it's language like this that perpetuates this violence.
This is why an interview here or there won't cut it for trans inclusion. Publications like Elle can't just have trans women chime in now and then, but must choose trans women as major players in their staff. Maybe Elle does have trans members of their staff that I don't know about. But if they did, I'm pretty sure they would have called Krentcil out for the transphobia in her article before it got published.
Until mainstream publications have trans writers on their staff, I'm always going to be skeptical as to whether their trans articles are a genuine effort to include trans people, or simply jumping on the trans bandwagon to remain hip.