In the wake of a year full of anti-trans legislation and a worrisome uptick in violence against transgender individuals, it’s exhausting to face the constant barrage of bad news that the media brings us. Though the trans community has been at war with the government and bigots alike, this did not deter the recognition and celebration of all the good that has happened this year. Trans Awareness Week, commemorated from November 13-19, recognizes and celebrates strides made in the trans community — ranging from pertinent discussions on how to foster the health and safety of trans folk, to honoring those who have garnered positive exposure for the trans community.

Political Strides

In the most recent midterm election, trans woman, Leigh Finke, ran for Minnesota House seat 66A — with a platform that stressed healthcare autonomy, protections for trans and queer youth, and actively eliminating white supremacy, Finke found a landslide victory against Republican candidate, Trace Johnson, with an overwhelming 81% of votes. With this, citizens of Minnesota elected their first openly transgender lawmaker.

Also running for a seat in the House of Representatives, James Roesener, a trans man from New Hampshire made history as the first transgender man elected to state legislature after promising to work towards the advancement of disability, trans, queer, women, and educational rights.

Incredibly, a third member of the trans community was elected this November — Zooey Zephyr, a trans woman who ran for Montana’s House of Representatives; Zephyr’s victory is even more substantial considering that her campaign called for the confrontation of housing inequality, obstructions to healthcare, climate change, and human rights discrepancies while battling the Republican majority dominating the House of Representatives in recent past cycles.

@queerency These 11 LGBTQ+ midterm election winners made history #greenscreen #lgbt #queertiktok #lesbiansoftiktok #wlw #blackqueer #gaytiktok #transtiktok #midterms2022 #rainbowwave ♬ original sound - queerency

A trans man and a sophomore majoring in anthropology at the University of California, Riverside, Jesus Daniel Arce shares his thoughts on the recent success of trans folk in politics:

It’s such a big change…[it] feels great! [This] means that a lot of younger people will be able to look up and be like ‘Oh yeah, I can do this too…[me being trans] won’t get in the way of anything.

Arce also stressed the significance of the election results, citing that even just a couple of years ago, success for the community on this scale seemed almost impossible. 

Making Waves in Media + Public Solidarity

The often volatile environment that is the media has surprisingly worked in the favor of trans individuals this year. As mentioned previously, such public representation seemed unreachable for the community even just 20 years ago, but this year has seen an impressive amount of transgender representation in popular media. 

In December 2020, Elliot Page, known most recently for his performance in the live-action adaptation of “The Umbrella Academy”, came out to the public as a transgender man. This heartfelt announcement came in the middle of filming the third season of “The Umbrella Academy” and once the latest season came out in late June 2022, fans were pleasantly surprised that Netflix writers rewrote Page’s character also as a trans man — and in a way that resonated deeply with members of the trans community.

Nik Herzog, who identifies as transmasculine and genderfluid, is a senior studying biology at the University of California, Riverside; Herzog recalls their reaction to the coming out scene in season three of “The Umbrella Academy”:  

It literally made me cry when I was watching it. [The coming out of Page’s character], wasn’t taken as a big thing. It was just like ‘Okay, this is our brother now.’

Herzog emphasizes the surprising open-mindedness of the general public: “Honestly, a lot of the public was quick to accept it. They were just so open to the idea and they just thought of it as natural.”

Social Media as a Trans Affinity Space

During our discussion, Alexi Pacheco, a senior studying education at the University of California, Riverside — and also identifies a genderqueer non-binary person —  found a strong connection between the familiarity with trans figures on social media and positive reactions from the public; Arce, Herzog and Pacheco all agreed that despite the bad reputation that social media has for other reasons, it serves as a crucial affinity space for trans people and for those willing to learn about the community.

There was an overwhelming consensus that trans TikTok creators have truly succeeded in fostering a sense of self-acceptance and normalizing the trans identity. All three participants took turns naming their favorite creators, including (but of course not limited to) @mars.wright, @dylanmulvaney, @mercurystardust, and @veondre — all of which publish content ranging from handi-work and burlesque performance to trans lifestyle and activism. 

Arce says that he cannot underscore enough how significant a role having an online community on social media has had on his transition:

“It just helps a lot — I’m fucking thankful for social media. Understanding that [you’re] not the only one that’s going through this — that there’s a whole community out there of people going through [a] similar thing as me!”

Pacheco elaborates on how trans creators such as Dylan Mulvaney, a trans woman who has been transitioning publicly through her “Days of Girlhood” series, have been using their platforms to reach audiences of millions to bring attention to the trans community by most recently speaking to President Biden in the White House: “It’s great to see her using [her identity as a femme-presenting white woman] to get people in the White House to listen to her; I’m so glad she’s using those privileges to talk about queer trans people of color too.”

Despite how frequently the societal importance of social media “influencers” is debated, it’s clear that for marginalized groups who do not see themselves represented anywhere else, social media holds the power to bring their issues to relevance and public discussion. So, social media, the trans community thanks you.

Affirming Behaviors & Trans Media Recommendations

With limited (but growing) trans media, Arce, Herzog, and Pacheco shared their favorites:

  • “Disclosure”: A documentary that discusses historical depiction of trans people in media as well as a call to action to better understand and support the trans community — also recommended by GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

  • “Pose”: A poignant drama series set in the 1980s in the heart of New York City ball culture, featuring a majority trans main cast.

  • “Heart Stopper”: A live-action adaptation of an unlikely queer love story between two classmates — includes depictions of queer relationships and a side plot about the struggles of a teen trans girl.

  • “Wendell & Wild”: An animated stop motion movie that follows two devious demon brothers, Wendell and Wild, who seek to defeat their nemesis — but of course it does not go smoothly. Directed by Tom Selleck and Jordan Peele, they opt to include a rare depiction of a trans POC.

  • "Heartbreak High": A new drama series where high schooler, Amerie, along with her news friends Quinni and Darren, must navigate love, sex and heartbreak at Hartley High. We love to see a non-binary POC in the main cast.

As for things that you can do to validate the trans community in day to day life, it can be as simple as supporting trans media and keeping an open mind — just a bit of kindness goes a long way according to Arce: “[It’s] so heartwarming to me that cis women online are out here giving [@mercurystardust] advice and suggestions [to improve her make-up] and just being so friendly.”

Furthermore, there was unanimous consensus upon the importance of using proper pronouns: “Pronouns are a big thing, it’s an easy thing for people to change to show that [I’m] safe — I’m like ‘Okay this is a safe person for me.’” says Herzog.

Trans folk do not ask for a lot — as mentioned previously, respect, kindness, and support can be shown in so many different ways and yet it is often withheld from the trans community without any forethought. Now that the trans community is gaining more recognition from the public, it’s important to bear in mind just how much of a struggle it has been for them just to get to this point. Happy Trans Awareness Week.