Transgender Dispossession in Transparent: Coming Out as a Euphemism for Honesty
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Since the 1990s, television narratives have increased visibility for LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual) individuals and underscored the need for a deep exploration of the heterosexism (homophobia) that pervades much mainstream American programming (Lee and Meyer in Sex Cult 141:234–250, 2010; Manuel in Soc Semiot 19(3):275–291, 2009). One such serial, Transparent, has been credited by many major media outlets with transforming the way Americans think about transgender, gender expansive (Ehrensaft in Gender born gender made, The Experiment, New York, 2011), or trans*, individuals. Exploring Transparent through Butler and Athanasiou’s (Dispossession: the performative in the political, Polity Press, Cambridge, 2013) framework of dispossession, this essay argues that the depiction of dispossession in Transparent may serve to hypostasize the gender binary rather than to disrupt it. By severing the rhetorical act of “coming out” from the historical pathologization of non-normative sexualities and gender expansiveness in America, Transparent risks undoing the very social progress that it has the potential to further. While the show could powerfully disrupt cisgender privilege (Brydum in The true meaning of the word cisgender, 2015), as of its second season, instead, it merely illustrates how the media produced trans* “coming out” narrative all too often reifies the gender binary and cisgender privilege. Although it is tempting to praise Transparent for its representation of gender expansiveness, its problematic use of the “coming out” rhetoric should not be ignored.
KeywordsTransparent Transgender Coming out Dispossession Media studies Critical media literacy
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Author Steven Funk declares that they have no conflict of interest. Author Jaydi Funk declares that they have no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights
This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
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