I was sent a link to an article in Salon the other day. The tile of the article was "Trans, but not like you think". Because it came from Salon I was wary, and the headline to me read as a response catering to myopic editors who imagine that the "trans story" is old, it's been told a million times, no one cares. The general implication here that things need to be new and different to get people to keep people clicking might well be born out by Google statistics. But the specific implcation of "Trans, but not like you think" seemed to be "Don't be trans like other people are, be trans in a new and different way." And that is why I didn't click the link.
It depressed me a bit and made me think of a friend who, several years ago, published a book about HIV in Africa and was told by countless magazine and newspaper editors and TV news producers that the HIV story is played out. Without some flashy new angle, no one cares.
I have no idea if that's true. I don't know who the "one" is in the statement "no one cares". But here are some things I do know:
I know I find it increasingly difficult to figure out what to read with the little time I have.
I know it makes me angry when one version of a story is privileged over many others.
I know the world is a better place when we can hear many stories.
I know that many stories are often heard only if they sound new. You know, "Trans (or HIV+, or homeless, or addicted), but not like you think."
And I know that most of us think we've heard "that" story before, when really we haven't.
Luckily, enough people sent me the link to "Trans, but not like you think" that eventually I did click it and read the article. It's a nice piece about which Trans stories are represented most often in mainstream media and how the author, Thomas Page McBee doesn't see his story represented very often or very well in those spaces. So he shares his story with us.
He doesn't do what the title had me worried about; there's no suggestion that his story is more valuable, more honest, or more representative than any other. He is careful to distinguish the uniqueness of his story (in so far as each of us has a life that produces and is produced by, multiple narratives, those narratives are always unique to our experience) from the idea that there's a real story that's yet to be told. Really he's just calling for more stories.
It's a good call. And I wonder why it's so hard for the people who control the content and format of the difficult to escape dominant media to stop thinking only in terms of selling issues and instead think in terms of selling stories. If they have to sell us something at least then we might each find ourselves represented in there somewhere.
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