The First Time I Saw Me

This, a collaboration between Netflix and GLAAD, is wonderful and joyous.

It’s various trans people – Laura Jane Grace, Jazz Jennings, Jamie Clayton, Tiq Milan and many others – talking about the first time they saw people like them represented on screen.

If you’re straight, white and cisgender (it means “not trans”; I loved the suggestion I saw online that said cis could stand for “comfortable in skin”), you’re on screen all the time: you’re the default, the “normal”. And if you aren’t from that group, you’re often invisible.

Representation matters.

If you don’t see people like you represented in the wider culture, it reinforces the belief that you’re not normal, that there’s something wrong with you. That was certainly the case for me. It’s one of the reasons I blog about being trans: the thought that somewhere there’s a young version of me trying to work out who the hell they are.

Things are getting better. We have trans actors, models, comedians, musicians, journalists (hello!). But they’re still labelled as trans, not just as actors, models, comedians, musicians or journalists. There are no trans judges, MPs or MSPs, no trans newspaper columnists or news anchors – or at least, none that have come out. 

And all too often, trans characters are played in films and TV programmes by cisgender people. As actor Jamie Clayton says in her video, “it perpetuates a stereotype that, at the end of the day, I take this off… [these men] play a character and then they’re given an award but with a beard. And people think, ‘oh, that’s what trans is.’”

To paraphrase Derren Brown, being trans is just a piece of information about someone – and most of the time it’s not even one of the most interesting pieces of information about them. One day, videos like these won’t be necessary.