2015 was the year when the conversation about transgender orientations exploded in to the mainstream. Several media personalities stepped forward to describe and explain their experience of living with trans and non-binary gender identities, revealing a prevalent but misunderstood aspect of people’s everyday lives. Whilst movements for trans equality, which have recently emblemised by Caitlyn Jenner, Ruby Rose and Jaden-Smith, have evolved and progressed, there is a latent and patent problem with commentary on the issue becoming trapped in the teeth of privileged commentators. There is a lot of ignorance about an issue people do not know a lot about, and it compounds the deep-seated prejudice of a transphobic society still on the way to accepting freedom of identity, beneath the illusion of its budding liberalism.
Since it was announced that they are becoming the face of Louis Vuitton womenswear, Jaden Smith has been accused of “threatening trans territory”. In the Independent yesterday, journalist Katie Glover made a series of strange arguments about why Jaden’s choice of gender expression ought to be stifled, in a bad article full of bizarre and out-dated claims about sexuality which were couched in the rhetoric of science. Firstly, Glover is instrumental in reiterating the myth of heteronormativity, that humans are divided in to girls and boys who fit in to exact categories of behaviour. That theory is collapsed by lived experience. There is a fluid spectrum of gender identities – kind of like the Kinsey Scale – which contain multitudes who fall beyond the binary in to the queer spectrum. Demanding conformity to the rigid ideals of the gender binary only serves to strengthen a patriarchal system which would be radically threatened if we were allowed to accept ourselves for what we truly are.
By gendering Jaden as a boy, Glover contributes to their oppression and insecurities. Because they wear dresses, Jaden has been accused of “wearing the trans uniform.” This is a uniquely spiteful assertion which is effectively trying to out Jaden as an impostor. Doing so trivializes, objectifies and reduces their real, lived experience and the courage it took to be honest. It’s fear of that kind of spite and stigma which stops people coming out in the first place. Popular movements for equality must actually try to understand something before judging it, or they will alienate the people who need them most. You feel Glover’s attitude needs to be surgically removed from the rear-end of the 1950s: the extent of her ideas on the sexual divide is that men wear trousers and women wear skirts.
The crux of the issue which Glover misses is gender fluidity, the reality that some gender identities fall out of the culturally encoded masculine/feminine dichotomy. In our society our minds have been formed to accept the falsity of this binary. But transgender people must be understood, not dismissed. Jaden you are radiant, and good for you.