“I would be happy if I were the last cisgender male to play a transgender female,” Jeffrey Tambor said as he closed his acceptance speech for his second straight acting Emmy for playing transgender woman, Moira Pfefferman, on Transparent.
In many respects it was a powerful night for trans people with both Jill Soloway, Transparent’s creator who took home a directing Emmy, and Tambor, speaking about the importance of trans people telling their own stories. Laverne Cox also used her platform as a presenter to further emphasize the need for trans talent to be given a chance. “Give trans talent a shot. I would not be here today if somebody didn’t give me a chance,” Cox, who has long used her platform to lift up the most vulnerable in the trans community, exclaimed onstage.
Visibility is an important part of countering the anti-trans rhetoric, lawmaking and violence that has escalated in recent years. But that same visibility also contributes to these anti-trans forces and surface-level nods to trans existence won’t save our community. And while trans people were talked about onstage last night, with the exception of Cox, there was painfully little representation of trans people on stage or screen. It is hard to imagine trans people truly centered in spaces like the Emmys and Oscars when cisgender actors continue to dominant trans roles and award show hosts continue to use tired jokes to mock trans people.
But given the interest in trans storytelling and ending trans violence onstage last night, here are some things that people can do to continue to build up the many brilliant trans people leading the charge for trans survival.
(1) Donate to trans-led projects telling trans stories like Happy Birthday, Marsha!
(2) Donate to platforms that are getting trans people out of jail and working to end the systemic targeting of trans communities of color by the criminal legal system.
(4) Track the anti-trans legislation that will start up again in 2017 and help mobilize support to fight these bills.
(6) Honor trans resistance and survival by naming our leaders and recognizing the role that trans people of color have played in leading movements for justice.
The patriarchy will not topple nor will cisgender dominance in film change unless and until we fight the systemic imperative to maintain white supremacy through policing and incarceration of people of color and people who don’t conform to norms of gender. The work is already being done by queer and trans people of color across the country and it is our job to lift up that work, support that work, and leverage national discourse about trans experience to actually fund trans survival.