Gender Stereotypes and Cisnormativity in Ads

Enculturation is the process in which an individual learns about their culture. The enculturation process teaches a person what is right and wrong, their roles and expectations in society, and how they should view others. It is no surprise that commercials are a key component of the enculturation process that is enforced through the media. We are exposed to hundreds of advertisements every day through the radio, magazines, television, newspapers, billboards and even buses. We are surrounded by an almost constant stream of advertisements about all kinds of products from household cleaners, diet supplements, restaurants, and even medications. While seemingly innocent and obvious on the outside, many commercials carry a loaded message about what a person is supposed to be based on their gender. While gender norms and stereotypes are slowly being eradicated, you’d be hard pressed to find an example in advertisements. Women still sell cleaning products, the sexual exploitation of women is still being used to pander to male audiences, and the existence of transgender and other gender minorities (especially trans women) are being mocked and deconstructed.

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Plight of Queer Youth

While the media, the president, and a good portion of America focus on marriage equality, there is a serious problem being overshadowed. Homelessness has always been a major problem in the United States. Lack of funding, education, and resources means many people go without beds, food, and shelter. The criminalization of homelessness makes these people vulnerable to incarceration for trying to find places to sleep or even attempting to get money to eat. However, one group of homeless are even more vulnerable than others. Twenty percent of all homeless youth are a queer individual. Compared to their cisgender and heterosexual peers,  homeless queer youth face higher rates of sexual and physical assault as well as higher suicide rates (“National coalition for,” 2009).  They face discrimination in shelters and agencies, as well as violence at the hands of both staff and others. These youth often lack support at home, school, and within society in addition to the of lack the ability to cope with the problems faced to them. queer youth require safe spaces with staff who understand their needs, problems, and who are supporting.

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The ‘Innocence’ of Jokes

People try to pass jokes off as innocent, no matter the intent. Comedians seem to get a free pass to joke about whatever content they want without thinking about how the joke may further enable a certain set of ideas or behaviors. Jokes, and thus comedians, are not free from criticism for perpetuating and using these types of jokes either. Jokes, like all language, play a part in making certain oppressive parts of life remain ok and even funny.

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I Am Valid

What makes people like Eddie Izzard, a self proclaimed transvestite*1, drag queens, cross-dressers, and other male identified people allowed to exist, but me not? How is their identity any more valid than mine? What makes me, someone much like Eddie Izzard or other ‘full-time’ cross-dressers, different? We are both men who enjoy and prefer feminine articles of clothing. While he might prefer dresses and skirts to my bell-bottoms, or flats to my heels, we are basically the same. Are we not? I mean, he does wear a lot more make-up than I do.

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Attention! This Is Not A Trend

There are two things in the queer community that need to be addressed and need to stop. I see non-queer people doing this as well, but most of the issue seems to be in the community itself. These two things are the idea of ‘trend tr*nnies’ and identity policing. While similar and intertwined, they are two unique issues.

‘Trend tr*nnies’ are trans* people who are trans* (and very open about it) just for attention. They are believed to hopping on a bandwagon just to be unique and different. Here is the problem with this. You are questioning people on something they only know. Also, these people tend to be teenagers. Teenagers tend to try on identities, personalities, likes, dislikes, etc. It’s part of being a teenager. It’s part of growing up. Gender and sexuality are extremely fluid and can change. This does not mean that the previous identity was not real or true. It is possible that this identity was just not a perfect fit for them or something that no longer fits. As for being loud, obnoxious, and abrasive with their identities, that is just how young adults are, especially with something new. They do not know all the social trappings that come with interacting with the world.
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Do Not Use

TW: Transmisogynistic slurs.

I got a newsflash for you.  If you are not a trans woman, the word tr*nny is not yours. I can hear the whining now. But, tr*nny has been used against me! It’s a slur against all trans* people! Let me break it down for you. The simple answer is so? Doesn’t matter. Straight people call each other faggot all the time. I guess if a straight person gets called a fag, they can use and reclaim that word, huh? The answer is no, they can’t. The same goes for the word tr*nny.

I used to think the same way. I am a non-binary trans guy. People have called me a tr*nny (especially a trend tr*nny) numerous times. I was put in my place by some rather angry women when I argued for my use of the word. However, I have come to my senses. Just look at how the word is used. The most common and prominent usage is in porn; porn that features trans women. When people think of the word, they do not conjure all forms of trans* people. They conjure images of trans women, especially non-passing trans women.  The punch line of most tr*nny jokes? Trans women. Generally how they are really men, dudes in dresses, and not actually women (which we know is a bunch of bull).
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Lacking Narrative

There is a significant lack of trans* narrative. Where there Is, it is dominated by white trans men/trans masculine people like myself (somewhat). Most trans* narrative is by binary trans* people. The media and society love passable trans* people. Not only passable, but especially stereotypically feminine trans women and stereotypically masculine trans men. They like trans* people to adhere to the binary and perpetuate it. Few non-binary trans narratives exist. Even fewer trans* POC narratives exist. Think about the popular transgender people in media. Look at the transgender people who are given the chance to be the face of the trans* movement and the struggles and problems. It’s not people like CeCe McDonald. It’s people like Chaz Bono. You don’t see trans men like myself who are extremely feminine and prefer high heels and tight jeans to sneakers and slacks. According to the popular media, we do not exist. Now, there is nothing wrong with being a binary trans* person. Absolutely nothing. You are who you are and you like what you like. Binary trans* people are not the problem, the lack of non-binary coverage by the mainstream media, or being a face of the community is the problem. Another issue is that so many trans* narratives (both fiction and non) are not even written by trans* people.
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