I’m really happy you brought this up as I have a funny story I want to preface with. My script became available to my entire crew months before we begun shooting. I wanted everyone to have a chance to read it, digest it and understand what they were going to be working on. I did that because my film is a little bit challenging – it shows trans women, not as these perfect goddesses of moral virture but as really complicated individuals (everybody in the world is a complicated individual). I feel like a lot of times, with a lot of the shows coming out I’m seeing more of that representation allowing us to be complicated. And so there are some things which people might look sideways at or feel some type of way about and I wanted everyone to be on the same page. I received a scathing email from someone I hired – it boiled down to “you are misrepresenting the transgender community. You are going to regret putting this movie out because it doesn’t show Transgender people in a nice light”. I almost felt like I’d been punched in the stomach as I’d never had somebody tell me that before. I had to sit with it for a day “why am I making this movie? Why did I write my characters as challenging or not always likeable?” I eventually came to the realisation that if I am not allowed to be complicated, or have flaws then there’s really no point to being a film-maker. It always boils down to let us be who we are, that’s as complex as it’s ever going to get.
So with films like Tangerine and TV shows like Transparent, I think it’s really nice – in Tangerine for instance they allowed those characters to be sex workers because that is the reality for a lot of women in Los Angeles and I’m glad they didn’t choose to gloss over the harder parts whilst still allowing these women to be fully realized human beings – they had hopes, dreams and ambitions and they were allowed to explore that whilst living through their reality as sex workers.
With hyper-visibiltiy I feel it comes down to a question of whether this exposure really benefits us or not. Caitlyn Jenner, for example, she came out in the last couple of years and she is ostensibly the most well-known trans woman in the whole world right now. She was afforded a platform that no-one else was able to reach yet. But, I want to investigate how she benefitted us, is this hyper-visibility doing anything positive for us?
When Caitlyn Jenner came out I had people approach me, again at work, and ask if I saw her interview. It was as if now they had a famous face to put trans-ness on it was a hallpass to clock this transwoman at her day job and ask her all about it, with zero respect for social boundaries.
Caitlyn Jenner came out and tore the curtain wide open without really thinking about how it may affect the rest of us. And she doesn’t have to. She has her own life and I would never stop her from living how she want to, but I think people need to realize that there are still some of us at the bottom who have to deal with the visibility and people suddenly peering into our community.
So hyper-visibility isn’t inherently a positive thing.