Visual Representation of Transgender Bodies in Film and Television

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Mary Reading
contact email: 

This panel will explore the varying visual representation of transgender people in film and television. Peter Lehman’s Running Scared: Masculinity and the Representation of the Male Body explains the visual shame of the male body and could also begin to understand the complexity of the transgender body. Lehman describes it as “men have managed to keep out of the glare, escaping from the relentlessness activity of sexual definitions” (6).  Newer shows like Sense8 and films like Hedwig and the Angry InchA Fantastic Woman, and The Danish Girl allow for characters that have visually and complex personalities along with their visual body. They explore trans struggles in storylines that do not end with death. These transwomen and men have romantic relationships that are complex like the film Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001).  On the flipside transgender characters in the 90’s were treated with disgust such as in the film The Crying Game (1992). Trap Door: Trans Cultural Production and the Politics of Visibility awakens an argument that there are no absolute “positive” or “negative” representations. The awareness of no absolutes “allow[s] the paradox of trans representation in the current moment to find form in conversations that don’t attempt to smooth over the contradictions” (xxiii). It overcomes the trap door idea that there are static positive and negative representations of transgender characters in film and television.