I intended to post about this episode of Bones when I first saw it, but held out in hopes of finding a clip from the scene that I wanted to discuss. I still have not found it, but feel that I cannot wait any longer to address this issue.
Currently there is a lot of right wing bullshit being floated about how accepted the GLBTQI community has become by its appearance in prime time television. Not only is this a blatant untruth, it ignores is the degree to which the media perpetuates the negative social construction of the community.
Last week on Bones there was an episode about a trans woman that had been murdered. While I agree that there is much violence aimed at trans women, it pisses me off that they are never shown as leading happy successful lives. Why is it necessary to always turn her into a tragic victim that we must all have pity for? It seems unless the trans woman is under some form of attack, she cannot be recognized as legitimately existing. Using the murders of trans women for the purposes of entertainment is disgusting and does not address the degree of violence with which they live. Time after time when trans women appear in prime time sitcoms it is either for the purposes of comic relief, or as some tragic victim who was sadly misunderstood.
The other thing that was truly disturbing about this episode, was its continual insistence in using pronouns that were disrespectful while claiming to have "tolerance" and "understanding" for trans women. As I watched them refer to the character in question as" he/she" and "it," and then claim that she had a right to be validated as a person, I became more and more ill. If you truly believe in the personal autonomy and agency of a person, how hard is it to use the correct pronoun? There is no such person as a he/she or an it. It is insulting and reduces trans women to the level of sub human. If someone identifies as female then the correct pronoun to use at all times is she. The idea that someone is confused, is simply an expression of cis privilege.
Just the title of the episode alone, "The He In The She" makes it clear that they had no intention from the start of treating this issue with the respect that it deserves. This was not about someone who identifies as gender queer or gender butch, this is about someone who clearly identified as female. "The He In the She" makes it clear that despite the fact that trans people assert a gender in opposition of what their physical sex represents, cis people still feel that they have the right to assert the opposite. The woman that was murdered could have had a ten foot penis and that still would not have made her a man. It is the sheer of audacity of cis privilege to believe that we have the right to tell another what their gender is.
If the media is going to continue to have trans characters it has a responsibility to portray them with the same sort of humanity that it would give a cis character. It would be nice to see a trans woman play the part of a trans woman, or at the very least have them consulted before endeavouring to portray their experiences. As much as I am a trans ally, I would never claim to understand the totality of their experience, or dream that I could speak for them. This is a right that the media has taken and it has lead to the continued 'othering' of trans people.