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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Growing acceptance of transgender people shown in television, high schools

America is beginning to look like a friendlier place for those with issues of gender identity. While the challenges faced by transgender individuals are far from over, the social climate is changing in favor of tolerance and acceptance.

In May, Houston passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, HERO, making it illegal to discriminate “based on an individual’s sex, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, familial status, marital status, military status, religion, disability, sexual orientation, genetic information, gender identity or pregnancy.”

While provisions of this law were altered after a heated debate about bathrooms, it remains a major triumph for the protection of transgender citizens. is adding to the transgender conversation on a larger scale through the launch of its first scripted series, “Transparent,” chronicling a father’s transition from male to female. The family’s surname, which is rarely mentioned, underscores the reality that this could be any family. Ultimately, what makes the show so relatable is that they’re flawed and dysfunctional just like everyone else.

Mort/Maura, played by Jeffrey Tambor, brings to the role equal parts sensitivity and strength and the quality of his performance never falters for a single moment. What “Transparent” gets at, without being overly forceful, is the exquisite pain of being someone inhabiting the wrong body.

Tambor’s character truthfully and bravely responds when confronted by his character’s daughter asking whether he will be dressing like a woman permanently.

“My whole life I’ve been dressing up like a man,” Tambor said. “This is me.”

Although Maura never felt like a male as Mort, even as a child, she doesn’t acknowledge these feelings until she reaches retirement age. It’s hard not to sympathize with Maura and those like her who have spent so much of their lives living a hidden, unfulfilled existence.

Luckily for today’s youth, one doesn’t have to remain isolated. Millennials are grappling with issues of gender identity at a much younger age and are not only coming out — they’re thriving.

English graduate student Rebecca Colwell remarked on the tremendous strength her friend showed through his transition. Colwell said she has known this friend since junior high school, and his transition from female to male impacted the way she sees others and their interpretation of gender.

“I continue to think of my friend as a ‘her,’ yet I know he no longer considers himself a woman. I appreciate the courage to be honest with himself and be who he wants to be, but I still find myself struggling with changing my mindset on who my friend is,” Colwell said.

“I think that gender identity needs to be an open discussion in our society and not looked down upon just because a portion does not understand the situation.”

This year, several transgender students from across the nation have been crowned Homecoming queens and kings, indicating a level of widespread acceptance by their peers. Texas’ own Mel Gonzalez, from Sugar Land, campaigned for and won the right to be called Homecoming royalty.

Despite his past, Mel is no different from his competitors, who each brought a unique personal history. Regardless of their inherent differences, their desires are all the same: to represent their schools and to be accepted.

To fit in, to blend and to be recognized as equal are desires we all share, but for Mel, his win is undoubtedly a monumental personal victory. The designation of Homecoming Queen or King is an honor for any recipient of the title; however, for a transgender student it must be the ultimate experience of validation.

Queer studies professor Maria C. Gonzalez said that she is pleased at the steps society has made towards beginning to accept the transgender community.

“To be crowned Homecoming King or Queen takes on an added level of meaning when that person is a trans student who is accepted by their peers,” Maria said. “This generation is stepping in the new millennium with a broader sense of acceptance than any other generation.”

In his interviews, Mel emphasizes that he did not run to increase his reputation, admitting that he is not one of the more popular students at Stephen F. Austin High School. He said he campaigned because he wanted to prove that a transgender individual could win.

Although fellow students may not have been able to personally identify with Mel, they recognized, through their support, how much the title meant to him and that he ran a strong campaign and deserved to win.

The remarkable part of Mel’s achievement is the victory itself, reminding us all that people are basically good and recognize outstanding individuals — transgender or not.

Opinion columnist Jonathan Bolan is an English graduate student and may be reached at [email protected].

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