03/04/2015 03:41 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Transgender Activist Jen Richards On Role Models, Resources And Media Portrayals Of The Trans Community

The Next Family

By Brandy Black, The Next Family

I had the chance to catch up with Jen Richards, a transgender activist and media specialist to address transgender portrayals in the media, trans resources, and her role models. This is a 4-part series on our You Tube Channel.

“I think it’s important to have trans people play trans actors. I happened to see two performances in Chicago last week that had trans characters being played by cis male actors. And both times those characters were then seen as men who were putting on a performance, an affectation. And that reinforces this notion that trans women such as myself are like men in disguise. And that cultural context is what leads to violence.”

“A report just came out a couple weeks ago from the Funders of LGBTQ Issues which showed that less than 6 percent of total funding that goes to LGBT issues goes to trans issues specifically. And about 1/8 of that was for a particular cause which was trans inclusion in military service. So there is very little left for appropriate healthcare, for safety, for employment, and the systemic issues that particularly young black and Latina trans women face.”

“It’s one of those things, one of my friends always jokes, ‘If you buy a red car, all of a sudden all you see are red cars’. So I always wondered, ‘Am I just seeing all these trans stuff because I just came out and it’s what I’m fixated on?’ But I feel like on every account there has a been a tremendous increase in trans visibility. To be honest, most of it is still negative according to GLAAD who does reports each year on movies and TV in particular and it’s still mostly negative, but the number of positive representations and positive stories is increasing at a rapid pace.”

“Finding community is always the key. I think the single biggest difference is having other trans people to talk to. I found people through Twitter, that’s how I first found other trans people and a lot of the people I met are now my closest friends in real life. I just think that is a huge factor in terms of mental health, of access to resources, of navigating something that can be very, very difficult. I think it’s true for anyone of any age group just to find direct proof that you aren’t alone, that there are people who have gone through this, who are going through this. And as with any other community we often find that giving back to others we find the greatest peace and place in ourselves.”

Thank you Jen for taking the time to speak with and educate us on transgender topics.

Brandy Black is Editor-in-Chief of The Next Family and has assists brands in guiding social messaging and awareness in the LGBT community. She lives in Los Angeles with her wife and three kids.

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