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Trans Representation in Netflix’s “Disclosure”

Fans of our documentaries appreciate us for shining a light on the real-world implications of gender stereotypes rampant in media and entertainment. In Miss Representation, we explored the over-sexualization of women on screen and how that limits women’s representation in leadership positions. And in The Mask You Live In, we explored how the media perpetuates a harmful narrative that power, aggression, and domination are the standards by which men are measured—contributing to harmful behaviors like police brutality and the refusal to wear protective face coverings during the pandemic. The new documentary Disclosure (Netflix) expands on these themes and shows how Hollywood’s white, patriarchal history—replete with gender tropes—has also affected the transgender community. The film shows how clumsy representation of trans and gender-nonconforming people on-screen informs opinions that have real-world safety and economic implications for the one million+ transgender Americans.

GLAAD conducted research showing that in 2019, 82% of Americans reported that they did not personally know any trans people. That leaves the vast majority of Americans to learn about transgender people through what they see on screen—which has ranged from the butt of jokes (Ace Ventura) to people who should not be trusted (The Crying Game) to dangerous criminals (The Silence of the Lambs) to crime victim (Boys Don’t Cry). And when audiences are trained to objectify and dehumanize trans people based on what they see on screen, they can be prone to act on misplaced fears that were sold to them by Hollywood on real human beings. And that creates a culture of violence for trans people, particularly trans women of color.

Featuring Laverne Cox, Candis Cayne, Jen Richards, and more than a dozen transgender artists sharing screen history and first-person testimonials, Disclosure is important viewing for anyone who is passionate about improving gender representation in Hollywood as a step toward culture change. The film is a master class in the entertainment industry’s sexist and racist representations of women, transgender people, and Black men from Hollywood’s earliest days through today. The documentary explores a myriad of transgender representation issues— including the cultural appropriation of trans women by straight, cis women (Madonna & The Kardashians), transmasculine representation, casting decisions, problematic representation in popular shows like The L Word, stealth living, the invasiveness of disclosure, and so much more.

Take Action! Disclosure on Netflix is #MediaWeLike. Watch it and learn about the transphobic history of transgender images in film & TV—because #RepresentationMatters!