Donning stunning white pants suits and embracing each other (see below) in front of a stark grey slab, performance artist Zackary Drucker and actor Hari Nef — both involved in Season 2 of Transparent — pose for the Fall 2015 cover of GOOD magazine.
The subject at issue: have trans people really benefitted from the recent uptick in visibility. “I’ve heard more than one trans person say that it’s like the best of times and the worst of times,” Drucker says, adding:
“It’s troubling the ways in which we’re being offered these opportunities. Then there’s this speculation that with the increased visibility of trans people, there’s this unintended backlash hitting the most disenfranchised members of our community. We really do have a responsibility to bring the community up. I think the only way that’s going to happen is through gainful employment.”
Last year, Orange Is The New Black star Laverne Cox appeared on the cover of Time. The magazine celebrated what it called “the transgender tipping point,” a time of increased trans awareness. It’s been marked by increased visibility of camera-ready, articulate, and rather non-threatening figures such Cox, Janet Mock, and, recently, Caitlyn Jenner.
Drucker, a writer and consultant for Transparent, and Nef, a professional model and new addition to the Amazon series this season, are ambivalent about this new era of visibility: there have been benefits, but it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.
“I honestly feel like it’s purely a question of power,” says Nef in the interview, adding:
“Now we’re in the limelight with this weird, narrow window to attain exposure and money and visibility, and every trans woman who can needs to try and get a piece. I want us all up here — making money, pushing legislation, philanthropy, advocacy, calling people out — but at the end of the day, because it’s a media thing, it’s probably going to be — us here talking being a prime example — trans women working in media and politics. As trans women with white privilege, we may be given more opportunities, and we have this dire responsibility to pass the mic. We need to advocate for trans women of color, and we need to do more than talk about it. The danger is so disproportionate right now to how much shine we’re getting, and I’m more scared than I am triumphant.”
At the tail end of the story, Drucker chimes in with her thoughts on an intergenerational divide among trans leaders, noting that only recently that prominent trans individuals have gotten the limelight. She ponders:
“I look around sometimes and think: Are we as a community actually being lifted up? Or are we just pawns in this sort of prurient curiosity of a cis-normative world? There’s no answer, it’s yet to be seen. Yes, I would like to be optimistic and say that we’re moving toward the future where this next generation of trans people will finally be able to get ahead. Phyllis Frye, our nation’s first openly transgender judge, is on the cover of The New York Times. Those people have always existed as well, people who have operated in an overground economy, and who have made an impact regardless of the obstacles of being trans, but that usually happens with late transitioners.”