The room listened intently as Tre’vell Anderson spoke of the history of Black transgender people in the media. Anderson is a journalist who recently published a novel: “We See Each Other: A Black, Trans Journey Through TV and Film.”
Anderson spoke at the event, hosted by American University’s School of Communication, on Nov. 14.
They kicked the event off by playing the theme song to their podcast, a continuation of their book that follows Black transgender people through television and film. The song talks about the “generations of history” and how “we see each other.” in media representation.
During the event, Anderson also discussed the Brooklyn Liberation march — a protest that occurred in 2020 and focused on advocating for Black trans lives in response to police violence against Black people and anti-trans legislation across the country..
Anderson’s presentation illustrated parts of the trans community that are often overlooked in education. They discussed how many people seem to believe that Black and transgender individuals did not exist until actress Laverne Cox publicly came out as trans. They highlighted icons such as Sandra Caldwell, a Black transgender woman born in 1957, to combat this.
Anderson’s presentation also covered a wide variety of trans representation in the media. From early representations of crossdressing for the sake of comedy (such as “Boy! What A Girl!” and “Some Like It Hot”), to later representations featuring actual trans characters (such as “Dallas Buyers Club” and “The Danish Girl”). Anderson said trans representation has shifted over the years from easy comedy to something Hollywood takes seriously.
During the Q&A session at the end of the event, audience members shared how much they enjoyed the presentation and expressed admiration for Anderson.
Anderson ended their presentation with a shocking statistic. In 2016, only 30 percent of people in the U.S. said that they knew someone who is trans, according to the Pew Research Center.
Anderson speculated that perhaps people believe they have never met a trans person because they have not made their trans friends feel safe enough to come out to them. Anderson concluded their talk by asking the audience what they’ve done to support the trans community.
“We all learn about ourselves from the media we consume,” Anderson said.
This article was edited by Sara Winick, Zoe Bell, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Olivia Citarella and Charlie Mennuti.