Transnormativity debuts in Vogue?

From: http://www.vogue.it/en/people-are-talking-about/vogue-arts/2014/01/transgender-models-barneys-new-york?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#ad-image325984
From: http://www.vogue.it/en/people-are-talking-about/vogue-arts/2014/01/transgender-models-barneys-new-york?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter#ad-image325984
Intro page to Bruce Weber's photos of trans* models in the January 2014 issue of Vogue, titled Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters by Bruce Weber
Intro page to Bruce Weber’s photos of trans* models in the January 2014 issue of Vogue, titled Brothers, Sisters, Sons & Daughters by Bruce Weber

Critics of the politics of the marriage equality movement have described it as heralding “homonormativity.” Here is a recent feature in Vogue that advances “transnormativity.” In both cases what we see is the claim for equality based on the notion that there is a lack of meaningful difference between homo and trans folk, and heterosexuals. Some of us, however, see within our difference the basis of a critique of the way heterosexual dominance, or “heteronormativity” functions as a tool to give social and political power to some, and not to others. If we sell ourselves as “just like heterosexuals,” as the last paragraph of the intro to the photo spread above does, we abandon all the other folks on the social and political margins.

You can watch a video by the photographer that covers the shoot and more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNmEqgK-eCs#t=31

If you ask me, the contents of the video are very, very queer, and not transnormative at all. So why did the photographer frame his subjects as normative-middle-class family desirers?

Telling your own story, which is what the featured models do in parts of the video, is powerful, transformative, and affirming. It is precisely this aspect of life history-telling that draws me to oral history. It can affirm marginalized peoples’ humanity and dignity, and bravo for that! It’s the photographer’s intro to the Vogue article that I am interrogating here.

I wonder too about motive. In addition to advocating transnormativity, the photographer might rightfully be accused of engaging in transploitation, a term used by my partner to refer to the profiting of trans people’s lives by non-trans people.

What do you think? Share your comments below.

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