Transgender people exist every facet of our society. Since 2014, the visibility of transgender people as a whole has increased dramatically with an increase in public support for transgender rights. From an outside perspective, it might be difficult to understand why being transgender is an important factor for a role model. Why is representation of transgender people as successful professionals important for inspiring the next generation of transgender children and young adults?
The value of representation for minority groups – whether that representation is based on race, culture, class, sexuality, or gender – has long been established as essential for motivating those from historically disenfranchised groups. Take a moment and try to imagine what it would be like to have a talent or interest in a field, but if that field didn’t seem to have anyone that was quite like you. Imagine being different from everyone else in your class, your hobby group, or your organization. Many of you can already imagine what it would be like to be different. For those of you who identify as a member of a disenfranchised group, you might already be the only person in your group who is quite like you.
In her article “Under-represented and Underserved: Why Minority Role Models Matter in STEM,” Danielle N. Lee talks about her own experiences as an African-American woman in the STEM field, and how seeing representation of people whose existence were similar to herself inspired her to continue her education and career.
For one, such stories are inspiring; but more specifically, for members of groups that have been historically disenfranchised or marginalized, it is also about pride. I am repeatedly humbled by the number and volume of people who congratulate me, or my family, for completing college, studying science and obtaining my doctorate. Among my friends, who are also members of minority groups, they share similar experiences. Some of us may have come from blue collar families, others from middle-class families, but all of us have experienced that call to ‘give-back’ – that expectation to share our time, our talent, our testimony with others from our group.“Under-represented and underserved: Why minority tole models matter in STEM,” Danielle N. Lee
We see the importance of this kind of community bonding and support in every disenfranchised group. Unfortunately, now more than ever, transphobia has taken precedent in many of the forms of mainstream media that people rely on for their knowledge of what’s happening in the world around them. However, just because the success of transgender professionals isn’t being highlighted doesn’t mean that these people don’t exist. There are thousands of successful, amazing transgender professionals making strides in all sorts of fields and living their best life, and their success has an impact on how transgender youth view themselves and their hope for the future.
“When I see trans adults surviving and thriving, I have hope for what I can become. Even more so because I have an interest in politics and public policy,” said James Van Kuilenburg, a 17-year-old student from Frederick, MD. “Tuesday’s victories are just another testament to everything trans youth can grow up to be, in spite of and at the same time because of their trans identity.”“Why Representation Matters: LGBTQ Youth React to Tuesday Night’s Historic Wins,”
We hope that by providing transgender youth with a directory of role models from all sorts of fields, those role models can inspire them to see a future for themselves in society.