- Transgender People of Color and the Effects of Capitalism:A Conversation with Meredith Talusan
Meredith Talusan is a contributing editor at them, the first online magazine focusing on transgender issues published by a major American publishing corporation, Condé Nast. According to Pamela Drucker Mann, chief revenue and marketing officer of Condé Nast, them is about "the future of culture and speaks to the heart of the most influential demographic—Gen Z."1 Condé Nast believes that about "60% of Gen Z consumers support brands that take a stand on issues they believe in." More strikingly, "more than half of Gen Z identify as queer, making equality a high priority" in their lives. According to the press release, "In just three years, Gen Z will represent 40% of all US consumers and currently wields more than $44 billion in spending power."2 Talusan is also an award-winning journalist and author whose articles have been featured in The Guardian, The Atlantic, The Nation, Mic, and BuzzFeed. She received the 2017 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism–Multimedia and the Deadline Club Award, and her debut memoir, Fairest, is forthcoming from Viking Books. Talusan sat down with me to discuss this unique moment in LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) history. In particular, she shared her thoughts and reflections on the present-day political climate and the efforts of a major capitalist corporation to support the lives of LGBTQ youth. The interview was conducted in Brooklyn, New York, on September 8, 2018. [End Page 15]
When you function as the editor of them, what are the specific issues catching your attention? How do you decide what is noteworthy for publication?
There really isn't one specific answer to that question; it's a combination of what we perceive to be the quality of the work and the perspective it brings to the world. I know you were seeking contributions from trans people of color, but had trouble encouraging them to write?
Yes, that's true. Some trans activists and authors I approached didn't wish to write for an academic journal. Some said they felt intimidated by the idea. They felt as though it wasn't the platform that could represent their vision.
I think many trans people of color are subject to such a degree of systemic discrimination that they might have felt uncomfortable speaking about their experience to begin with. They aren't used to being invited to contribute to journals because they are often not in the position to penetrate through the institutional privilege. And institutions only tend to select people who have become exceptionalized. Those people then face the challenge of navigating through a system that isn't set up for them.
I spent much of my academic career not publicly disclosed as trans. And I actually ended up being harassed as soon as I publicly disclosed as trans, and the university didn't have systems in place to adequately address transgender harassment. I would imagine that had I entered the academy already disclosed, it would have been a much harder road for me. And very few trans people, especially trans women, had the privilege of not disclosing. Post-transition trans men tend to be less visibly trans, and also trans women who pass as cisgender often have to spend a lot of resources in order to do so. It is very difficult to do that, to have resources in order to live as trans like that.
For me, it was challenging to be able to work with trans people of color because there are so few of us. You are constantly up against this struggle when you want to mentor somebody who is just entering into that world, because that experience of stepping [End Page 16] into the world requires time and effort. And, you are simultaneously contending with the pressure of a capitalist media industry, so there are all these factors involved. As one of the people who are exceptionalized in this world, it's been really fascinating to come to terms with all the factors that have put me in this particular position...