It’s strange to eavesdrop on a conversation between someone of 32 and someone of 22 and realize that they’re speaking as if a vast generational chasm exists between them. Are the experiences of someone born in 1992 really all that different from someone born in 1982? When the parties in the dialogue are trans women, the answer, apparently, is yes: Attitudes to transgender people have changed so much in the last few years that the decade between 22-year-old Hari Nef, a writer and model who will appear as an actress in Season 2 of Transparent, and 32-year-old Zackary Drucker, an artist who is also a co-producer and adviser on the Amazon show, means they came of age in different worlds.
My opportunity to listen in on Drucker and Nef’s conversation came in the Fall 2015 GOOD, which is the magazine’s first fashion issue. The piece is accompanied by gauzy photos of the two women, who acknowledge the current fetishization of a certain kind of photogenic trans person. “As trans women with white privilege, we may be given more opportunities, and we have this dire responsibility to pass the mic,” Nef says. “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.”
Early in the exchange, Nef says, “I would not be talking with you right now if I had not spent like 50 percent of the past four years on the internet. It’s what’s allowing the younger generation to survive.” Drucker points out that “trans people have been surviving and finding each other throughout history, but it’s a lot easier for your generation. As a queer youth in the suburbs in the 1990s, I found that community at the local video store in the cult films section, or at the alternative coffee shop with the punks and outcasts.”
Appropriately enough, I read this conversation on the Internet: Just as finding a supportive online community was essential to Nef’s survival, cisgender people can learn a lot about trans people, their needs, and problems from virtual interactions like this one. A recent report from the Williams Institute found that “as respondents report being more informed about transgender people they tend to have more supportive attitudes.” In other words, reading dialogues like the one in GOOD—as well as stories by and about S. Bear Bergman, Andrea Majanik Bowen, T Cooper, Laverne Cox, Christin Scarlett Milloy, Janet Mock, Parker Marie Molloy, and others—can have a profound, positive impact on the world.