Changing Perspectives: On the power of representation

Fenn Aldred
By Fenn Aldred | 19 March 2024
Fenn Aldred.

The MFA DE&I Council would like to see an industry where everyone can thrive, feel heard, supported, and safe to do their best work. Let’s meet the Changers who are sharing their own lived experiences to inspire us all to change for the better.

The world of media truly underestimates the power of representation. Seeing and normalising different types of people and the diversity of the real world is entirely world changing.

Being a gay trans man, almost three years into testosterone and recently completing top surgery, I didn’t grow up with trans representation. The closest thing was episodes of Maury Povich guessing which women used to be men. There were ZERO trans men in media.

The typical stories you hear of trans people is they knew from a young age. But that wasn’t my experience, and I know it’s not everyone’s experience. Hindsight is 20/20 and there were definitely signs – teenage girls don’t get envious of their boyfriend’s beard, wishing they could grow their own. But being trans wasn’t something I considered or even understood was an option.

I grew up in a strong matriarchal home, with a powerful lesbian sister and parents who were very accepting. I learned the power of womanhood, and that despite the experience of women in society not being the most fantastic, I felt that feminine power was greater than the power of masculinity.

When I finally found my local queer community and met everyone under the acronym, I learned that my gender doesn’t have to align with what I was born as, and I began thinking about my identity beyond what I’ve been assigned.

My closest friend was the first trans man I’d ever met. Through him I learnt that trans men can be soft, gentle, flamboyant and masculine all at once, despite the expectation for trans men to be hyper masculine in contrast to how they were raised in their assigned gender.

My gender and my journey are shaped by my experiences as a woman, without a doubt. My masculinity is dynamic and isn’t constrained by expectations of what masculinity should be. I gained a different perspective on life and people through my transition, and I try to be the type of man we should all aspire to be.

I feel privileged to have found my community. Others haven’t been as lucky. Their stories are heartbreaking and drive my passion to create a better landscape for diversity. I know a lot of people reading this can’t directly relate to my story, but I’m sure you can understand the feeling you get when you see yourself in a character on your favourite TV show or even a model in an ad.

Trans people have always been the butt of the joke. We deserve to see ourselves living, thriving and existing as normalised as possible. Representation matters.

We in the media industry have the power to show diversity in our creative directions. It’s proven that supporting LGBTQIA people, and especially trans people, reduces the risk of suicide.

So here are my top 3 tips:

  • Agencies can advocate for clients to include trans representation within their creative and media plans. And don’t back away because of a few but very loud groups. The LGBTQ+ the community will back you more and longer than any other audience.
  • Don’t shy away from normalising trans people, it doesn’t need to be anything crazy or a Pride-specific campaign. Sometimes, we just want to see ourselves existing without it being a hugely emotional piece.
  • Don’t be afraid to get it wrong, there are SO many advocates you can hire to bring into discussions to make sure you get it right and they’d be happy to help, give feedback and give ideas – but pay them fairly for their time.

Finally, to my fellow trans friends – be proud and unapologetic about who you are. You deserve space, and you deserve to be heard.

Fenn Aldred is Diverse Media Assistant at Omnicom Media Group

comments powered by Disqus