The Problem With the Wrong Kind of Trans Visibility

At some point between 2011, when I transitioned, and 2018, a curious thing happened in the relationship between trans people and popular culture. A certain subset of trans people — usually (though not always) palatable, sympathetic and conventionally attractive — became pervasive, appearing on magazine covers and in prestige dramas. Some even became full-fledged celebrities. And we took on — in some mainstream liberal circles, anyway — an often crude, if occasionally flattering, symbolism: Our presence in a project lent it an air of edginess, sometimes even glamour. Above all, as Mr. Shteyngart’s narrator alludes to, we were seen as authentic.

.. Trans and nonbinary people — by most estimates, not even 1 percent of the population — have come to hold an outsize role in our cultural imagination, especially in the minds of film directors, journalists and fashion and television executives (who are still, with some notable exceptions, almost never trans themselves). And yet, it’s not exactly clear what this role has done for us.

.. Trans people may be on more screens and magazine covers than ever before, but for the 84 percent of Americans who believe they’ve never met a trans person in real life, we still live in the realm of the imagination, theoretical at best.