Disclosure is a dynamic and deeply personal documentary now available on Netflix, which offers insight into the way transgender identity and transgender representation in the media is deeply intertwined. It is a moving deep dive into how transgender identity is carved, shaped and more often than not stabbed in the back by the depiction of transgender people in film and television.
The documentary sits down with multiple famous transgender faces as they tell their personal stories of their first point of contact with what it means to be transgender in the media, and how it affected their identity for better or (usually) for worse. It explores the history of transgender representation, its use in comedy and horror, and how this representation trains society’s opinion of the transgender community into laughter or fear, both of which are extremely damaging to the community. The film highlights the impact made by even the smallest pieces of media that are forgotten by most people and how the memory of this negative depiction can still be a wound for transgender people. Therefore, Disclosure poses the ultimate question of whether problematic or bad representation is in fact better than no representation at all, or whether it does more harm than it does good.
Coming at a key point in the transgender rights movement, Disclosure puts into perspective the recent statistics from Stonewall, showing transgender youth suicide rates are high; with more than one in four trans young people having attempted suicide, and nine in ten having thought about it, and the continued murder of trans women, (2019 saw at least 27 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed).
Disclosure is a cry out – a look at the history of media that has shaped the mindset that continues to threaten the trans community so much in the modern day. The documentary instantly addresses this juxtaposition between the explosion in accurate and validating representation of transgender people in the media (Transparent, Pose, Orange is the New Black) and the reality of how increased representation appears to be making little impact in the fight for transgender rights.
It perfectly marries the personal and the factual, depicting a raw emotional side to the fight for more representation and the deep, long-lasting impact of the media. It is dynamic in its use of clips throughout history which are sometimes hard or shocking to watch, showing again and again the way the film and television industry has let down and misrepresented the transgender community. The way each person’s story both echoes and adds layers to the conversation creates a beautiful tapestry that highlights the failures of the media and constantly emphasises the need for change.
Moreover, the documentary explores the more nuanced intersections of the black community and the transgender community. In the use in older media of the ‘twin fascinations’, including blackface and negative depictions of transgender women, exploring the way both communities in the media are simultaneously hated and fetishised.
Although not necessarily an easy watch, Disclosure is deeply informative and important. To hear about the effect of transgender representation in the media, from multiple transgender celebrities puts faces to the concepts, and personalises the fight for more validating transgender representation moving forward. Disclosure discusses the past; the “ugly things in our history that feel like an assault” and stresses the importance of critically analysing history, as “we have to know them, we have to learn them”.
Available on Netflix Now
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