From the comics I read as a kid, to the nineties Fox cartoon and then the X-Men film franchise that has been running for the last twenty years they have been there. At college we use to go to the local chip shop during dinner and play on the arcade game there. I was always Nightcrawler, my favourite at the time. (Well there was also Wolverine but my mate was always him)
Wolverine can of course be considered one of the most popular of the X-men. Hugh Jackman has played him superbly in the franchise with three solo movies and a number of cameos. But for me it’s a team thing. The comics, the series, even the X-Men games I still have for the Playstation it’s a group. Cyclopes, Storm, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, Colossus, Beast. Just a few of my favourites.
Now since starting this blog I’ve written a few posts on heroes. From the role models I’ve had over the years such as He-man and Spiderman to looking at Batman, Supergirl and the themes of identity. The X-men then also provide a personal meaning to me. They are a minority group. Created in the sixties it seems obvious that Stan Lee took themes from the racist attitudes that existed. They became metaphoric for people who were treated different because they were different. A theme still relevant in the eighties and nineties with homosexuality and the AIDS crisis. A theme still relevant now because of the issues with Trans people.
Let’s take a look at the X-men or more precisely the mutant community. Outcasts, feared for being different and not fitting into what people consider the norm. Many of these mutants don’t have the great powers of the X-men or their enemies. Their mutation may be just something small. A little bit different in their identity and all they want to do is try and live a normal life, try to fit in with society.
This is what most Trans people want. When people shout about Trans women using women’s toilet the argument always have someone say ‘Why not have separate toilets for trans women.’ Well apart from the impracticalities, such as establishments having to fit an extra toilet area, the fact remains it marks someone out as different.
A Trans woman is a woman, a mantra often repeated by many but with good reason. They don’t want to be seen as something different. They are just trying to get on with their lives as the person they are. They just want to go for a pee. There shouldn’t be any reason why they should have to enter through a door marked just for them, a door that advertises to those around that this person is different. A talking point. Someone to stop and stare at. A person who is now open to attack and ridicule. The toilet might as well just have a big flashing sign across the top. What this separate toilet does is force that person to identify themselves just because they need to pee.
Ok, mini rant over but we’ll be coming back to identity later. On Twitter it is almost like there is a war going on. Trans people and their allies one side. Cis people and allies on the other. Arguing over rights, safety, respect or even the meaning of words. It’s the same as the world of the X-men. A minority group fighting for their rights, sometime to even exist, in the world and the other side against them. Or even just confused by it. In X-men 2 there is a scene where Iceman’s mother uses the line “Have you tried not being a mutant?” It’s a line that has been used against both homosexuals and Trans people. A mistaken belief that it is a choice. Something that can be turned off.
And like the world of the X-men there are different factions. Many are those just trying to live. Others are more outspoken, activists who like the X-men put themselves out there to fight and be visible. Munroe Berkoff, Paris Lee, Dr Rachel McKinnon. Sadly there are others as well who are more like Magneto’s team, willing to use violence (speech) to achieve their aims. The more extremist side. But the same goes for the other side. Many of those fighting against Trans people are just people with concerns about safety, fairness and loss of rights. There is misinformation and there is fear. But there is a few that are more hateful. Rather like the Mutant Liberation Front they don’t think Trans people should exist or if they do they should be segregated from the rest of society. And rather like scenes we’ve seen in those comics, movies and cartoons there are those who would use violence against individuals. Who are quite proud to announce on social media about what they would do if they came across a Trans person. It’s a scary world out there. To think there are people out there who I’ve never met, never spoken to who hate me for who I am and would beat the shit out of me if they came across me.
I’ve seen posts that advocates for Trans people to have to wear a symbol to mark them out in society. Even for there to be a registration. An idea I pointed out at the time was similar to the X-men.
It’s here that we can return to the point about identity. Why do Trans people need to wear something to mark them out? Why is it important for people to be able to recognise them in the street? There is only one answer and it’s because they are seen as wrong. They are seen as dangerous. “Oh right, yeah you can exist as a woman but we need to know you were born male.” Is it so you can stop your children conversing with someone Trans? Is it so you know not to walk on the same side of the street? Does it matter that such a move would identity Trans people out to the more extreme elements of society, resulting in bulling, beatings and possibly death. Where is the concern for safety now?
The only thing such actions such as separate toilets and wearing symbols does is it makes it easier for people to identify. There has already been cases where women have been accosted in restrooms by people who believe they are trans. A woman accused of sexual assault in America resulted in some on Twitter pointing her out as Trans. When I argued what evidence they had for this the reply was “My eyes, she looks like a man.” Even Kira Knightly has come under scrutiny with some believing she is secretly Trans because of the way she is built. Fear and hatred allow such things to happen.
These themes in the X-men comics have been going for fifty years, I’m hoping it doesn’t take fifty years before Trans people are allowed to live in relative peace. Hopefully we can find a common ground. A way to provide safety where needed for both sides while allowing Trans people to live the way they want. It’ll never be perfect. Last year (2018) a man refused to sit next to a black woman on a plane. Gay couples are still refused rooms in some hotels or cakes made for their wedding. There are still calls for conversion therapy.
I spoke in the previous blog about how I hope X-men movies still get made and with the wealth of stories out there why there is no reason they couldn’t. One of my ‘favourite’ stories is God Loves, Man Kills’. It’s hard hitting. From the very start two mutant children are killed and strung up just for being different. There is hatred spread throughout. It’s emotional, it’s hard and it deserves a movie version. It ends both on a note of hopefulness, An act of kindness from one human, and a bittersweet note as the fight to exist is only temporary halted before it begins again. The battle won but not the war. A brief respite before the arguments begin again on whether they should be allowed the same basic rights as other human beings.
For those that are not X-men fans and are more DC then I would recommend the latest season of Supergirl. (Season four) It currently has the same themes although between humans and aliens. There is an obvious parallel with themes of immigration but also those themes of being discriminated against for being different. Given that it now features a Trans woman as a superhero it certainly highlights these themes and out of the four CW series at the moment it’s the one that I’m most into at the moment.
The X-men, Supergirl or any number of super hero stories out there can highlight injustice in the world. Call out hate and bigotry and gives us role models to look up to. But it also has to be said someone doesn’t need to have super powers to make a stand. To give respect to others and fight for peoples right to live in this world.