Transgender juxtaposition: Gorgeous (and nude) vs. “schlumpy”

laverne-cox-nude norma jean royLEXIE CANNES STATE OF TRANS — Laverne Cox’s gorgeous nude photo shoot for Allure magazine crossed my desk earlier today around the same time I was considering whether it would be worthwhile to respond to the now-controversial “schlumpy” op-ed published earlier this week in The Advocate. This juxtaposition made its own decision — I’ll cover them both here and let the community hash it out.

On the third try, Allure magazine convinced trans woman Laverne Cox to pose nude for them. The photo and article came just recently. The star of the TV series “Orange Is the New Black” said this in Allure about agreeing to the shoot:

“. . .  I’m a black transgender woman. I felt this could be really powerful for the communities that I represent. Black women are not often told that we’re beautiful unless we align with certain standards. Trans women certainly are not told we’re beautiful. Seeing a black transgender woman embracing and loving everything about herself might be inspiring to some other folks. . . .”

Meanwhile, in an op-ed piece in The Advocate earlier this week, Riki Wilchins zeroed in on the use of “schlumpy, older person” to portray trans characters on TV or in movies. Her prime target — the Golden Globe winning show “Transparent.”

Wilchins in The Advocate: “I’m thoroughly sick of seeing the face of Jeffrey Tambor slathered in ruby-red lipstick and topped with a wig on the home page every time I log on [to Amazon’s Prime]. Whenever I see Tambor’s visage, I’m reminded of Jennifer Finney Boylan’s recent New York Times column that tapped into this zeitgeist of admiring Transparent‘s use of a “schlumpy, older person rather than a gorgeous [transgender] fashion model” to make its portrayal edgy and real.”

Wilchins cited Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp and John Lithgow as examples of ‘schlumpy older persons” portraying trans people. She thinks many productions go out of their way to make trans characters delibrately look transgender to meet “normal” requirements set by producers. She noted Jared Leto and Felicity Huffman are somewhat of exceptions to this rule.

Wilchins: “Whenever we appear, cisgenders need to be reassured that we’re never, ever “normal.” We can never be more than our bodies and we must always appear as visibly, comfortably, reliably different.”


While I appreciate Wilchins opening the door to this line of discussion, IMO, for every “schlump”, we get a “Kim Foyle” (Different for Girls), “Kitten Braden” (Breakfast on Pluto) or “Sophia Burset” (Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black).

My earlier article on “Transparent”:

My article on why trans roles don’t go to trans actors:



laverne-cox-nude norma jean roy 2

laverne-cox-nude norma jean roy

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5 replies

  1. Insisting that images of trans women be “normal” is super gross in its own right. WTF does a normal trans woman look like?

  2. I know that Riki is well respected in the community, but this is just dumb. The character is a late-in-life transitioner in her 60’s or 70’s. Seriously, how “glamorous” should she be?

  3. I’ve always had somewhat of an issue with many of the op-ed articles coming out of The Advocate: many of them just kind of seemed “off” to me :/

    The Gloria Steinem “apology” to the trans community, the “schlumpy trans woman” argument, and the fact that I haven’t seen many stories coming from people of any other ethnic background than white (because African American queer individuals are currently experiencing the most violence, and really need more representation than they are getting).

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