Young Men and Transwomen in Music Videos
New York, NY
. . . are not especially new to popular music videos—and their uses have not always been unambiguously empowering, truth be told—but far fewer are the videos that dramatize an encounter between seemingly-heterosexual men and transwomen. I use “seemingly-heterosexual” here because, in the short and usually dialogue-free context of a music video, sexuality is only hazily legible through gestures, postures, styling, and stylizations that reference culture- and genre-specific norms outside the frame of the music video. Similarly, I use “transwomen” in a more general fashion than I should because, in the three music videos that are examined below, it is not always clear if these characters are meant to represent drag performers, cisgendered men living as women, male-to-female transsexual women, or gender-queers with a more complex relation to normative gender. In any of these cases, the leading men of these music videos initially read as smoothly (and sometimes forcefully) as cisgendered heterosexual male, while the leading ladies immediately create shimmering disturbances on the surface of normative gender and sexuality. This provides a close reading of three videos that stage an encounter between these starkly different characters, paying attention to what their narratives and mise-en-scène convey about the stakes of such and encounters.