Alex Schmider was twelve when he saw Boys Don’t Cry, the stark film that tells the story of Brandon Teena, a trans man murdered in Nebraska in 1993. Schmider, A13, a trans man who started transitioning after he graduated from Tufts, found the story horrifying. “If that’s the first [trans] person you are able to relate to on screen or otherwise, it’s hard to envision a future for yourself,” he told NBC’s OutFront in 2017. So Schmider has devoted much of his career so far to enhancing media representation for trans people. He’s a film producer and the influencer relations specialist at the LGBTQ app Grindr and its digital publication, INTO. Before that, he worked as a senior strategist specializing in media at the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD. In 2017 he was named to Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 for Media list. alexschmider.com

MEDIA IMAGES MATTER

Alex Shmider, A13

Photo: Courtesy Alex Schmider

When, according to a Harris poll, only 16 percent of Americans say they personally know someone who is transgender, that means for 84 percent of the public a significant amount of their information about the community comes from media. So if the media’s characterizations of us are one-dimensional at best and villainizing or victimizing at worst, it creates a culture of fear and misunderstanding about who we really are. I am a guy of trans experience, but I’m also a son, a brother, a Jewish person, a communications professional, a moviegoer, and a coffee lover.

HISTORY LESSON

A documentary I’m producing, Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen, looks at Hollywood’s depiction of transgender people over the last hundred years. This is exactly the kind of film that would have helped me when I was growing up. Like so many, I was shaped by the TV and movies I watched but never understood how Hollywood had failed me or itself.

THE WORK CONTINUES 

At GLAAD, I worked with a writer and television producer who wanted to see trans women of color portrayed as superheroes in stories that reflect their own experience. We have continued working together on this project even now that I’ve moved on from GLAAD. The result is a script for a TV show that’s being shopped around to networks. Stay tuned!

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Beth Horning, editor-at-large for Tufts magazines, can be reached at elizabeth.horning@tufts.edu.