Betty & I filmed a short clip for a Canadian television show called Richler Ink which showed on Book Television, which is an entire channel dedicated to books & authors (so you know it’s not American). They themed their shows “Naughty Librarian Month” for January and so focused on sexual topics. (Whether or not we all think crossdressing is a sexual topic is beside the point, since 1) the point is outreach and education, as long as it’s done respectfully, and 2) the rest of the world still thinks it is, and they’re not going to understand otherwise until they hear about and maybe read a book like mine).
I hadn’t seen the show ever before, but it was explained to me that there would be in-studio guests, and Betty & I would be a segment. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the two books used as segments (My Husband Betty and another on women’s orgasm called She Comes First) would be commented on by the in-studio guest. It was as if Daniel Richler (the host) and the in-studio guest – who was in our case Josey Vogels – were watching the video clip of us with the audience, and when it finished, they chatted about it.
I was pretty upset when Daniel Richler couldn’t seem to keep a smirk off his face, and started muttering things about “kinky” & the like. But Josey Vogels, I’m happy to say, is not only well-informed but a pro. She’s apparently talked to straight, nervous, vanilla guys about sex before! And she talked a little bit about the transgender movement, and otherwise made sure Daniel Richler didn’t get to go anywhere with his nudge, nudge, wink, wink crap.
I’ve already thanked Josey Vogels, of course, for being a first-class act, and for not allowing the show to sink into Springer-esque insinuations, and she’ll hopefully be writing one of her columns about My Husband Betty as a result of our correspondence.
And though I certainly don’t mind spending time praising Josey Vogels (who was on promoting her current book Bedside Manners), that’s not why I sat down to write this: I write this because I was suddenly reminded that the world still thinks crossdressers are funny, or kinky, or both. In more than a year of going to trans-conferences and the like, you start to believe that everyone is tuned into the finer debates about passing, or other standard fare that’s dicussed within the trans community, until you realize – maybe because of a nervous talk show host or because of something someone shouts from the street – that we’ve got a long way to go.
Going that long way is going to take working with the media where and when we can. Betty and I have had to turn down other television shows on advice from friends here in NYC who have been burned themselves or seen firsthand how disrespectful most of the talk shows are of their guests: from “surprise guests” to telling people the shows are themed other than they are, they actually trick people into coming on. Of course all the invitations seem respectful; none of them write to ask me if I’d be willing to portray a wife who’s been victimized by her crazy tranny husband.
And while I don’t even have cable TV because of the schlock that is American television, I’m well aware that most of America is informed via TV – depressing but true. Doing innumerable events like Trans-Week at Yale or speaking to a class at UVM are wonderful: talking to people who are intelligent and willing to learn and listen means a new generation aren’t going to become adults with the same uninformed notions in their heads as their parents.
The question is: what about the rest? How do we get to the rest of the people out there?
Doing publicity with a mainstream book helps. Knowing my book is in libraries where it can be found (not only by T-people and their partners but by any average, interested, curious reader) is something. People ask me all the time why we haven’t been on Oprah. After I ask them if they know anyone who works on the show who might get us on (no takers yet), I ask: why aren’t there more shows like Oprah?
Maybe those of us in the GLBT community can start pressuring networks not necessarily for more shows about us – but just for more intelligent shows, in general. We need to write to our local and cable stations and tell them we’re tired of schlock. The Jerry Springer-type shows wouldn’t hurt half so much if we had something to offset it. I was pretty amazed to find that when we did PBS’ In the Life, none of my friends in the red states could see it. Why? Their local PBS affiliate simply didn’t carry it.
But I’m sure that had nothing to do with why eleven states voted for banning gay marriage, or why we’re teaching Creationism in schools as if it’s science, or why no one seemed to notice that we’ve hung the whole of the guilt for the Abu Ghraib horror on guys who were following orders.
I’m sure it doesn’t have anything to do with it. It doesn’t, does it?