Category: media

Mad Us: The End of Mad Men

Posted by – May 19, 2015

Mad Men isn’t about Joan or Peggy or Don or Betty or Roger or feminism or the 60s or NYC or advertising; it’s not about drinking or smoking or the clothes or the era.

It’s about mid-life and it’s for anyone who has woken up unhappy in some unnamable way after the age of 30. It’s for anyone who grew up knowing they were in for a bright future who woke up with a lot of things they wanted and some they didn’t and tried to get out from under this tremendous sense of disappointment. It’s for anyone who expected to live fiercely and die young who didn’t.

Don Draper is in his mid 30s when the show starts in 1960; it ends late in 1970. It is that decade – the decade of the midlife crisis, the U-curve. It’s the decade when you start to look around or are still in the middle of busily building your life – getting that job, the place to live, kids, spouse. It’s when you finally come up for air after aspiring to so much, of becoming an adult of whatever kind you are or avoiding becoming one altogether.

Is that all there is my friends? is what you ask. I have done these things, read these books, started my life, found love, lost it, found it again, with the same person or a new one, maybe settled for stable over passionate.

It is when your body first starts to tell you that maybe you drink too much or need to quit smoking but you don’t really feel old yet; it’s not until your 40s that you realize that perhaps that stiff knee is only going to get stiffer with time, that it’s never going to feel wholly better.

As a woman it’s the moment you realize you have probably already been the most attractive the culture will allow you to be – which has nothing whatsoever to do with how attractive you are, of course – but it’s also the moment when you realize you have some small authority in whatever your world.

You think about the plans you made and didn’t achieve and the ones you did and your friends’ plans and what they did and didn’t do. It’s when your friend who always wanted to be a writer becomes one and then realizes they got into it for all the wrong reasons or they got into it for the right reasons but those weren’t the ones that made them successful. It’s when the people who make money realize they need meaning and the people who have lived in the moment and for meaning realize they need some money.

It’s when you wonder if you should have married that guy you didn’t marry or whether that woman you did marry was the right one. It’s the decade when you realize you have young children and that your life is about them now, not so much about you, but it’s also the decade when you realize it never was about them but really about you – what you wanted to be as a parent and what you actually are. It’s about sitting on what it means not to be a parent when you realize you’re never going to be one.

It’s when you buy a metaphorical red sports car or dye your hair red or start running marathons even though you never have before.

That decade is when the sex you had in your 20s starts to look unnecessarily athletic and oddly unfocused. It’s when you wonder if you actually knew what turned you on and what didn’t and whether you actually ever experienced an orgasm the way you have more recently. It’s when you realize that getting older physically isn’t so much about your looks or gravity or love handles but about the quality of your skin. You look at young people and wonder if they know how dewy and newborn they look and why you didn’t realize that when it was true about you.

It’s the decade when people divide themselves into two groups – of those who have lost parents and those who haven’t, and the former group gets bigger every day, every month, and you wish it wouldn’t have to.

Mad Men is about all the bad choices that turned out to be great ones and the great ones that turned out to be delusions and the unwitting way you start to live more carefully even if you don’t intend to. It’s about being in love with the person you don’t have and resenting the person who loves you the most. It’s when wild celebrations start to hum with sadness and when sad things start to make you happy in ineffable ways.

Mad Men is about the people who give up everything to grasp some brass ring, about how things you know are going to go away actually do find a way to go away no matter how much you want to keep them. It’s about telling yourself that someone, somewhere has to be perfectly happy with the choices they’ve made and telling yourself that someone somewhere is a smug asshole who has only ever hurt other people.

It’s about owning what you’re ashamed of and what others shame you for; it’s about how you live out the ways that you’re broken.

It’s about how you let go of what you once had.

It’s about when you want others to be happy because someone should be.

It’s when you stop competing with everyone else and realize you’ve never cared about anyone’s opinion but your own, anyway.

Mad Men
is a story about growing up and growing old, about the deep faith of cynics and the cheap virtue of idealists.

It’s painfully American and remarkably well dressed. It’s about happiness being that thing you have until you need more happiness. It’s about knowing which is the temporary bandage and which is the permanent wound.

It’s about knowing that that is all there is and that’s more than you ever dreamed was possible.

So let’s keep dancing.

Mad Max: Fury Road

Posted by – May 17, 2015

In case the MRA guys calling for a boycott of the movie isn’t a good enough reason for you, I saw it last night and loved it. Maybe it will come as a surprise that I tend to like fast movies with a lot of explosions – but I do. It’s beyond that, though: the art of it is occasionally striking, the attention to detail is intense, and there were actually a couple of scenes that made me tear up. The world building strikes me as pretty damn complete, too.

& Of course Theron is unbelievable, but so is Hardy as Mad Max. Really, the dude grunts better, in character, than any other action hero I’ve ever seen. Not that that’s a high bar, but still.

Mostly it’s a dystopian vision of a movie – strong female characters, interesting commentary on patriarchal violence, and environmentalism.

Also, the MRA guys hate it. As a (male) friend of mine wrote, “I mean, I just kinda wanna give them each a cookie and pinch their cheeks, and tell them that they’re big, strong men and their mommies really did love them, and that it’s gonna be okay.”

But if you don’t believe me, go check out The Mary Sue review.

Tina Fey is a Miracle

Posted by – May 8, 2015

I know she’s a comedian & all, but this still took guts:

& Honestly, to hell with Spanx.

Trans Media History: The Love Boat

Posted by – November 9, 2014

Mackenzie Phillips played a trans woman in 1982 on Season 5, Episode 15 of The Love Boat.

And guess what? It doesn’t suck. It’s quite sympathetic, actually.

Lindsey, from the mHB boards, brought it to my attention. Here are some notes from Lindsey, a member of the boards: The big reveal is around the 20:00 mark. Explanation/Confrontation at the 22:00 mark. Discussion with the Captain around the 30:00 mark. Apologies around the 38:00 mark.

I’m sure I did see this because I watched it every single week with my grandmother. After, we watched Fantasy Island.

I would have been 13. I wonder if this had an influence. It really is sympathetic & kind of matter of fact, & it’s also interesting because it addresses an ally/friend’s issue sympathetically, too – initial shock, but knowing better, & having to realize it, etc.

I’m not surprised but I really remember the show as painfully heteronormative, but no one is even freaked out about being attracted to her/having hit on her, either. It doesn’t even come up.

(Also, um, Donna Pescow: my first Hollywood crush.)

Ruby Rose Redone

Posted by – July 23, 2014

via HuffPo, where the words Ruby Rose – the model/DJ in the video – posted on her Facebook also appear:

You know what needs to stop just as much as homophobia, bullying within the LGBT Community… A ‘bisexual’ isn’t just greedy.. ‘Pansexual’ exists and isn’t a cop out.. ‘Straight’ people can be gay huge advocates and blessings to the community… you can identify as trans without surgery, you can be gender fluid… in fact guess what… you can be whoever you are and like whoever you like and WE should spread the love and acceptance we constantly say we don’t receive.

Yep.

Reporting on Trans Issues

Posted by – May 20, 2014

HRC posted an article about the protection of LGBT youth inspired by the horrific story out of CT in which a trans teenager was jailed and housed with adults and later put in solitary confinement. She had not been charged, and certainly has not been charged with a felony – which is when teenagers are sometimes housed with adults.

But my point is not that story in itself. My point is that HRC posted an article about it in which they wrote: “The details surfaced in an op-ed in the New York Times by Harvey Fierstein this weekend.”

Which I suppose is where HRC first read about it, or maybe they felt free to report on it because it had finally hit a major news outlet. But that’s a factual inaccuracy.

Parker Molloy first reported on this case back in early April. In The Advocate, and not in some tiny anything. And while Fierstein’s writing is effective as ever and makes a powerful argument, laying the blame squarely on all of us who would let a young trans kid suffer the kinds of crimes she did while none of her assailants were ever charged with anything, sometimes it gets a little exhausting that the only person who can get the attention of HRC is someone like Fierstein. (And by that I do not mean a cis gay man. I mean a gay playwright of his status.)

It has been this way for a long time; that is, this is not anything new. I’ve been reporting on trans issues for more than a decade and I am not even a little surprised. But there are times, occasionally, where I feel the need to point out how frustrating it is that trans* is still, for the most part, an afterthought.

Anyway. We should, as a community, care about the feminine gay boys and the trans girls and the tomboys, no matter their identity and no matter which form of “gender variance” they’re expressing. There’s a child who is the person she is, and she’s been treated like shit her whole life, and sometimes, well sometimes, it gets a little frustrating that who says what about it becomes more important than the saying itself.

Casa Valentina Opening

Posted by – April 24, 2014

Casa Valentina opening night 4/23/14

It was so much fun. I’ll be writing more about the play itself in the upcoming days, but for now, look at the pretty pictures.

There are more at Playbill’s site.

The RuPaul Brouhaha

Posted by – April 14, 2014

RuPaul’s Drag Race decided to stop using “she mail” for a segment on the show because trans people were upset about it – but moreso upset about an additional segment where people had to guess whether a close-up shot of a body part belonged to a cis woman or a “she male” (as the show put it).

& Today, a lot of really transphobic shit has been posted and tweeted, and by gay men. An old friend of mine who is a comedian and TV producer based in NYC posted a frustrated response on his Facebook page which he’s given me permission to reprint here.

There’s a lot of chatter in the LGBT community today about RuPaul’s Drag Race removing the “She-Mail” element of the show, due to complaints from transgender viewers. As a comedian, I have very mixed feelings about it. Not everyone appreciates satire, and many, many times, those who do not appreciate it end up unwittingly squashing the 1st Amendment rights of others. HOWEVER. As a gay man, I am utterly horrified by how aggressive some gay men and women are being toward those who are transgender over this issue. Many are going as far as to suggest we drop the T from LGBT, because we obviously “have different goals in mind.”

That is fucking disgraceful.

A gentle reminder that it was, in large part, the T in LGBT that conducted the Stonewall Riots. It was the T in LGBT that made it possible for you to get married in a big chunk of our country. It was the T in LGBT that made it possible for you to walk the streets holding hands relatively safely, as compared with 50 years ago, when that would have gotten you killed. Y’all need to slow your roll a bit here. Just because you’re now realizing that the T in LGBT has a much harder road to hoe than the rest of us does not mean you get to dismiss them. They never dismissed you. Those of you who are doing this are the exact same assholes who, if Dancing with the Stars awarded a prize called a Fag Bag, would be burning down ABC and hurling Molotov cocktails into Tom Bergeron’s house. Your brothers and sisters can feel differently about something without getting disowned. Pick your battles, and know your history. Taking a phrase off of a TV show does not constitute a legitimate reason to bury the people who gave you life.

Pick your battles and know your history. Some days those seem like unreachable goals.

Hyenas

Posted by – April 11, 2014

I write memoir. Sometimes people ask me why I would publish such deeply personal things, and I never know how to answer that question. Because I can? Because I think shame is the single most limiting factor of our lives? Because I want people to know the same sense of relief I have many, many times – that relief when you read something, or see something, and you think, “maybe I’m not horrible.” But often it’s because writing about something is a way of taking control of it. Owning your own story is empowering. Having someone else tell it to shame you is not.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot today because I’ve been watching two good friends have their lives dragged through social media in horrible ways.

And I think about all of these news stories – politicians’ dick pics, barebacking requests, grindr photos – all of these things, the real world of desire and shame and love and risk and identity – and we all make jokes about them, judge them, maybe sometimes feel sorry for the parties involved.

But really, we should all ignore them. We should ignore them on the proposition that these things could happen to any one of us.

Anyway, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet, first of all. Second of all, read with compassion whenever and however you can. This current story is tragic and personal and painful, and this is all I will ever say about it.

Back off, hyenas. Even you may need to rely on the common decency of other people someday.

Calpernia Addams on Acting, Trans, and Representation

Posted by – March 5, 2014

Calpernia Addams – the “Callie Adams” Jared Leto thanked from the stage at the Oscars – wrote a piece about trans people, representation, and Hollywood that I think is worth reading.

Jared Leto was kind enough to mention me in his 2014 Independent Spirit Awards acceptance speech (as part of a typically “Jared” list of people involved in the film alongside random notable people) and next he really surprised me by thanking me in his Oscar acceptance speech.

As I’ve said before, my job was to sit down with him and answer lots of questions about what it’s like to be trans, and to make a recording of me reading his lines from the script. From there, Jared did Jared’s thing: a brilliant, eccentric artist created his own performance of a movie character. A movie character who happens to be some form of trans, in this case. Some of his follow up speeches left something to be desired when it came to speaking well on the issues facing his movie character, especially against the backdrops of current politics and social movements. I suppose it’s doubly rare to be a gifted artist AND a great political speaker. But personally, I thought Rayon seemed like a nice person and a real human being. I’ve known people like Rayon.

Anyone who’s followed my 11 years in Hollywood knows that I’ve always advocated for trans people to play trans roles. But I also refuse to shoot down powerful people who take steps to bring human trans portrayals to the screen, even if they are played by a non-trans female (Felicity Huffman in Transamerica, Hilary Swank in Boys Don’t Cry) or a non-trans male (Lee Pace in Soldier’s Girl, Jared in Dallas Buyers Club). To all indications, Georges du Fresne was not a trans child when he played “Ludovic” in Ma Vie En Rose, but that incredible film continues to resonate with trans people and families of trans children. Good and important portrayals can come from non-trans actors. That may be an inconvenient truth, but there you have it.

Sure, I’d love to get these roles as an actress with a history of transition, or see them go to other trans actors. Heck, I’d love to play non-trans roles! But I’m not so short-sighted that I’ll destroy allies and advocates. Even less than perfect allies, if I think the overall contribution is beneficial. This is a view that comes from long actual experience and familiarity with the business. Some small but vocal groups will disagree; that’s just the nature of contentious issues. You can do your thing and I’ll do mine. There are many ways to contribute.

But beware: the same logic that leaves zero room for a non-trans actor to try a trans role will then be used to mandate that trans actors should not be able to play non-trans roles. And that would piss me off.

Leto’s “Rayon” is not the rock upon which I’d make my last stand concerning this issue. His performance is just an inspiration for this discussion. I advocate for positive portrayals and opportunities for trans people in the media. Some people are displeased that this particular portrayal, “Rayon”, is another trans sex worker role. Another trans addict role. Another trans “mystical advisor/comic relief” role. Another “trans person punished in the end” role. Those are indeed over represented portrayals, and I do want more balance… Soon! But I have known people like Rayon. She is not a made-up grab bag of random hateful attributes. She’s a portrayal of an uncomfortable segment of the trans experience that a few TLGB folks would rather be erased and not discussed. I think many of the haters hate Rayon because she isn’t beautiful, she isn’t passable, she isn’t gender binary, she isn’t 2014-political. And when I see that elitist hypocrisy, I’m inclined to push back and write essays like this.

It’s hard being trans, more so in the era and circumstances of Dallas Buyers Club. I’ve known plenty of trans sex workers, self-medicators, wise teachers, hilarious weirdos and people taken before their time due to violence and lack of healthcare. I’ve known trans people very much like Rayon, and maybe if some people got up from their remote-activism-devices (computer screens and smartphones) and left their ivory towers and privilege-bubbles, they’d meet a few people like Rayon face-to-face, too.

Then they could see that a human portrayal of this real segment of the trans community is a good thing. Even if it’s by a non-trans person.

Please do hire trans actors for ANY role, especially trans roles. But please don’t shoot trans people in the foot by attacking allies willing to open the door for us as we approach equality.

Queer Latino/a

Posted by – March 3, 2014

Here’s a cool 54 minutes about the queer experience, latino-style.

From the show’s description:

This week on Latino USA, we talk about all things Queer—from Anthony Romero, the first gay director of the ACLU, to the practice of “pumping,” or black market silicone injections, in the trans community. We hear two stories about growing up and transitioning genders. We learn about the plight of LGBTQ detained immigrants. We investigate the paranormal in Laredo, Texas. Maria Hinojosa gets a surfing lesson in New York, of all places. We hear from a gay man who ran for class president at UNC. And we check in on the protests in Venezuela.

So rare to hear these perspectives, especially on immigration issues.

Jared Leto Wins the Oscar

Posted by – March 2, 2014

This feel obligatory.

He didn’t say “transgender” but he did thank one “Callie Addams” who is, of course, the very amazing Calpernia Addams, who helped Leto with the part, and who is a (trans) woman.

He did recognize the millions of deaths of the AIDS crisis and that he felt in solidarity with all those who are judged for “who they are and who they love”.

That doesn’t mean everyone will be happy, but the friends I do have in Hollywood – including Calpernia – seem pleased.

Also, he thanked his mom, who had him & his brother before finishing high school, which strikes me as damn feminist of him. Single moms, you raise good sons.

(I’m not really huge on movies, so I haven’t even seen Dallas Buyers Club, to be honest.)

FB’s New Gender Options

Posted by – February 13, 2014

As you probably know by now, Facebook introduced new gender options that have taken us way, way past the binary. It’s really great. There is now Male/Female/Custom in a drop down menu, and once you choose Custom, you have an amazing selection to choose from. Being me, I wanted something like “all” or “none” or “other”, and the only one of those available is “other”. “Gender neutral” is missing, too, but still, it’s a pretty remarkable list even if you can’t actually just come up with your own. List courtesy of Slate.

Apparently they are also open to suggestions: PFLAG says: “if you have suggestions of others to add to the list, please email them to our Director of Communications, Liz Owen, at lowen@pflag.org.” My friend Dylan actually got a response to an email, so it really seems like they are.

Also: doesn’t it just feel so goddamn liberating to get to self-define? You can choose more than one, too. I assume for some folks this is terrifying or weird or freaky or whatever, but seeing these changes start to happen, is for me, like taking a deep breath at long last.

  • Agender
  • Androgyne
  • Androgynous
  • Bigender
  • Cis
  • Cisgender
  • Cis Female
  • Cis Male
  • Cis Man
  • Cis Woman
  • Cisgender Female
  • Cisgender Male
  • Cisgender Man
  • Cisgender Woman
  • Female to Male
  • FTM
  • Gender Fluid
  • Gender Nonconforming
  • Gender Questioning
  • Gender Variant
  • Genderqueer
  • Intersex
  • Male to Female
  • MTF
  • Neither
  • Neutrois
  • Non-binary
  • Other
  • Pangender
  • Trans
  • Trans*
  • Trans Female
  • Trans* Female
  • Trans Male
  • Trans* Male
  • Trans Man
  • Trans* Man
  • Trans Person
  • Trans* Person
  • Trans Woman
  • Trans* Woman
  • Transfeminine
  • Transgender
  • Transgender Female
  • Transgender Male
  • Transgender Man
  • Transgender Person
  • Transgender Woman
  • Transmasculine
  • Transsexual
  • Transsexual Female
  • Transsexual Male
  • Transsexual Man
  • Transsexual Person
  • Transsexual Woman
  • Two-Spirit

Gender Neutral Teen

Posted by – February 12, 2014

Safe Space Radio has a new series on LGBTQ teenagers in Maine which began with this first installment aired originally this past Monday, Feb 10th at 1pm. It’s with a teenager who identifies as gender neutral.

From SSR: The series, which is supported by the Equity Fund, is taking a look at how the culture in high schools is, or is not, changing one year after the passage of marriage equality in Maine.  With the recent Maine Supreme Court ruling protecting the right of trans youth in Maine to use the bathroom of their gender, there is much cause for hope.  But it remains true that LGBTQ teens are at high risk for bullying, rejection by their families and suicidality.  Over the span of 6-8 weeks, they are interviewing teenagers about what life is really like for them, what it has been like to come out at home and at school, and whether they experience less of a sense of isolation, or stigma now than in years previously.   The interviews are poignant, courageous, touching and even inspiring.

Very cool stuff. Give it a listen, especially if you’re not a teenager and/or don’t really understand “this whole genderqueer thing”.

I also love that there’s a mention of how there’s always been people who identified this way, but there hasn’t quite been a movement until now: yes, we’ve been here, and it’s a relief to see a movement start to happen. Some days I wish I could go back to being 19 so I could have a name for my experience of my gender that people understood, but better late than never, I suppose. (Genderqueer would have been my choice back then, I’m pretty sure. Now, gender fluid or gender variant or gender neutral is more accurate.)

Janet Mocks Him

Posted by – February 5, 2014

“My book is not about Aaron or my relationship, but that’s the most sensational thing they want to pull out,” she said. “They’re not talking about my advocacy or anything like that, it’s just about this most sensationalized … meme of discussion of trans women’s lives: ‘We’re not real women, so therefore if we’re in relationships with men we’re deceiving them.’ So, it just feeds into those same kinds of myths and fears that they spread around, which leads to further violence of trans women’s bodies and identities.”

She just keeps bringing it: so awesome. She’s establishing – or trying to establish – a paradigm shift in terms of the media’s relationship with trans people. Sweeps Week no more, dammit.

Awesome Show on Gender

Posted by – February 4, 2014

I just listened to this awesome show on gender, sexuality, and identity on BackStory.

Highlights:

  • great discussion of “two spirit” and the way it maps and doesn’t onto non-indigenous gender & sexuality categories
  • Joe McCarthy wasn’t just all about the Red Scare, but the Lavender Scare as well
  • WI “passing woman” marries woman
  • & the story of T. Hall who was required by law to wear clothing of both genders – and more importantly, how that would have been viewed by others at the time
  • why you can (or shouldn’t) think of Walt Whitman as a “gay poet”

Really, really great stuff, thoughtful discussion, and basically, pretty much what I teach.

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Posted by – February 2, 2014


This seemed the best way to say goodbye to him; I’m glad, at least, he won this while he was alive. You can’t help love a man who thanked his single mom for raising him and his three siblings.

The 15%

Posted by – January 13, 2014

There’s a project called “We Are the 15 Percent” that collects portraits of interiracial marriages and families, and I came upon this one and decided they were too cute not to post.

The project came about because of the ridiculous, hateful backlash that came about as a result of that sweet Cheerios commercial a while back. From the Tumblr:

In May, Cheerios posted this new commercial on youtube. It sparked a firestorm of backlash, and (naturally) the comments on the video have been deactivated.

When my wife and I watched the video, it felt great to (finally) see a representation of our own family. Especially considering what happened at a Wal-Mart in Virginia a few weeks ago.

We created this site to publicly reflect the changing face of the American family. According to the 2008 census, 15% of new marriages are interracial. And yet, it still feels rare to see something like the Cheerios ad represented in mainstream culture.

It’s especially nice to see a queer married couple in the mix.

Laverne Cox & Carmen Carrera on Katie Couric

Posted by – January 7, 2014

I’m sure everyone has seen these already, but if you haven’t, they’re worth watching – even if only for their responses to the genitals questions.

Jailed for Life for Stealing a Coat

Posted by – December 27, 2013

There’s something very wrong going on.

A shocking new study by the American Civil Liberties Union has found that more than 3,200 people nationwide are serving life terms without parole for nonviolent offenses. Of those prisoners, 80 percent are behind bars for drug-related convictions. Sixty-five percent are African-American, 18 percent are white, and 16 percent are Latino…

Go read the full article/interview on NPR.

This kind of issue is exactly why feminists have been using intersectional analysis for years now – to look not just at gender and how it oppresses people of all genders, but how race, class, and other axes of identity cause one person to go to rehab and another to be sentenced to life in prison – for the same “offense”.

I don’t know where to start to fix it, but I’m very pleased that the ACLU did this study – the full title of which is A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolence Offenses – so that maybe we can start to examine how and why we are imprisoning people for life who did so little wrong.