Category: media

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.

William T. Vollman, Crossdresser

Posted by – November 14, 2013

So here’s an interesting artistic/literary take on crossdressing that is definitely not the standard narrative and yet shares some commonalities with it:

In the book’s introduction, Mr. Vollmann explains that his interest in cross-dressing is more an exploration of femininity than an expression of some complicated gender identity. “Not only am I physically and emotionally attracted to women,” he writes, “I also wonder what being a woman would be like.”

But his hobby has cost him friends, and he said he has “a certain amount of fear and dread” about the book’s publication. “A lot of friends who could always handle the prostitutes and the drugs felt that I had somehow degraded myself,” he said. “The idea of stepping down from the dominant male class really disgusts a lot of people, including women.”

Still, Mr. Vollmann is not one to let other people’s opinions sway his interests. He found being a woman, or attempting to appear as one, endlessly fascinating, even when it was unpleasant. (“Mascara is an incredible hassle,” he said.)

I have to say, however, that I’m always a little suspicious of narratives like this one, especially because of how decidedly “masculine” he is otherwise. The Times article begins

As far as writers go, William T. Vollmann is a man’s man. In pursuit of a story, he has roughed it with the mujahedeen in Afghanistan and survived a land mine explosion in Bosnia. He singed his eyebrows off and nearly froze to death exploring the magnetic North Pole. In Thailand, he rescued a teenage girl from sex slavery by kidnapping her from a pimp.

… which may be the mark of a man’s man, but in my experience, it sounds more like the overcompensation of a closeted CD, except, of course, that he’s not closeted – not anymore, at least.

Ramones + Regis

Posted by – October 1, 2013

How can you not love this? Surreal, and so 1988. I saw one of those gigs at The Ritz, too. I don’t even know how many times I saw them, but it was a lot.

Goldfrapp’s “Annabel”

Posted by – September 6, 2013

The scoop from Nowness:

A young, androgynous boy explores his femininity through a hoard of trinkets hidden in the undergrowth in the accompanying video to “Annabel,” a brand new track from Goldfrapp. For their sixth album Tales Of Us, Alison Goldfrapp and Will Gregory have stepped back from the electronic synth pop with which they made their name. “I like electronic sounds because of the iciness, but I find them quite awkward,” says Goldfrapp. “Acoustic instruments have a warmth and sensuality about them.” Each song on Tales Of Us is named after a different person and the album sees Goldfrapp’s voice—at one moment rich, the next fragile—paired with understated guitar and strings. The intended effect is to allow the characters and narratives to breathe, which is most eloquently achieved in “Annabel,” inspired by Kathleen Winter’s 2010 novel of the same name which follows a hermaphrodite child who is forced into taking on a male identity in 1960s Canada.

Goldfrapp: Annabel on Nowness.com

There’s an interview about the song and the new music, too. It’s not my kind of song, to be honest, but I do love the clip and otherwise love Goldfrapp.

#notsoblurredlines

Posted by – September 3, 2013

I admit that I think the unrated version of the original is kinda hot. There, I’ve said it. Not all of it – there is way too much objectification of women in it, of course – really, a mini stop sign on her butt? – but naked women + clothed men, in my opinion, isn’t necessarily sexist. The lyrics are problematic, too, although there are no actual threats or even suggestions of assault. Theoretically, the narrator could hate “blurred lines” exactly because he’s respecting what the woman is saying when she’s saying no. BUT: I find it sexy because all the women are gorgeous and all the men are handsome, dress well, and can dance. There are parts that are playful and almost sweet.

My finding it personally sexy, in parts, doesn’t mean it’s not sexist bullshit, too. Just that sometimes politics & sexuality create blurred lines all their own.

Anyway, I love this, too, & it’s equally hot, in my opinion:

Also, this.

NYC Editorial Board Calls for Manning’s Humane Treatment

Posted by – August 28, 2013

This is what I call a Big Fucking Deal: The NYT Editorial Board wrote a piece calling for medical transition care for Private Manning and for other trans prisoners like her, making the important point too that her housing should be safe but not isolated due to the heightened risk of sexual assault in prison for trans people.It begins:

When Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Pfc. Bradley Manning, declared that she wanted to live as a woman, the Army’s response was callous and out of step with medical protocol, stated policies for transgender people in civilian federal prisons and existing court rulings.

and then ends:

Private Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, said last week that he hoped military prison officials would voluntarily provide hormone treatment, without a lawsuit. It should not take a court order to get officials — including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — to do the right thing. They should give Private Manning appropriate medical care and safe but not unduly isolated housing, which should be available for all transgender prisoners.

What is most remarkable to me is that I read and edited a draft by trans activist Danielle Askini of Seattle’s Gender Justice League which will run in tomorrow’s Seattle Times – and its ask and major points are essentially the same as the Times’ letter.

Very, very exciting stuff.

 

Hello, #NPR?

Posted by – August 23, 2013

National Public Radio will continue for now to refer to Private Manning as “he,” according to a spokeswoman, Anna Bross. “Until Bradley Manning’s desire to have his gender changed actually physically happens, we will be using male-related pronouns to identify him,” she said.

What complete & utter bullshit.

Rich Ferraro, a spokesman for GLAAD, a gay-rights group, said he had been reaching out to news organizations to change their usage. He noted that nearly every major style guide says the media should use the pronoun preferred by the subject. “All of the media coverage today shows how far behind the media is covering transgender people,” said Mr. Ferraro.

Uh, no kidding. GLAAD has a specific resource for reporting on Chelsea Manning, as well as special tips for journalists reporting on crime/violence against trans victims.

The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists (NLGJA) have a stylebook on LGBT terminology, too.

But really, NPR?

New Documentary: Americans in Bed

Posted by – August 12, 2013

So this looks interesting:

. . . wide-ranging interviews with subjects who are filmed in the comfort of their own beds, asking probing questions about what people look for in a partner and how they know when they have found it. From a couple that has been together for 71 years to a pair of fresh-faced newlyweds, she encourages her subjects to open their hearts and minds as they share candid and touching insights into their relationships, underscoring the fact that no union is as simple as it seems on the surface.

Each couple gradually discloses intimate thoughts about the sometimes painfully private issues that affect every relationship, including passion, fidelity, family obligations, separation, conflict, negotiation and illness. As they talk about how they met and fell in love, some even surprise each other with feelings long held back, while others revisit old hurts as if they had happened yesterday.

Americans in Bed premieres Monday, August 12 (9:00 ET) on HBO. There’s a trailer here.