MORE follow-up on SNL and Lorne Michaels

Several weeks ago I sent an email to GLAAD about my concerns.  I never got a response (usually GLAAD is reasonably responsive, so this was unexpected).

Last night, SNL ran a fake ad so transphobic and offensive that I felt like I was watching something from the 70s.

Here is a link to it:

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/estro-maxx/1279560/
Please be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Send an email to incident@glaad.org to make your concerns heard.

Another reason why incrementalism is wrong

In recent weeks, Baltimore and Maryland have been hotspots of LGBT political activity, and to nobody’s surprise, it’s not going very well.

Marriage equality, considered a foregone conclusion, failed to pass in both segments of the statehouse. HB 235, which would have provided job protections and other anti-discrimination language regarding gender identity and expression, also failed.

Generally, most of the trans folk I know in and around Maryland cared only moderately about marriage equality (it’s so often bought by trading away trans rights that our interest continues to plummet), but cared quite a lot about HB 235. Also speaking generally, many trans people *REALLY* objected to HB 235 because it did not include language for public accommodations.  While there are many very well-educated, smart, thoughtful people (both trans and cisgender) who feel that a not-good bill is better than no bill at all, I still think the bill should have had public accommodations addressed explicitly. First of all, it’s the right thing to do – other groups don’t have to wait in increments like that, and we should not have to either. Second, if equality orgs had some clue the bill was going to fail anyway, shouldn’t they have gone for the moral victory of at least failing with the strongest bill?

During the course of HB 235′s path around Annapolis, it became exceptionally clear that Equality Maryland – which I had once considered the best of the equality orgs – was willing to bargain trans rights more than I would have expected. Trans leaders across the country, and especially in Baltimore and Maryland, broke with Equality Maryland and started speaking out about HB 235. The LGBT caucus in the Maryland statehouse (there are seven out LGB delegates, which seems awfully high for a state this small), which formed specifically to address the marriage bill, settled back to whispering where trans rights were concerned.

Then the bill failed, and we all thought, Okay, time to set up a better fight for next time.

Yesterday, we were reminded why exactly public accommodations language is so vital. The main argument people use against it is that trans women will use women’s restrooms, thus endangering the minds/hearts/souls/bodies/etc of cisgender women in the same restrooms or locker rooms. The argument always gets reduced to an offensive and grotesque myth, that of the predatory Man in a Dress. Please note that a) this is unadulterated nonsense and b) there are no reported incidents ever of a trans woman doing anything predatory in a ladies’ restroom or locker room.

In reality, we are the ones who are in danger every time we enter a public restroom.

Earlier this week, a young trans woman in Baltimore County was confronted and violently attacked because she went to use the ladies’ room at a local McDonald’s.  Two teenage girls dragged her to the floor, kicked and beat her, pulled her across the floor by her hair, and slapped an older woman who tried to interfere (everyone else in the McDonald’s was watching and filming). The employees at the restaurant called the police, and then settled in to film the incident on their cell phones; video hit the internet; yesterday the news story finally broke. I am not linking to the video because there are thousands of other places you can watch it on the internet, if you are so inclined.

Public accommodations language would not have protected this woman from her attackers, that’s true. But when this goes to court – and the girls have been arrested and charged, so it presumably WILL go to court – some lawyer will argue that she should not have been in the ladies’ room, that the girls were afraid, that they were trying to protect some abstract notion. The employee who posted the video online stated that she was “a man, not a woman,” and a “cross-dresser,” and as far as he’s concerned, that justifies the whole incident.  A lack of public accommodations protections makes that rhetoric viable, but also much more alarming. She can’t hire a lawyer to say, Ms. X has an absolute right to use that bathroom. She can’t say, The law protects me while I am doing one of the scariest things a trans person (especially a trans woman) can do, which is use a public restroom.

Stop telling us we have to wait. Make it harder for people to get away with attacking us. Please.

New York, New York

Yesterday, the State Assembly of New York voted on quite a lot of things, as is their wont.  One of those things was marriage equality.  Another was the long-struggling GENDA, which is NY’s proposed law banning discrimination against people based on gender identity and expression AND adding trans people to the list of people included in the state’s hate crimes law.  As non-discrimination acts go, this one is pretty good. There’s not a lot of waffling about bathrooms, as there has been in a lot of places, and trans activists haven’t been swallowed up in the marriage fight as they have in so many other places (coughequalitymarylandcough).

However.

Yesterday, when the marriage equality vote went through and the bill was moved from Assembly to Senate, the lgbtq blogosphere went completely loopy about it. This is terrific – we want everyone to have equality – but in all the excitement, nobody seems to have mentioned GENDA’s passage.  In fact, doing a Google search today, I find 9000 old sites that have not been updated to include this new information, plus a post on HRC’s site.  Really, LGBTQ bloggers? REALLY?

On Twitter, everyone was all YAY NEW YORK! and NY PEOPLE CONTACT YOUR SENATOR TO SUPPORT MARRIAGE EQUALITY.  A lot of my favorite authors and people were all up in arms to support the marriage bill.

I am assuming that there were <crickets> about the GENDA event because nobody reported on it; most of the authors & etc on Twitter (the ones that I follow, anyway) appear to be pleasant and intelligent people who are not actually picking GL (and maybe B) over T – they just don’t have the information.

here is some info that might help people, although it could use to be updated:

http://www.prideagenda.org/Issues-Explained/Transgender-Civil-Rights/Campaign-for-Transgender-Equality-Justice.aspx

I have been trying to fix this, which is hard, at 140 characters a pop.

Meanwhile, this morning I went to the NY Assembly page and found that while GENDA *did* in fact make it through the Assembly, it hit the Senate and was immediately Referred to Rules.  This is not quite a death sentence for GENDA, but it’s damn close.

http://www.assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?default_fld=&bn=A05039&term=&Summary=Y&Actions=Y&Votes=Y

NY people, please contact your state senators and get this thing moving.  Remember – marriage equality is great for the queers who WANT to assimilate – but everyone else needs the GENDA protections at least as much.

Thanks.

one tired boy

Hello all.

There are so many things about which I could be blogging today, and I am hopeful that I will get to them this week.

1) Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is gone, which is great for all my GLB friends who want to serve openly, not great if you oppose the war machine anyway, and irrelevant (and kind of insulting) if you are a trans person who is, yet again, ignored in the great rush of “ZOMG we are the best community EV-AR.”  Overall I’m glad it’s gone – it was a terrible, hurtful policy – but I have a lot of mixed emotions about the ongoing placement of transgender policies vis a vis gay/lesbian/bisexual policies (not really all that mixed – but I will deconstruct myself later).

2) ENDA.  Now that DADT is over, we can start working on ENDA…or can we?  Some trans people love the way the current ENDA looks. Some really don’t. I am still trying to figure that out for myself.  More on this later too.

3) GLB people who may or may not be gender queer, and who may or may not actually be trans, referring to themselves as a [orientation] [man/woman] in a [woman/man]‘s body or with [incongruous junk].  These people are making me insane.

4) Lorne Michaels and the T word.  I don’t think I need to clarify right this moment.

Anyway. Consider this a preview – more to follow, and all that.

Happy almost Solstice.

A shim is something you buy at a hardware store, not a person

As I mentioned the other day, I am having issues with the way shows run by Lorne Michaels apparently feel free to fling the T word and its equally (or more) offensive synonyms around like candy, with nary a peep of protest from GLB groups or anyone.  So I am appointing myself media watchdog on this, because I have about had it.

To wit:

On 30 Rock, which everyone LOVES, the T word or some similarly offensive slur against trans women is used at least once per season.  In addition, in season four, the show introduced a recurring male character who dresses up as one of the female stars of the show-within-a-show, TGS with Tracy Jordan, that provides the frame for 30 Rock‘s weird little world.  This would have been acceptable, given that the point of the character is to mock both the celebrity culture in which we all exist and particular characters within the 30 Rock universe, except that Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and other major characters continually refer to this person as “shim,” a “shman,” etc.

I realize that everyone is all “It’s satire, get over it,” but in fact it’s not.  30 Rock has a history of skewering a) white people and how they deal poorly with race, ethnicity, and terminology, and b) being generally snarky about everyone, and sometimes in fact IS a show built on satire, but this is different.

According to my dictionary, satire is 1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing,denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc. or 2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.

Under either of these definitions, it could well be considered satire when Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) falls for a Puerto Rican woman played by Salma Hayek, and an entire episode is devoted to white characters like Jack and Liz commenting on the fact that she’s Puerto Rican, and then saying OMG I can’t call you that! It might be considered satire when an entire episode is dedicated to unpacking who can and cannot use the N word, especially when the word in question is ostentatiously bleeped every time it occurs.

 

It is NOT satire when Liz Lemon is mocking a man she’s pretending to be over and says something about the t****y he’s going to pick up.  It’s NOT satire when Liz and her colleague Pete refer to the cross-dressing character as “shim” or “shman”, both of which are equivalents to N****r, F****t, or similar slurs against Asians, Jews, Hispanics, and others.

Further, in more than one episode of Saturday Night Live, the recurring character Stefon, the super-fey “city correspondent” on Weekend Update, often refers to clubs owned or managed by people named “T****y” Something (Griffith, Oakley, etc).  This is throw-away humor, a cheap shot, and again, not satire.

Why doesn’t GLAAD address these ongoing problems with Lorne Michaels, Tina Fey, and the shows they make?  Am I really the only person who has noticed that in an environment where the T word continues to be both hurtful and controversial, Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock use it all the time?

It’s time they stop.  If I’m the only person trying to make that happen, fine.  But I would appreciate your support, and that of GLAAD especially, to make this change.

I will post a full list of 30 Rock episodes with insulting or derogatory language shortly.

LIST OF STEFON APPEARANCES WITH T WORD

Season 35, ep. 20, April 24, 2010 a club named Crease, run by “T****y Oakley.”
Season 35, ep. 22, May 15, 2010, a club run by “T****y Griffith.”

following up on the 30 Rock problem

A reader pointed out that it would be helpful if I included contact information for 30 Rock, etc.

So:

http://www.nbc.com/contact/general/

has a drop-down menu that is available to send messages about 30 Rock AND Saturday Night Live.

GLAAD’s site is www.glaad.org.

Additionally, when I went to the 30 Rock site to look for contact information, I discovered a slideshow of “transvestite tips” from the Jemma character’s boyfriend.  Thanks, 30 Rock. Keep it classy.

 

Sherman Alexie in the classroom? Yes please!

Back when I used to be a high school English teacher in Brooklyn, I found that using the Approved Curriculum was sometimes okay, and sometimes unspeakably boring. Books like Siddhartha, despite their cultural value, often fail to resonate with 9th and 10th graders, which results in kids who are not engaged, and teachers who are frustrated. This does not make for a healthy classroom. My task, as I saw it, was to find books that they liked, that challenged their assumptions, and that made them grow as people and students.

One of the books I chose was Sherman Alexie’s YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian.  I picked this book for several reasons – one, I like Sherman Alexie; two, when I asked the kids what they would think a novel about Native Americans would discuss, they all said either Columbus or Pocahontas; and three, diverse reading in schools these days usually means the Canon + Walter Dean Myers + Sandra Cisneros (both of whom are fine writers whose books I enjoy, but there is more to diversity than just them).

The book is difficult to teach, not least because it SOUNDS like a teenage boy – there is a lot of talk about sex, and arousal (the hardons he gets for books he loves, as an example), and drinking, and other concepts that might possibly occur in the mind of a young man who lives on a reservation.  Also, I am entirely white, and not in that annoying “I’m a white guy but like an eighth Lakota, man” way, so it was sometimes difficult to interpret and present the book in a way that felt right (perhaps oddly, I didn’t worry about this withSiddhartha, which is even more distant from my general life experience).

In any event, the kids LOVED it.  They loved reading about a kid who was poor and thought about sex and played basketball and liked books, because in Junior they found a character who was a lot more like them than they’d expected.  Alexie is gifted that way – his characters are always such a strong blend of Specific and Universal that we see ourselves in them even while the ideas we have about the cultures he presents are forced to evolve.

The next year, the English department at my high school put the book on the regular reading list.

Meanwhile, there were Challenges by the book banners, and the people who are afraid of strong characters, and the people who want to protect kids, but don’t know how to do it right.

One of these challenges is in progress right now.  I wish they would stop.  Junior Spirit is one of the most moving characters to come along in YA for a long time.  Additionally, in schools where teenagers only know Columbus and Pocahontas, we need books that tell current stories about American Indian life on and off the reservation.  As a teacher, a writer, and a parent, I am opposed to book banning – you know that already.  But this book, more than many, is necessary in schools and libraries.  Please do what you can to keep it safe.

(crossposted to Faunboy and possibly Pony)

 

Not loving very savagely today at all

Since Dan Savage launched his “It Gets Better” campaign, thousands of videos have popped up online in an effort to support and protect queer youth.  I think this is completely superb.  I think having all these people of all types making their voices heard is a huge amazing thing, and I’m glad Mr. Savage had this idea and got it going.

However. I cannot, and will not, participate in the lionization of Dan Savage.  Yes, he has done some very powerful great stuff with this project. Yes, that is huge.

In the glow of ZOMG DAN IS TEH AWESOME! it has been conveniently left out that Dan Savage is, historically, not a big fan of trans women.  I don’t know exactly how he feels about trans men, although I have my suspicions.  But I can’t worship at the feet of a man who says It gets better to gay kids, and then in this week’s Savage Love column refers to “chicks-with-dicks” porn.  I want to know how he thinks it gets better for young trans folk when guys like him are such unrelenting asswagons to and about them.

This is why I keep saying that the people making the videos are the real heroes – they have something at stake – they are putting themselves, and often their jobs and lives, on the line.  They’re not picking and choosing WHO gets to get better.

Dear Glee: PLEASE STOP NOW

Last night was the much-anticipated Rocky Horror episode of “Glee,” so of course I watched.  I really want to love “Glee,” and I wouldn’t even be here if not for Rocky Horror, so it seemed like an event I would enjoy.

And I might have, except that 19 minutes in, they dropped the T bomb.  Mike Chang, formerly known as Other Asian (it’s good he gets to have a name now), had signed up to play Frank, but pulled out when his parents refused to allow him to dress up in the requisite slinky costume.  The character delivered two or three lines about this, all of which provided plenty of information about his parents’ discomfort, his slight apprehension, and the fact that the show would need a new Frank.  There was no reason at all for Mike to then add, almost as an afterthought, a comment about “dressing up like a tranny.”

I realize that there is a large controversy about whether tranny is an okay word.  I am not the right person to address that.  What I do know is that while I was watching, there were innumerable Facebook and Twitter posts from other people who were watching, and I have yet to see a single word about this problem from anyone EXCEPT Jay Morris over at jaysays.com.

When trans people complain about being scoffed at and ignored by G/L/B people, this is what we’re talking about.  I sent GLAAD an email last night about it; we’ll see what they say.  Last season Sue Sylvester called someone a “she-male,” which is a completely offensive and grotesque term; it lacks even the ambiguity, and the reclamation, that tranny sometimes enjoys.  As Jay put it, if the writers had written a line in which Mike said something about “dressing up like a fag,” the blogosphere would be all manner of upset by now.

I have posted before about ways in which “Glee” is not our friend.  While I find it entertaining, I’m continually amazed by how many people think it’s the gayest show ever.  At the moment, it shares all the same erasure of queerness, and offensiveness to trans folk, that “Will & Grace” caught flack for way back when.

I want “Glee” to be what it SHOULD be, not what it IS.  And until the writers figure out that they’re hurting people and contributing to the very culture of bullying that the show’s stars have spoken out about, it’s not going to happen.

(cross posted to Faunboy)

you are breaking the firecat’s fuzzy little heart

(warning: there may be triggers in here, so read carefully)

Hello readers… I am extremely sad about this rash of suicides (I believe we are up to six in the last four weeks, as of this morning), but there is something else that makes me extremely sad also, and even though I can think of at least two people who are going to be very annoyed with me (and several more who may also be), I need to share it.

When we have a month in which this many kids kill themselves because of bullying, it apparently gets a lot of attention directed to suicide prevention efforts, and people start churning around trying to create a solution. THIS is a very good thing. Celebrities start writing open letters to the kids, filming PSAs, trying to make a difference. Again, all good.

In August and September of this year, we had an especially bad few days in which several trans women were murdered. This happens all the time – trans women are murdered way out of proportion to other communities – but this particular spate was notably extreme…and notably without much (any?) media attention at all. There were no action events launched by HRC (shocking, I know). There were no letters penned by rock stars or movie actors or talk show hosts.

There was, however, a string of newspaper articles that outed and sensationalized the murdered women.

This is NOT good. It’s not okay. It’s not acceptable.

I’m so sorry about those kids, and their parents. I have been in tears on and off for days about them, and I hate it that this is happening. I am glad that people are trying to make it stop.

But what about the suicides of trans folk? This happens too (remember Christine Daniels, anyone?). What about my former student in Brooklyn, who tried so hard to blend in, and tried to OD when that didn’t work? What about the people who kill themselves because they are afraid to transition, or don’t know how, and who are identified in death by the gender they were assigned at birth? What about the murders of trans folk, mainly trans women, most especially trans women of color? Those of you who are lauding Ellen and Oprah and Anderson Cooper and everyone else who is suddenly in Action Mode need to think about this, because you seem much more bothered about these suicides than you do about the murders.

I get that suicide is shocking and somehow more vivid, perhaps, in this world of ours where people are murdered all the time. But those voices you raise in anguish need also to be raised in anguish about the constant danger faced by trans women. Maybe you don’t care, in which case I need to separate myself from you, because I *do* care. I think, though, that you do. I think you’re in shock because you can’t get past a boy named Asher who shot himself in a closet because he couldn’t take the torment.

I have terrible dreams about Asher, in case you’re curious, but I also have terrible dreams about Angie Zapata, who was misgendered and unpersoned, and whose life was called a deceit, a trick, a lie, whose life was posited as a reasonable justification for being beaten to death with a fire extinguisher. I know other folks who have terrible dreams about the scores of other trans women whose lives were discounted, destroyed, and stolen by violence and hatred.

Yes, grieve the kids who thought the only way out was out, not through. Their stories are tragic. But don’t forget that they are not the only tragedies among us.