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“Richard O’Brien disappoints fans with transgender rant” — and Gay Star News misses the point.

“Richard O’Brien disappoints fans with transgender rant” — and Gay Star News misses the point. published on No Comments on “Richard O’Brien disappoints fans with transgender rant” — and Gay Star News misses the point.

Failure and disappointment abound on multiple levels here. First of all, Richard O’Brien is apparently an essentialist transphobic stinker who thinks he knows what people are better than the people themselves.

Second of all, Gay Star News, source of the subject line of this post, completely misses the actual story. The actual story is not that Richard O’Brien disappoints people. The actual story is that Richard O’Brien ranks right up there with Germaine Greer in transmisogynist bigotry. They’re locked in deadly serious competition for who can drag the worst concepts from the 1970s into the 2010s.

As a related aside, O’Brien’s statements illustrate the direct connection between transmisogyny and queer coding, at least in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As I have noted elsewhere, queer coding is a process whereby a fictional character, almost always an antagonist, is loaded with stereotypical signifiers of non-heteronormativity as a way of making them look even worse. Male characters typically suffer queer coding in the form of caricatures of femininity.

In RHPS, the original script and lyrics to which were written by transmisogynist extraordinaire O’Brien, Frank, l’antagoniste, is queer coded through a performance of negative femininity. Just too much in all the wrong ways, Frank wears too much makeup and too little clothing. His heels are too high, his reactions too hammy and unhinged. Excessive in vanity and overly voracious in sexual appetite, he epitomizes the worst traits associated with femininity.  Because he’s too femme, he’s seen as silly, vapid, and trivial. Queer coding makes him more contemptible, demonizable, and dehumanizable.

Besides reducing antagonists and making them easier to dislike, queer coding can even go further and narratively justify bumping off an antagonist. Frank ends up so overdetermined with transmisogynist traits that the characters easily move from despising him to killing him. Riff Raff [who is, significantly, played by O’Brien] connects Frank’s queer coding with his demise in the following lines: “Frank N. Furter, it’s all over / Your mission is a failure / Your lifestyle’s too extreme.” For “lifestyle,” read “gay lifestyle,” and the queer connection becomes apparent. Queer coding thus contributes to a variant of the trans panic defense, in which the movie would like you to believe that Frank was asking to be murdered because he was just so…well, you know!

Anyway, it’s sure nice of O’Brien to make his rotten transmisogyny so obvious. It makes pointing out the multifarious problems of RHPS way easier.

Anyone who pulls the “It’s just a movie” riposte clearly has never hated themselves for years and years after watching queer coded antagonists contend with vast amounts of narrative transmisogyny.


I rescind my “trans yay” tag, applied several years ago to a discussion, also on Gay Star News [and also with an inaccurate tag line], about Richard O’Brien’s supplemental hormone use and statements about himself.

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