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Pete Burns’ lips, Angelina Jolie’s breasts, my hair, and the gender police

Pete Burns’ lips, Angelina Jolie’s breasts, my hair, and the gender police published on No Comments on Pete Burns’ lips, Angelina Jolie’s breasts, my hair, and the gender police

Now that Pete has died, the usual commentary about his appearance has renewed with a vengeance. Pete had a long, long history of cosmetic surgery. He started off with a rhinoplasty around the time that You Spin Me Right Round peaked and continued with more facial mods. He suffered complications from his rhinoplasties, as well as extensive infection, hospitalization, bankruptcy, and depression following a thoroughly fucked-up lip job. [He appeared on UK TV’s Channel 5 Celebrity Botched Up Bodies with some truly disgusting details of how his body started disintegrating after surgery of dubious quality.] He also had countless reconstructive operations, and pretty much everyone on the Internet thinks that he looked much sexier before said surgeries, and they’re not afraid to trumpet this belief in offensive terms.

Anyway, a certain segment of the post-Pete mourning appears to be nothing more than the usual “He was so ugly when he died!” whingeing. The Mirror [UK] provides some representative samples. “Pete Burns was so handsome before surgery!”: fans shocked by his appearance as a young man, for example, contains quotes from irrelevant people saying things like, “Such a good looking chap back then. What possessed him?” Another Mirror article, One of the last pictures of Pete Burns shows shocking changes that left him like “Frankenstein” before his death takes the judgmental tone, with the author describing his recent fame for his “shocking” appearance as “sadly for the wrong reasons.” Thank you, Mirror — I was waiting with bated breath for your magisterial pronouncements on the moral acceptability of Pete’s more recent notoriety.

Those who condemn Pete’s latter-day appearance do not care about his bodily autonomy, bodily integrity, or his self-directed, informed choices. He explicitly stated on Celebrity Botched Up Bodies, “I realized that I was a visual entity and that I had to look good.” For him, the pursuit of this goal entailed surgical body modification. He seems to have been motivated in part by anxiety about his formerly broken nose [which left him “self-conscious” in front of photographers], the aforementioned belief that he “had to look good,” and the desire to keep his face from falling off after the bad lip jobs. Though his self-modification seems to have had its origins in deep dissatisfaction, Pete said, “I’m Frankenstein [sic!]. I’m feeling wonderful. … People might think I’m the ugliest son of a bitch alive, but I want to maintain this appearance.” In other words, he emphasized his conscious choice and embrace of his body.

This proprietary bloviation about Pete’s body pisses me off because, at base, it’s a form of gender policing. He was publicly acceptable “back then,” i.e., in the mid-1980s, because he was performing masculinity in a culturally acceptable way. Though his long curly hair and pouty lips were often read as transgressively feminine, his deep voice, dick-accentuating tight pants, and mediocre hit of heteronormative desire You Spin Me coded him definitively in the masculine category. His style in later years disrupted this coding. With his extensive plastic surgeries, he participated in an activity designated as feminine. Furthermore, the results — cheek and lip implants — altered his face in ways that were considered feminizing. His interests in wigs and heavy makeup were also seen as feminine. Thus, as he abandoned symbols of culturally acceptable masculinity and began performing in ways associated with culturally acceptable femininity, he messed up people’s nice, neat binaries. They felt uncomfortable and projected their discomfort onto him by calling him ugly for transgressing unspoken strictures on gender roles. Hey, look, folks — that’s some industrial-grade transmisogyny right there!

Gender policing like this happens pretty much everywhere. For example, when Angelina Jolie had an elective prophylactic double mastectomy in 2013, some people mourned the death of her boobs as if they themselves were personally entitled to them. In my own experience, when I first began to cut my hair shorter and shorter, some people reacted with sadness, insinuating that I was “prettier” with longer hair. Well, I was “prettier” insofar as “prettier,” a comparative of an adjective that is gendered feminine, connotes feimininity. I offer no coherent conclusion beyond frustration.

The problem with getting into everything about someone…

The problem with getting into everything about someone… published on No Comments on The problem with getting into everything about someone…

…is that then it’s hard to get everything about them out when I realize that I’ve gotten into, say, transmisogyny too [which is my main subject of wrath these days on account of its sneaky evil insidiousness].


Sexuality, gender, and the performance thereof are very personal right now, so it’s very easy to take what sexuality- and gender-related role models do [or fail to do] very personally.


In other words, I would just once like some role model who isn’t a transmisogynist/rapist/asshole/ disgusting pervert/disappointment.


Yes…but…no one is perfect.

Dead or Alive, Too Hard to Swallow — Part I — The Homoeroticism

Dead or Alive, Too Hard to Swallow — Part I — The Homoeroticism published on No Comments on Dead or Alive, Too Hard to Swallow — Part I — The Homoeroticism

Being the first in a multipart essay on a) the queer aesthetics of Dead or Alive, b) the effects thereof on the band, and c) the effects thereof on Pete Burns, with AIDS panic and transmisogyny for good measure!


For the purposes of this essay, Dead or Alive constitutes a British New Wave dance pop band most prominent in the mid-1980s. Lead singer Pete Burns, drummer Steve Coy, guitarist Wayne Hussey, and bassist Mike Percy formed the group during their years of greatest exposure. They really hit it big with their second album Youthquake, from which You Spin Me Round Like A Record charted to 1 on the UK singles chart, number 11 in the US, and number 1 in Canada.  Further albums had chart success in the UK and Japan, but never hit mainstream popularity in the US.

Okay, so…rad New Wave band with a danceable groove, fun songs, and super sexy members — what’s not to love, right? I theorize that Dead or Alive was way too hard to swallow [pun intended :p] for a homophobic 1980s United States. The societal forces of homophobia and transmisogyny militated against Dead or Alive’s US success. Furthermore, it’s arguable that the same prejudices also nearly did in Pete Burns himself.

Continue reading Dead or Alive, Too Hard to Swallow — Part I — The Homoeroticism

“Back! Back to the fetid darkness that spawned you, you fiend!”

“Back! Back to the fetid darkness that spawned you, you fiend!” published on No Comments on “Back! Back to the fetid darkness that spawned you, you fiend!”

“And…uh…make like a trowel and hit the bricks, okay?” The immortal words of Janine, Valley Girl narrator of Esther M. Friesner’s classic short story, The Blood-Ghoul of Scarsdale, adequately sum up my response to Fox recently coughing up a teaser trailer for their rehash of Rocky Horror. The other part of my response was a barely coherent, “Laverne, nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Your makeup looks great, but noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”


I’m gonna go reread The Blood-Ghoul of Scarsdale to console myself. It’s a self-aware parody of classic horror, but at least it’s not a festering slag heap of [trans]misogyny.


P.S. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!



“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.

I saw the queer coding and transmisogyny before I had the vocabulary to call it out.

I saw the queer coding and transmisogyny before I had the vocabulary to call it out. published on No Comments on I saw the queer coding and transmisogyny before I had the vocabulary to call it out.

Digging back through past blog entries, I came across a chat with author Alex Potter about the attractiveness of antagonist characters. I excerpted our thoughts in an entry with the subject line “Why villains are cool and gay villains even cooler.” In the chat, we clearly picked up on the characterization of many villains as evil and
attractive and queer. We focused less on their presentation as villainous and more on their irresistible and transgressive sexiness. We really liked them and agreed that they were pretty cool.


I see that I recognized queer coding back than — the clustering of evilness, sexiness, and queerness — even though I didn’t know the term. I also didn’t really recognize the negative connotations of queer coding. I was mostly happy just to have found characters that I thought were cool role models; I focused more on them being attractive and queer than on their villainy. I was so happy to have role models of any kind [finally, people in the media whose portrayals I could identify with!] that I didn’t think critically about how they were presented as evil because queer and failures because misogynistly presented as femme. I kind of skipped over the persistent link between, first, queerness and villainy and, second, queerness and transmisogyny. Of course, now I can look back and see how the queer coding and transmisogyny that I swallowed along with all my aspirational desire really messed things up, so blargh.

Robert Dear, domestic terrorist and “gentle loner”

Robert Dear, domestic terrorist and “gentle loner” published on No Comments on Robert Dear, domestic terrorist and “gentle loner”

I’m really late to the party here, but I see that a New York Times article described Planned Parenthood terrorist Robert Dear as “a gentle loner who occasionally unleashed violent acts toward neighbors and women he knew.” After criticism online from numerous sources pointing out that this was basically white straight cis male apologism [especially when black male victims of white male violence receive vilification when described posthumously — hat tip to Chaedria LaBouvier], the NYT made some cosmetic changes to the article, but, to date, has made no direct acknowledgment of the multiple levels of bullshit involved in its portrayal of Dear. This reminds me of the 2012 coverage of the death of Lorena Escalera, trans woman of color, wherein the NYT’s confluence of racism, sexism, classism, and transmisogyny led me to cancel my subscription.

I think I’m going to start writing like the NYT.  In fact, I’m now going to characterize the paper itself as “an objective, trustworthy, fair-minded, egalitarian news source that occasionally unleashes bigotry toward anyone who’s not a straight white cis bourgeois male.” That’s accurate, right? :p

Just in case the article isn’t enough of a cesspool already, two other threads in it piss me off. First, there’s the strong assumption that anyone who lives by themselves, doesn’t socialize much with the locals, and keeps mostly to themselves is automatically up to no good. They must be like that because they’re hiding skeletons in their closet.

Second, there’s the strong implication that Dear’s interest in bdsm correlates to his recent murders. In the sixth paragraph of the profile, the topic sentence discusses “sporadic brushes with the law, neighbors, and relatives,” while the last sentence notes that Dear looked for bdsm partners online. The position of the sentence about Dear’s online profile thus groups it in with “brushes with the law,” suggesting that kinky sex and domestic terrorism are on a continuum. Apparently the slippery slope argument is alive and well in supposedly reputable news sources.


I’m really surprised that there’s nothing in this profile proposing that Dear is mentally ill and that his mental illness correlates to his criminality.



It came from the time warp: thoughts on Fox’s redo of The Rocky Horror Picture Show movie

It came from the time warp: thoughts on Fox’s redo of The Rocky Horror Picture Show movie published on No Comments on It came from the time warp: thoughts on Fox’s redo of The Rocky Horror Picture Show movie

Two thoughts: 1) Don’t do it in the first place.

2) If you do do it, do not cast Laverne Cox, a trans woman of color, as Frank, a role intimately associated with Tim Curry, white cis dude, because that makes some really problematic, sexist, transmisogynist equations between the identity of the person who plays the role [trans woman of color] and the hammy, draggy, stereotypically polymorphous perversion evinced by the character. Ultimately Frank ends up as the object of the movie’s jokes, scorn, and derision; plus he gets killed off. I fail to see anything progressive or revisionist in a trans woman of color playing a character whose objectification and murder make me think of all the trans women of color who fall victim each year to the incoherent “trans panic” bullshit.

Caelyn Sandel goes into some incisive detail on the subject on the Mary Sue.


Why does capitalism have such a rigid fetish for reactivating the dead past so it can lurch around in contextless, blunderful fashion, reopening old wounds and creating new ones by sheer virtue of anachronism?

Sexually active teenage girls are repulsive; Abenaki Indians are disposable; and “sex changes” are humiliating punishment: lessons from The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

Sexually active teenage girls are repulsive; Abenaki Indians are disposable; and “sex changes” are humiliating punishment: lessons from The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant published on No Comments on Sexually active teenage girls are repulsive; Abenaki Indians are disposable; and “sex changes” are humiliating punishment: lessons from The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

Please note that this discussion of Joanna Wiebe’s Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant contains critical examination of huge spoilers. Don’t read further if you want to maintain the mystery. Read further if you want detail on how this otherwise promising debut fails disappointingly.Continue reading Sexually active teenage girls are repulsive; Abenaki Indians are disposable; and “sex changes” are humiliating punishment: lessons from The Unseemly Education of Anne Merchant

“9 Fascinating Facts About Transitioning From Male to Female”

“9 Fascinating Facts About Transitioning From Male to Female” published on No Comments on “9 Fascinating Facts About Transitioning From Male to Female”

Great! I’m fascinated already! Tell me more, MSN.

“Bruce Jenner introduced the world to Caitlyn, the Olympian’s female identity, on the new cover of Vanity Fair on Monday…”

If I had one of those buzzers that I could hit whenever someone said something wrong, I’d be leaning on it right here. Let me fix that for you, MSN.

“Caitlyn Jenner, Olympic decathlete, TV star, and person famous for being famous, appeared on the cover on Monday’s Vanity Fair.”

The authors of this article apparently felt so curious about gender transitions that they [pick one]:

a) talked to a variety of trans women who have considered and effected a variety of transitions, including social, occupational, legal, and medical

or b) interviewed a straight, white, rich, cis male plastic surgeon about jaw reduction, tracheal shaves, lip injections, hairline repositioning, and other procedures often known collectively as “facial feminization surgery.”

If you guessed b), you’re right! Yes! No trans persons were consulted in the creation of this article. Despite being nominally about trans people, this article is actually an entirely trans-free zone. This makes it easier, I guess, for clueless cis people to satisfy their prurient curiosity without having to do anything uncomfortable like hearing from trans women themselves.

MSN’s complete inability to talk to some actual people actually involved in actual transitions leads to painfully clueless claims like the following:

“Every transgender person’s journey is different. However, facial feminization surgery is typically one of the first considerations for someone looking to make a change.”

Really? That’s news to me. Because I thought that your average trans person in the U.S., who, according to an overview report by LGBT Movement Advancement Project, overwhelmingly experiences discrimination in public places, employment, housing, and education — and who’s also at disproportionate risk for poverty, homelessness, violence, suicide, and murder — is just trying to, you know, get through the day in one piece. But no — apparently your average U.S. trans person, once she decides to do some physical transitions, is saying to herself, “Okay, I’d better move $50K out of my rainy day fund to pay for a series of delicate and invasive operations from which it will require months of rest and recuperation. Let me check my calendar — okay, I’ve got the next year free — let’s do this!”

Oh FFS, MSN! [And FFS does not = Facial Feminization Surgery. :p ]



“When Women Become Men at Wellesley” stinks.

“When Women Become Men at Wellesley” stinks. published on No Comments on “When Women Become Men at Wellesley” stinks.

Yet again, the New York Times writes about trans male students at women’s colleges like Wellesley. And yet again the article reeks of false attempts at even-handedness that really demonstrate the paper’s absolute cluelessness about writing about trans people.

The headline alone has problems. God forbid the NYT just title the article something straightforward like "Controversy over Trans Male Students at Women’s Colleges." Nope, instead they resort to Ye Olde Binarie Termes that sensationalize the lives of the trans male students as strange voyages across gender and, incidentally, reinforce the supposed male/female dichotomy by not even using the adjective "trans" to describe the students.

As I read the article, in which many present and past students, as well as faculty, decried the presence of trans male students on campus as a detriment to "sisterhood," I got the sense that the NYT sympathized with them. For example, a [cis male] professor, commenting on being asked to make his examples and pronouns more inclusive, is quoted as saying, "“All my life here, … I’ve been compelled to use the female pronoun more generously to get away from the sexist ‘he.’ I think it’s important to evoke the idea that women are part of humanity." Like many antitrans people cited in the story, he perceives equality and respect as a zero-sum game in which he cannot respect trans male students by using inclusive language because that would somehow diminish the "humanity" of the cis female students. The article itself supports this incredulous, contemptuous point of view when it claims that trans students receive "disproportionate attention" on campus. Darn minorities — how dare they agitate for equal rights? They should shut up and go away.

The NYT literally has no clue about how to write about trans people, and it even admits this. The article itself closes by saying, "…[I]t’s difficult to distinguish in the cacophony each of the words shouted atop one another. What is clear is that whatever word each person is hollering is immensely significant as a proclamation of existence, even if it’s hard to make out what anyone else is saying." Despite the acknowledgment that "a proclamation of existence" should be respected, the comparison of this controversy to an unintelligible "cacophony" reminds me of the scornful ways in which U.S. citizens refer to speakers of foreign languages. When one of the most respected and influential news publications in the country basically goes, "What you’re saying is too complicated so LAH LAH LAH I CAN’T HEAR YOOOOOU!!!" we clearly have a problem, and it’s not the "trans question." It’s the "cis question," as in, "Why don’t cis people think of trans people as fellow human beings worthy of dignity and respect?"

P.S. The controversy over trans male students at women’s colleges becomes more problematic when one realizes that trans female students do not figure into this uproar at all. The people interviewed seem ardently convinced that there are no trans woman whatsoever on their campuses. I suspect, however, that they do exist, but they are probably keeping their heads down in fear of being hit by collateral damage from the arguments about the presence of trans male students. The rather disingenuous and transmisogynist erasure of trans female students makes me wonder if the cis resistance here comes largely from reactionary, unexamined transphobia.

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Rocky Horror and transmisogyny

Rocky Horror and transmisogyny published on No Comments on Rocky Horror and transmisogyny

John Tumblred [Tumbld?] this yesterday about transmisogyny in Rocky Horror, which got me thinking. The original post focuses on the terminology as a source of transmisogyny, but the whole portrayal of Frank as a literally unhinged debasement of stereotypical painted femininity also reeks of transmisogyny. For example, there’s a part in Sword of Damocles where Rocky receives admiration from all the partygoers, which pisses Frank off because Rocky is eluding his control. He chases after Rocky, warbling his name, tripping up in his high heels and kind of running into the wall in melodramatic distress. Even though I didn’t identify this particular instant as transmisogynistic when I first saw it, I remember saying to myself, "He wouldn’t do that — he’s a flamboyant control freak, not a sniveling mess. I’m taking this character seriously — why isn’t the movie?" Well, okay, the response was less coherent than that; it was more like, "Why is he bouncing off the walls? That doesn’t fit." Now, a decade and a half [!] later, I can finally call out some of the rank bigotry at work here. Blarf.

Thinking about RHPS always gets me thinking about Mad Mazzy Mickle Goes Looking for Love, which, I reason, has its own problematic elements that I just haven’t thought up yet. Hmmm, let’s see: racism [two characters of color only], stereotypes about bisexuals [sexually voracious, attracted to everyone], disparagement of traditional femininity [characters not into car-related activities coded butch are looked down upon].

Peter: "It’s a cesspool of noxious stereotypes."

Isabel: "But I love it! It changed my life. I came out to the soundtrack!"

Peter: "Me too. But it’s still a cesspool."

Well, clearly, Isabel and Peter connect over their shared interest in this movie, though Peter examines it much more critically than she does. Wonder if I could work a Mazzy reference — and thus conversation — into their initial meeting, which does, after all, involve a car crash, and Mazzy’s all about souped-up drag racers [har!], so there’s the hook.

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If Transparent is “the fall’s only great new show…”

If Transparent is “the fall’s only great new show…” published on No Comments on If Transparent is “the fall’s only great new show…”

…why the hell does it have Jeffrey Tambor playing Maura, the main character, instead of, you know, an actual trans woman? >:( Go AWAY, Jeffrey Tambor.

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Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice

Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice published on 1 Comment on Cards Against Humanity and the insidious trap of hipster prejudice

For those of you not up on the latest hip party game for people in their 20s and 30s, let me introduce you to Cards Against Humanity. Essentially a group form of multiple choice Mad Libs, this game features a bunch of black cards, which contain sentences with key nouns left out, and a bunch of white cards, which contain nouns or noun phrases. Each player draws a hand of 10 white cards, and then everyone gets a chance to read a black card aloud. After a card is read, players choose from their hand the white card that they think best completes the sentence. These cards are distributed to the reader anonymously. The reader reads the selections aloud and selects the one they like best. The player whose white card is chosen wins the black card. All players draw another white card to keep their hand up to 10, and the role of reading black cards passes to the next player.

In concept, Cards Against Humanity is the sort of game I love. There’s no competition and no real winning or losing. The game emphasizes creativity and amusement instead of points and strategy. It’s the type of game that grows exponentially more hilarious with more and more players, and it sparks very interesting side conversations when people ask or joke about each other’s choices.

In practice, however, I find Cards Against Humanity very problematic in terms of content and framing. The black cards, with their framing sentences, feature mostly topical references familiar to people in their 20s and 30s. Examples include: "What does Prince insist on being included in his dressing room?" and "What does Obama do to unwind?" Fine, no big deal.

It’s the white noun cards, though, that drive me up the wall. If they contained only generically amusing phrases such as "murder most foul," "inappropriate yodeling" and "licking things to claim them as your own," I wouldn’t object. But no, those cards are a distinct minority. The white cards focus heavily on topics apparently considered taboo or difficult to discuss by the white, straight, cis, male, bourgeois creator, including people of color ["brown people," "the hard-working Mexican"], people with disabilities ["amputees," "Stephen Hawking talking dirty," "a robust Mongoloid," "a spastic nerd," "the profoundly handicapped"], queer people ["the gays," "praying the gay away"], fat people ["feeding Rosie O’Donnell," "the morbidly obese," "home video of Oprah sobbing into a Lean Cuisine"], gender-nonconforming people ["passable transvestites"], genocide ["inappropriately timed Holocaust jokes," "helplessly giggling at the mention of Hutus and Tutsis"], Muslims ["Allah [praise be unto him!]," "72 virgins"], poor people ["poor people," "homeless people"], old people ["Grandma," "hospice care"], child abuse ["child abuse"], rape ["surprise sex"], paraphilias ["German dungeon porn"] and crap ["fiery poops"]. I could go on, but then I’d be quoting the entire suite of white cards.

Cards Against Humanity glancingly acknowledges the problematic structure of its game by billing its audience as "horrible people." "It’s as despicable and awkward as you and your friends," crows the main page of the game’s Web site. Of course, below this description are various cool publications and people praising the game, so clearly the game’s creators see being "despicable and awkward" as a coveted, desirable status. They quote condemnations from the Chicago Tribune ["absurd"], The Economist ["unforgivable"] and NPR ["bad"] in contrast with praise from INC ["hilarious"] and Boing Boing ["funny"]. Thus they associate criticism with old-fashioned, conservative, humorless media outlets full of old people and appreciation with the young, hip, cool crowd. To be "despicable and awkward," then, is ultimately to be cool. 

What does Cards Against Humanity’s concept of coolness — that is, their idea of rebranded despicability qua awesomeness — entail? Basically it means laughing at anyone who’s not a straight, white, cis, bourgeois, hipster dude [like the creator]. Don’t try to tell me that, because the game has white cards like "white privilege," it actually critiques those who are discomfited by the concept. No, it doesn’t, not when the majority of cards make marginalized people who lack privilege into punchline after punchline after punchline.

If you’re still not convinced, let me break it down to you with a single example: the white card that has the phrase "passable transvestites." There is so much wrong with this card that it’s hard to know where to start. Well, to begin with, clearly someone thought this phrase worthy of inclusion into the deck of white cards, meaning that someone perceived it as shocking, racy, funny and potentially ridiculous. So what’s shocking, racy and entertaining about "passable transvestites?" Yeah, a gender nonconforming person who goes out in public en femme so that they avoid being clocked always makes me laugh. The stats on trans and other gender nonconforming people being harassed, assaulted and killed provide comic relief every time I read them. The outdated language on this white card — the vexed concept of "passable," coupled with the no-longer-used, clinical-sounding "transvestite" — signals that the game’s creators are hung up on old-fashioned binaries of gender presentation, the transgression of which they find hilarious and pathetic, instead of a matter of life and death.

I can make the same points about Cards Against Humanity’s treatment of people with disabilities, the prejudice against whom can be summed up in a single white card: "Stephen Hawking talking dirty." Yup, yup, of course, people who are neuroatypical, emotionally atypical and physically atypical to the extent that society doesn’t really know how to accommodate them — they’re comedy gold! I mean, really — can you imagine a man with paralysis talking dirty? First of all, he’d be doing it with the help of his computer, which is inherently hilarious, you know, because he can’t really talk. Second of all, it would imply that he, despite being unable to move parts of his body, has active sexual desires and interests, which is a shock, because no paralyzed person has ever had sexual interests and agency before — ever! They’re just…like… wheelchair-bound automatons. Yeah, "the profoundly handicapped" are a gas all right. Yet again, Cards Against Humanity’s decision to employee the passe and offensive term "handicapped" shows that they’re not interested in mocking prejudice, but in perpetuating it.

EDIT: As rosettanettle points out in a comment on my LJ crosspost, the creator of Cards Against Humanity expressed regret for the "passable transvestites" white card, which is now no longer included in decks. This does not, however, negate any of my points. If anything, it reinforces them, since the creator’s expression of "regret," which came only because he was called on his transphobia, comes across as less a regret of treasuring bigoted tenets and more a regret at getting caught. I also suspect his theatrical Tumblr photoset of him lighting the card on fire of being a self-aggrandizing performance so that he may be showered with praise about what an enlightened ally he is. Why do straight, cis, white, middle-class dudes think they deserve extra special plaudits for meeting minimum standards of decency? "Despicable," indeed.

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Fuck off, Bathroom Police!

Fuck off, Bathroom Police! published on No Comments on Fuck off, Bathroom Police!

Colorado’s civil rights division has determined that Coy Mathis, prohibited from using her school’s bathroom, has been unfairly discriminated against for being told to hold it all damn day just because she has a penis. She will now be able to take a shit on school premises again. Why we needed to go all the way up to the state judiciary to determine that taking a crap is an inalienable right is beyond me. But at least now the Bathroom Police Department in Colorado Springs, Colorado can fuck right the fuck off.

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The “bathroom argument,” part n in an ongoing series

The “bathroom argument,” part n in an ongoing series published on No Comments on The “bathroom argument,” part n in an ongoing series

The parents of Coy Mathis, a Coloradan first-grader [with magenta hair?! how awesome is that?], have filed a discrimination suit with the state’s Civil Rights Division because the school district will no longer let her use the girls’ bathroom.

Why? Because they are obsessed with Coy’s penis.

A letter that the Mathis family received in December states:

"….I’m certain you can appreciate that, as Coy grows older and his [sic] male [sic] genitals develop along with the rest of his [sic] body, at least some parents and students are likely to become uncomfortable with his [sic] continued use of the girls’ restroom."

So a girl can’t use the girls’ bathroom because some people might be bothered [heaven forfend!] by the fact that her body differs from that of the majority of girls’.

Oooh! Oooh! I can play this game. We need to make separate bathrooms for every category of person whose body might conceivably bother someone else.

Okay, so we’ll have to separate bathrooms based on race, fat, disability, age, sickness and shoe size, at the very least.

Is that school district serious? Are they honestly arguing that putative future squeamish prejudice trumps a person’s immediate need to perform a basic human function?

The "bathroom argument": it’s bullshit!

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Because the absolute worst thing in the world is to be femmey.

Because the absolute worst thing in the world is to be femmey. published on No Comments on Because the absolute worst thing in the world is to be femmey.

Here’s a perfect example of that bigotry in this BJD-related confession.

See Julie Serrano’s Whipping Girl for an analysis of the bullshit going on here.

This entry was originally posted at You can comment here, but I’d prefer it if you’d comment on my DW using OpenID.

Dear Caitlin R. Kiernan…

Dear Caitlin R. Kiernan… published on No Comments on Dear Caitlin R. Kiernan…

Trans people are actual people, not Thematic Elements That Underscore the Protagonist's Ponderous Musings About Mutability. It's stupidly disingenuous of you to claim, through your protagonist, that you are not making the protagonist's trans girlfriend a Thematic Element when you end up explicitly making the girlfriend a Thematic Element a few hundred pages later. Kindly fuck off until you learn the secret to writing trans characters.

Hint: It's NOT A SECRET, and you, being a published author of some experience and renown, should know it already. Here's the hint: you write about a human being with the attribute of being trans, instead of writing about the concept of Transness that incidentally has the attribute of being human. You can do it with your queer cis female characters. Why can't you do it with your queer trans female character?

Do you care about trans people at all? [Do you even known any?] Or do you just think that writing "tr***y" makes you grittier, edgier and more shocking? I'm going with option C, given your colossal cluelessness.

I am so disappointed in you. I am never reading anything you write again, which is a pity because I liked The Red Tree.

You do realize that The Drowning Girl, catalyst of my ire, is nothing but a flaccid, digressive, anti-trans Red Tree wanna-be in need of ruthless editing, right?

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson: offensive AND boring

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson: offensive AND boring published on 1 Comment on Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson: offensive AND boring

Peter Pan was published in 1911 by the British author J.M. Barrie, based on a 1904 play called Peter and Wendy. It’s the story about three British kids, Wendy, John and Michael, who go to the Neverland of their imaginations. There they have adventures with pirates, mermaids, wild animals, lost boys and, of course, the boy who wouldn’t grow up: Peter Pan.

The concept of Peter Pan and the crude outlines of the story have exerted a fascination over US and British readers for more than a century. Thanks to Disney’s 1953 animated adaptation, most US fans have rather superficial ideas about Peter Pan, chiefly involving flying, fairy dust, pirates and maybe a crocodile. Naturally, the play and the novel are much messier and more interesting than our cliched ideas about them.

Having read Peter Pan many, many times, I could provide you with rants on everything from the authorial interruptions to the treatment of female characters, but right now I am focusing on the Indians. Yeah, there are Indians in Neverland. They are members of the Pickaninny tribe, referred to by that narrator as “red men,” and they scalp people. I am not making this up; Barrie specifically writes that the name of the Indians’ group is a racist term for African-American people. Furthermore, the Indians have silly nature-related names like “Great Big Little Panther.” They also talk like stereotypical Japanese people who can’t pronounce their Rs. In short, the Indians are a horrible farrago of Edwardian racist stereotypes, which kind of makes sense, if you figure that Neverland is populated by Wendy, Michael and John’s ideas of Indians gleaned from idealized and disparaging media they have consumed.

The only Indian in Peter Pan to develop something like an individual personality is Tiger Lily. Described as the trite Ice Maiden who “staves off the altar with a hatchet,” she is beautiful, imperious and aloof to all potential suitors. For some reason, though, she has a rather pathetic crush on Peter, declaring, “Me his velly nice friend.” [See what I mean about the stereotypical broken English?] Her major scene occurs when Smee and Starkey kidnap her, but untie her at Peter’s orders, as they think he is Captain Hook. Tiger Lily does the smart thing and immediately jumps off Smee and Starkey’s boat and swims away to freedom. Other than that, though, she’s a barely personalized bit of scenery.

One hundred years after Barrie published the original novel, Jodi Lynn Anderson decided to vomit forth her revisionist response entitled Tiger Lily. In this version, narrated by an observant but mostly uninvolved Tinker Bell, Tiger Lily is merely referred to as a “native,” a member of the Sky Eater tribe. A teenager, she lives with her adoptive father, the cross-dressing shaman Tik Tok, and excels at “masculine” pursuits and suppressing her emotions. She meets Peter Pan and falls in love with him, an experience that, of course, feminizes and gentles her. [I fucking hate that trope.] Her impending marriage to a cruel lout, as well as the arrival of Wendy, John and Michael, messes everything up. Angst ensues. As far as I can tell, this is a cheap attempt to capitalize on the paranormal romance subgenre by employing, for no discernible reason, the trappings of a previous author’s universe.

As soon as I heard about Anderson’s book, I began to cringe. Why is she so interested in rehabilitating stereotyped Indians? What makes her think she has the authority to tell Tiger Lily’s story? Why do we need yet another white author with no native connections treating the Indians of Peter Pan like shit? [I’m serious. In all sequels and adaptations of the story that I’ve read or read about, the Indians fare extremely poorly. Please check Debbie Reese’s “Peter Pan” and “Peter Pan in Scarlet” tags on American Indians in Children’s Literature for details. Reese is an author and activist tribally enrolled in Nambe Pueblo (New Mexico), and she knows what she’s talking about.] The answer to these three questions appears to be 1) no idea, 2) absolutely nothing and 3) we don’t. Yet Anderson forges ahead.

I decided to give Tiger Lily a chance, though. I was right – it is cringeworthy and terrible. The persistently clueless portrayal of the Sky Eaters combines with the talentless writing to create a literary disaster.

This book is so bad that I don’t even know where to begin. Let’s start, for want of a better place, with the subject of consistency. All of the “native” tribes of Neverland appear to be named after their location – the Bog Dwellers and the Cliff Dwellers, for example – except for Tiger Lily’s tribe, the Sky Eaters. Why aren’t they named after their location as the Forest Dwellers? What’s this irrelevant business about the sky and eating it? Here’s just one clue of many that Anderson hasn’t thought her world through.

The Sky Eaters behave like a loose collection of Native American stereotypes. They live in huts; they have a medicine man, Tik Tok, even though he is called a shaman, who heals people and works magic; they wear deerskin clothes; they have long black hair and high cheekbones; many of their names follow the stereotype of Literally Translated Natural Phenomenon; they worship many gods or spirits…argle bargle bargle. Despite this, they don’t seem to have any culture. Anderson will often add asides about the Sky Eaters’ marriage customs, religious beliefs or bathing habits, but we never see these things affecting the characters’ actions or the development of the plot. Tiger Lily’s little village, populated by the Loving Adoptive Dad, the Disabled Kid With a Crush on Her, the Teen Exemplar of Femininity, the Evil Suitor, the Evil Suitor’s Mom and Various Uncomprehending and Gossipy Tertiaries, could appear in any other setting without a problem. It’s a thoroughly generic story and a thoroughly generic setting, which Anderson only gestures at making specific. And, unfortunately, her idea of making the Sky Eaters specific involves tossing them into a pit of Indian stereotypes.

Even though I’m only halfway through, I’m dogged by the sense that Anderson is telling the wrong story. As I mentioned, the depiction of Tiger Lily and the other Sky Eaters is so vacuous as to deter sympathy, identification and investment in Tiger Lily’s experiences. Furthermore, Tiger Lily and Peter Pan have a tediously formulaic Forbidden and Doomed Love piece of crap going on, which is also boring. I’m much more interested in…well, basically anyone except them. For instance, what’s Tik Tok’s history? How does Pine Sap [Disabled Kid with a Crush on Tiger Lily] feel about being a sensitive, thoughtful butt of tribal jokes? What’s the relationship between Smee and Hook? Why does Tink have a crush on Peter? Where the hell are all the other faeries anyway? Where’s the magic?

Neverland holds such a grip on our imaginations because it’s a problematic, messy, dangerous, powerful place. Anderson commits a crime against fiction by sticking it somewhere in the Atlantic, leaching out the magic and populating it with racist and sexist cliches that wouldn’t grow up.

P.S. I just know that Pine Sap is going to die. The disabled character always bites it in this kind of ableist tripe.

Oklahoma judge goes off on irrelevant tangent

Oklahoma judge goes off on irrelevant tangent published on 1 Comment on Oklahoma judge goes off on irrelevant tangent

Oklahoma County District Judge Bill Graves has denied at least two women, Christie Harvey and Angela Ingram, their requests to legally change their names. Why? Because he’s an anti-trans bigot. Jesus, DNA and “fraudulent purposes” also figure into his inane ruling, in some obscure way. To compound the cruel bullshit, The Oklahoman’s news site refers to Harvey and Ingram by their birth names and masculine pronouns.

Furthermore, the article reports that Ingram goes by Angela in her social circle. She also carries a purse and wears a bra. Well, I nearly fell over from shock when I heard those details. I mean…can you imagine someone’s friends calling her by her name?! And a purse? How odd! I’ve never even conceived of a modern white bourgeois woman in the US using one of those. And what about this “bra” thing? She must be conforming to the ubiquitous societal expectation that all women in the modern US should wear elasticated garments that restrain and support their breasts. Can you even imagine a woman in this culture doing things that most women in this culture do? Why would that even happen? I can barely wrap my brain around it. It makes no sense!

Wow, if the author of that article thinks that Ingram’s underwear is news, he is not only perpetuating the objectification and sexualization of trans women, but he’s also seriously underestimating his readers’ capacity for understanding and empathy.

Someone’s jealous…

Someone’s jealous… published on 3 Comments on Someone’s jealous…

On the off-topic section of the MWD board, a repainter of 1:6 figs asked why some people “hated” repaints. Most of the respondents replied that they loved repaints, naysayers be damned. The only truly negative comment came from one “Daniel Wickson” who wrote:

Lack of artistic talent translates into any medium even lil’ dollies At least yours aren’t yarn haired tr*****s.

I starred out the slur that he used for trans people. >:(

Given that my subtitle on that forum is “Transgender[izer]” and that LHF featured several characters with yarn hair, as well as trans characters [but no trans characters with yarn hair], I strongly suspect that the poster was referring to me and my dollies. ^_^

He’s just jealous ’cause he lacks my imagination.

Let’s play a game.

Let’s play a game. published on No Comments on Let’s play a game.

I’ll say a phrase, and you tell me the first words that come to your mind.

Okay? Ready? Here we go:

“Lesbian vampire erotica.”

Continue reading Let’s play a game.

Update on the NYT’s anti-trans, anti-WOC poo-flinging

Update on the NYT’s anti-trans, anti-WOC poo-flinging published on 1 Comment on Update on the NYT’s anti-trans, anti-WOC poo-flinging

I couldn't use the NYT's form to send a message directly to the reporter who wrote that horrible article about trans women of color on Christopher Street, so I E-mailed the public editor, the executive editor and the president with the following:

I’m writing to express my disgust with Sarah Nir’s July 24th article about trans women of color on Christopher Street: “For Money or Just to Strut, Living Out Loud on a Transgender Stage.”

This article is just as revolting as the NYT's coverage of Lorena Escalera's death.

Do you seriously think it's acceptable to refer to the trans women of color in the article as "exotic…parakeets?" The term "exotic" is just a racist dogwhistle for "different and, therefore, unacceptable." Meanwhile, comparing women to birds dehumanizes them in a dismissive, sexist way. Thanks a lot for perpetuating the oppression and bigotry aimed at trans people and/or people of color, especially women!

I urge you to write about trans women and/or women of color with respect, treating them as equal human beings. Given the NYT's track record, though, I doubt this will occur.

EDIT: I just alerted GLAAD's Aaron McQuade, Director of News and Field Media, about the NYT's poo-flinging. I did this because he was the one who wrote on GLAAD's site about the NYT's poo-flinging at Lorena Escalera. Also going to submit an incident report on GLAAD's site.

NYT digs its own grave on coverage of Lorena Escalera

NYT digs its own grave on coverage of Lorena Escalera published on No Comments on NYT digs its own grave on coverage of Lorena Escalera

Earlier this week, I fired off an enraged letter to one of the authors of a NYT article about the death by suspicious fire of Lorena Escalera, a trans woman of color. The article was a vile cesspit of sexism, transmisogyny, transphobia, racism, bias against sex workers, stereotypes, objectification, dehumanization, othering and probably many other forms of bigotry that I am not currently picking up on.

The NYT responded to the criticism with vacuous, unsympathetic justifications that positively reeked of unexamined privilege. GLAAD analyzed the paper's response, accurately describing many of its shortcomings. I should note that the GLAAD critique does not, however, recognize the NYT's bias against sex workers in the article about Escalera.

If the NYT really wanted to, as it claimed, "capture the personal [story]" of Escalera, why didn't it do what most writers of articles about dead people do and incorporate information from people who actually knew her? Some people among her social circle of friends, family members and fellow performers at the House of Xtravaganza would have provided comments on what they remembered her for and how much they missed her. Instead of interviewing the neighborhood ignoramuses who had no respect for Escalera as a woman or as a person, the NYT should have sought out quotes from people who saw her as she was: a fellow individual deserving respect. But no…the paper merely perpetuated multiple axes of oppression by selecting a narrative of dehumanization.

Transmisogyny in the New York Times

Transmisogyny in the New York Times published on No Comments on Transmisogyny in the New York Times

Wow, the NYT is the gift that keeps on giving.

Lorena Escalera, 25, died in a suspicious fire in Brooklyn, NY, last weekend, and the NYT was much more interested in her body, her clothing, how sexy her neighbors thought she was, her trans identity, her occupation as a sex worker and her participation in the House of Xtravaganza performing troupe and other details not directly relevant to the case.

Pam's House Blend pointed out just a few of the problems in the coverage here.

I sent a form E-mail to one of the article's authors, Al Baker, containing the following:

Your coverage of this story is sexist, transmisogynist and generally disgusting. Your inclusion of Escalera's trans identity is irrelevant to the tragedy of her death by suspicious fire. You add insult to injury by quoting a neighbor who misgenders her. Furthermore, the details about Escalera's appearance and sex life add nothing to the story, except to reinforce the stereotype of trans women as objectified prostittutes. The dehumanization exemplified in this coverage directly contributes to the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of trans and gender-variant people every year. We deserve better.

“Transgender Voice Surgery”

“Transgender Voice Surgery” published on No Comments on “Transgender Voice Surgery”

I came across a text ad on that said:

Transgender Voice Surgery — Travel to Korea for Cutting Edge Voice Feminization Surgery. Call us. <Web site>

"Cutting Edge?" Yikes!

They could have said "new and improved" or "technologically advanced" or "the latest techniques," but no…they had to use slice-and-dice imagery. How gruesome and unattractive. I don't think the creators of this ad took a moment to think about the implications of their phrasing. Blech.

Work It, episode 2

Work It, episode 2 published on No Comments on Work It, episode 2

Summary: Jerkwad protagonists Lee and Angel actually go on sales calls. Angel gets results by stereotypically flirting and playing up "feminine" mannerisms. Lee gets jealous and accusatory, then tries the flirty style to great failure. Meanwhile Angel gets a date with one of the doctors he was selling to.

Analysis: Oh God, I can feel my will to watch draining away as I watch this show. I feel my mouth hardening into a permanent cringe. I thought that the collective scorn and criticism of the Internet and the known world would force this show back into the dank hole of "isms" whence it came, but apparently not.

The transphobia…because Lee can't describe how Angel looks as a woman without mocking him for stereotypically masculine traits such as big biceps and a broad chin!

The sexism and misogyny…because this episode just assumes without question that women using their sexuality in the workplace to get what they want is acceptable and appropriate!

The slut shaming…because Lee can't express his jealousy of Angel's success without intimating that Angel is a whore!

The trivialization of date rape…because Angel was going to drug his doctor date if the date put any moves on him!

The homophobia…because God forbid that two men touch in an affectionate or intimate manner!

Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive list of prejudices evinced in Work It. The stupidity is multi-dimensional, much the same way as Dan Savage's bigotry, and no one entry can comprehend it all…maybe a series.

My favorite response to Work It was someone's tweet saying, "I think ABC left out a letter when they described this as 'the new hit show!'" LOL!

A review of the first episode of Work It

A review of the first episode of Work It published on No Comments on A review of the first episode of Work It

Earlier I wrote about ABC's new sitcom Work It, in which two men impersonate women to get jobs at a sales company. I just caught the first episode of this dung heap on Hulu. I am here to report that I stand by my earlier comments about all the show's prejudices and to report that it was, besides being offensive on many levels, poorly written with unfunny jokes, unoriginal characters and lazy execution.

A few especially stupid and offensive moments stood out for me after my cursory viewing:

1. In an early conversation in a bar, the laid-off protagonist commiserates with his two laid-off friends, a mechanic and a shuttle driver. The shuttle driver describes the recession as a "mancession," insists that women are "taking over" and predicts that soon men will only be kept around as "sex slaves" if women continue asserting their dominance. This character is factually incorrect; there is no mancession; women are not taking over, and the joke about "sex slaves" makes light of sexual abuse and rape. While the shuttle driver clearly serves as the "stupid comic relief friend" archetype, no one corrects him or calls him out on his behavior, thus reinforcing the idea that his false interpretation of events is acceptable.

2. While I have detailed earlier how the entire show is transphobic, one especially transphobic moment caught my eye. In a flashback scene where the protagonist, now impersonating a woman, tells the mechanic "how he does it," a saleswoman is shown at a counter. She sees someone off-camera and screams and recoils. The camera then shows the protagonist with makeup all over his face [including lipstick on his teeth, blech], imploring the saleswoman, "Help me, please…help me!" The laugh track resounds.

Now is the saleswoman [and the laugh track] laughing at a generally bad application of makeup or a man in drag? It doesn't really matter because the show is mocking the protagonist, who dares to "look bad" in makeup. The show thus looks down on the protagonist's gender presentation in that scene, allowing the interpretation that the saleswoman shrieks because of the "incongruity" in a stereotypically masculine-presenting person wearing makeup, a stereotypically feminine accessory. The rigid implicit heteronormative bias of the saleswoman's shocked scream militates against anyone who dares to deviate from traditional stereotypical masc/fem gender presentations.

I really hate this show. It's bad, and it's offensive.

ABC’s new dung heap of a show: Work It

ABC’s new dung heap of a show: Work It published on No Comments on ABC’s new dung heap of a show: Work It

So I learned, thanks to Shakesville, that ABC has a new show coming out in fall 2012 called Work It. In this show, two cis straight guys pretend to be cis straight women in order to get jobs. How bilgey is that?

Oh, the horrible sexism. Shows like this, which pretend to be reflective about gender and sex but really aren't, usually end up cementing the vast, irreconciliable differences that supposedly exist between men and women. Shows like this also tend to suggest that, somehow, the male protagonists are better at being women [you know, fooling all those stupid cis straight wimmenz] than women are, thus denigrating the sex and gender of women.

Oh, the horrible transphobia too. Shows like this assert that it's funny when biologically male people try to radically change their gender presentation. Shows like this say that biologically male people who radically change their gender presentation will never successfully pass; they'll always eventually be seen as their "true," biologically male selves. Shows like this portray gender transition as fatuous and ultimately futile, preferring to see it as a comedic device, rather than a way that some people use to manifest their true identities.

Oh, finally, the horrible stupidity. It doesn't really make sense, given the barriers to employment that women face [such as pay disparities with men and risks of sexual harassment], that being a woman would somehow make things easier for our two cis straight guys. In fact, new challenges would crop up, not of the easily resolved comic variety, but of the deeply situated, kyrarchical kind. What a stupid show!

Why is this funny?

Why is this funny? published on No Comments on Why is this funny?

Clearly this SNL commercial for “Estro-Maxx” trades on the expected amusement value of the male actors playing trans women as if the trans women are really men in unconvincing drag. The vignette in which the woman goes through the full-body scanner, causing the security officer to make lewd, unprofessional expressions, also makes light of actual, real-life concerns about such technology’s abuse and invasion of privacy.

Well cry me a river of machine lubricant tears!

Well cry me a river of machine lubricant tears! published on 2 Comments on Well cry me a river of machine lubricant tears!

I got this for Copyranter, a copiously illustrated stream of snark about modern advertising. Fun fun.

Last year Svedka Vodka [?] advertised on phone booths in New York City with some transgender robots. Svedka_Grl, a cute robot, claims, “I’m a gay man trapped in the body of a fembot.” I don’t buy it. He should just be able to buy some mechanical attachments. If humans can modify bodies that they feel trapped in, why can’t robots who are made to be modified?

I will accept the trope of using the objectified female form to sell something unrelated, like alcohol, but why mention gay men? To do so puts the viewer’s mind into a series of mental contortions to figure out what exactly that means. [It means that the bot will come on strong to straight guys because it’s a “trapped gay guy.”] It may be memorable, but it’s not clever or humorous or useful. [Here’s an example of a funnier use of transgender imagery — offensive, yes, but also funny. Incidentally, why is it the vodka ads that show such penis-o-phobia?] Svedka apparently wanted to put “gay” in there to be edgy and hip, but they come across as copywriters flinging words wildly against a wall to see what will stick.

Blaming the victim in transphobic violence

Blaming the victim in transphobic violence published on No Comments on Blaming the victim in transphobic violence

Talia Mae Bettcher writes an interesting article in Hypatia about transphobia and its connection to murders of trans people. Basically she points out that there’s this persistent theme that trans people are deceivers and that, if one checks what’s in their pants, one sees what they “really” are. So what we have here is the essentialist notion that gender depends not on how one dresses, acts and identifies, but what one covers up with one’s underwear. 

For example, you can see  that assumption at work in the stupid “Transvestite [sic]” ad for 42 Below Vodka, lambasted here. The ad, which basically tells the story of a potential hook-up between a sloshed guy and a sexy woman which ends in the man’s panic because the woman has a dick, depends on the shock of revelation. The ad wants you to agree with the freaked-out man who discovers that the woman isn’t “really” a woman because of her sexual equipment. This line of thinking would have you believe that the woman is really a man.

Bettcher discusses the deleterious effects of the “trans=deceiver” idea in relation to the 2002 rape and murder of Californian 17-year-old trans woman Gwen Araujo. In part of the pre-murder humiliation and torture, her attackers forced her to show her genitals. The defendants and the defense tried to argue that the sight of Araujo’s penis violated her rapists in the same way that her rapists violated her. Basically, they were saying that Araujo’s identity as a trans woman was a bullshit performance because the existence of her penis was the ultimate truth, negating how she identified herself and how others perceived her. 

Additionally, the defense claimed that Araujo, by being trans, was being a malicious, provocative liar who inflamed resentment and rage in the attackers by having a secret penis. Her secret penis, once revealed, blew her attackers’ minds so completely that it was like a mental and emotional rape. Of course they lashed out at her, raping and killing her! Well, that’s what the defense and the defendants would have you believe.

So…let me see if I get this straight [hur de hur hur]. The defense and the defendants were arguing that Araujo was asking to be raped and murdered merely because her physical unclothed being and her self-identification didn’t “match,” according to some idiots’ limited, provincial, antediluvian concept of gender. And I’m supposed to believe that trans people are using secret genital weapons to flagrantly oppress non-trans people and even rape them emotionally. Oh yeah, and your average straight man is so pathetic and unstable as to become completely unhinged by the merest sight of someone’s penis. Do I need to articulate how biased, insulting, stupid and just plain damaging these assumptions are to everyone involved, trans people and straight guys alike [and trans straight guys]? How the hell is such a bigoted argument supposed to excite one’s sympathy for the proponent?

The rhetoric being spewed in this case argues eloquently that feminism should not limit itself to women’s rights, but also encompass gay rights and trans rights, since much of the sexism and stupidity holding gay people and trans people back is the same sexism and stupidity holding women back.

I was going to title this one “I was raped by the sight of a secret penis!!!!” but I wanted to make it explicit that I am not using such language seriously, but rather mocking those who think that this is a valid defense. Also, despite the fact that this is a transparently public blog, I shy from explicit topic titles, preferring instead to be explicit in the post content, as if that makes it less raunchy.

I hate it when roosters get involved: Puzzling 42 Below Vodka ads

I hate it when roosters get involved: Puzzling 42 Below Vodka ads published on No Comments on I hate it when roosters get involved: Puzzling 42 Below Vodka ads

Saatchi and Saatchi created a print ad campaign for 42 Below Vodka that apparently won a Clio. God knows why. I mean, the rebus idea is really clever, but I don’t understand why it’s a good thing that your alcoholic beverage promotes drinking your way to the White House or getting crabs. 

And then there’s the two following examples of the campaign, which use the typical straight male fear of other penises to make fun of 1) gay men and 2) trans women. [And don’t get me started on how the ad with the man and the trans woman was titled “Transvestite.” I interpreted the ad about being about a man and a woman who happened to have a dick. A woman who happens to have a dick is transgendered, but not necessarily a transvestite. People can be so stupid sometimes.]

Marginalization of 3-D homosexuals — and where are the 3-D crossdressers?

Marginalization of 3-D homosexuals — and where are the 3-D crossdressers? published on 2 Comments on Marginalization of 3-D homosexuals — and where are the 3-D crossdressers?

I’ve discovered something interesting about the distribution and availability of heterosexual couples poses and homosexual couples poses for Daz.

Hetero couples poses can be downloaded for free from Renderosity. They also appear on the official Daz Web site, where you can buy the Pure Romanze set of props and poses. It consists of a gazebo, a pergola and 10 couples poses of demure, starry-eyed romance. There’s also a Budding Romance hetero couple pose, depicting mostly hugs, cuddling and other affectionate behavior.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that hetero couples poses are obviously posted and freely available. They also range from mildly romantic (like the Pure Romanze set) to sexually explicit.

In contrast, I have only found homo couples poses on Renderotica [warning: this is a pretty boring site that leans heavily on stereotypical porn wear for female characters, stereotypical BDSM props and silly, silly animations] and similar age-limited sites for Poser porn. As can be expected from the general tenor of such sites, most of the homo couples poses are sexually explicit. I have yet to find a couples pose set for homos that contains casual affection or romance. Anyway, it seems that homo couples poses exist only on porn sites where you have to pay for them. They are not freely available.

Given the distribution of hetero and homo couples poses, it’s very clear to me that Daz [the developers of the program] and the general user community assumes the hetero orientation of the 3-D people you create. This is not surprising; when I was more active in Men With Dolls, people’s dolls were generally assumed hetero until proved otherwise, kind of the way it is with people. Hetero is the default orientation, so I refuse to make a stink about that assumption. It’s rampant in this world and in digital worlds.

What pisses me off is the sexualization and marginalization of homo couples. The appearance of homo couples poses solely on porn sites implies that all homos do is have sex. While we queers do make queer desire our defining feature of our sexual orientation, our queerness is not necessarily the overriding feature of our lives. Even in the case of queer activists and artists who make a living out of identity politics, they [we] do much more than have queer sex. The placement of homo couples poses on porn sites accentuates sex to the detriment of any other aspect of queer life, while simultaneously making queer couples seem pornographic, potentially objectionable and obscene, like the surrounding material.

And while I’m ranting about Renderotica [and similar sites], I would just like to ask where the 3-D crossdressers are, specifically the male ones. There is a huge interest in male crossdressing porn, which also shades into forced feminization, transgender, she-male, etc. porn. Surprisingly enough, I haven’t seen those themes represented at all. Am I the only Daz user who wants to use CrossDresser to put a male character in clothes designed for female characters? [And I’m not talking about men in fantasy robes; that’s boring.]

EDIT: Okay, I found some homo couples poses on Renderosity. Here’s Gals 1 poses with lesbian romantic poses. Here’s MM3 Guy Poses 1 with gay romantic poses. I think my point still holds, though, since I stumbled upon these just by chance.

Stardust: downed by queeny pirate?

Stardust: downed by queeny pirate? published on 1 Comment on Stardust: downed by queeny pirate?

As much as I like a good polymorphously perverse pirate [lookin’ at YOU, Captain Jack Sparrow!], the appearance of such a character type in Stardust worries me exceedingly. I wanted to go see this high fantasy fairy tale…until I heard about Robert DeNiro playing the sky pirate as a cross-dressing ham. Well, okay, the presence of a cross-dressing ham doesn’t scare me away so much as does this quote, from a New York Times interview by Charles McGrath (New York Times, August 5th, 2007) with the perpetrators of Stardust:

//…Tristran grows up, falls in love and has a hair and wardrobe makeover under the care of a pirate captain (De Niro) who if he’s not gay nevertheless enjoys dressing up in a tutu in the privacy of his cabin.

“I don’t know where that came from,” Goldman said in a telephone interview. “It was just one of those magic moments. Matthew and I were thinking it might be interesting if the captain was in some ways wrestling with identity issues the way Tristran is.”//

The offending comment, the one that got me anxious, is in bold. Basically Goldman’s statement can be translated as the following: “I have no idea why the sky pirate is a prissy poofter. Someone just got a silly brain fart one day and, since we were all drunk and/or hopped up on drugs, we laughed uprorariously and decided to incorporate this bit of throwaway, sophomoric stereotyping into our film because we’re self-indulgent wankers. Captain Shakespeare’s sartorial interests really have nothing to do with anything, but, since I’m being asked about it, I’ll pull an answer about its relevance out of my butt to give the illusion that we actually really planned it.” 

I’m not amused.

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