An open letter to people who won’t leave Cynthia Nixon alone

Good lords, people. Is Cynthia Nixon really our biggest problem?

Right now queers are under especially virulent attack from viable presidential candidates. Although DADT is over, trans people are still not able to serve, largely because the DSM still lists us as having a pathological mental disorder; this shows no signs of changing any time soon, given the pedigree of the doctors in charge of the next edition of the DSM. Our queer kids are still killing themselves, still being bullied into desperate acts, because states like Tennessee are trying to pass laws that make it punishable to bully anyone unless they’re gay, because that’s totally fine. Trans women are still being hassled (and much, much worse) by police, employers, self-appointed dressing room and bathroom monitors, and Girl Scouts. People still think RuPaul is a useful spokesman for trans women (note: spokesMAN for trans WOMEN) (right. exactly). In most states, it’s still legal to fire someone for being GLB, and in even more, for being T. Elderly queers are almost completely invisible in the movement, and health care for queers is often shrouded in harassment, denial of care, homophobia, transphobia, and a total lack of cultural competency and medical understanding.

Do I need to go on? I could, you know. There are scores of other major issues facing the LGBTQetc community, and yet…

And yet everyone’s got their boxer briefs in a knot because a popular, out actress said she didn’t like the word bisexual.

Wow.

I don’t know Cynthia Nixon personally. I have no idea what her perspectives are on any agenda that matters to me. I don’t know anything about her except what I read in the press. I do know that she has made a point of coming out and remaining out and putting a face on LGBT. In her recent interview, she talked openly about being “in love and in lust” with both men and women. She said that for her, being gay is a choice.

Then she said that she didn’t like the term bisexual because “people don’t like bisexuals.”

The world exploded.

Here’s what I think:

I think that she probably does not mean that she chooses the people to whom she is attracted, the people whose ankles or arms or cheekbones excite her, the people who make her heart beat a little funny.  She does choose how she presents herself, as a sexual human who responds to a wide range of other sexual humans.  So for her, yes, presenting as gay is a choice. She says to herself, “Self, clearly we are not straight, so what are some other words?” This is a hard question, because she seems pretty assimilated, and in that world, there are not a lot of other words. In the interview, she said, “I don’t pull out the ‘bisexual’ word because nobody likes the bisexuals. Everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals.”

Apparently this has set the movement back 900 years.

Here’s what else I think.

In the straight world, bi women (and presumably men) don’t like coming out as bisexual because the response is ALWAYS something along the lines of a) Oh, so you’ll do it with anyone? b) Can I watch? and c) You just need to make up your mind.

One of the big ugly secrets of the mainstream LGBT world is that bisexual is erased and insulted and only grudgingly allowed into the acronym.  Bi women (and presumably men) get the same responses when they come out as bisexual, but instead of asking if they can watch, the naysayers say, Oh, she’s not a real lesbian, then dismiss the bi woman entirely. This was true when I was new in the LGBT community twenty-something years ago, and it’s still true now.

This is why I identify as queer. I also do not like the bisexual word. At the moment I am trying hard to present myself as gay, which is hard given that I’m in a long-term monogamous relationship with a woman, but I’m damn well trying. Queer opens it up a little and allows for the fact that I have been attracted to women in the past, am currently deeply attracted to the one who lives here with me, and get the vapors when I see certain types of men (really, almost all types, but that is another story).

Erasing bisexuals and queers (among many other groups) and maintaining the binary either/or system is how the assimilated gays and lesbians try to make us “presentable” as a community. They don’t want go-go boys or dykes on bikes or pansexual leatherqueers in their pride parades. They think RuPaul is a trans advocate. They are reasonably certain that being able to marry our gay boyfriend or lesbian girlfriend and then send them off to join the Army is our number one most important goal, the thing our community needs most.

Leave Cynthia Nixon alone, people. Go help the homeless queer kids. Stop trading “bathroom bills” for marriage legislation. Surely you can find something more productive to do than this.


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.


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.


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:

Please be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Send an email to incident@glaad.org to make your concerns heard.

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 http://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.

 


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.”


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.


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