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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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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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Reading a paper on operations that trans persons may choose to undergo as part of their bodily transitions...

Authors go on and on about "sex reassignment surgery." No, dipshits, it's not "sex reassignment surgery." Frankly, I'm not entirely sure what the most accurate term is at this point, but it's not that. I think the general term I've heard is "gender transition surgery," which encompasses a variety of procedures.

"Transexualism is a gender identification disorder..." A) Authors can't even spell "transsexualism." B) Cissexism is a disorder in which people think that there are only two categories of people, "men" and "women," and that all people in each group must have bodies that look exactly the same.

Authors are obsessed with penetration, defining a neopenis as one that can successfully achieve penetration and a neovulva as one that can successfully be penetrated. They apparently think that the only type of sexual activity available is penis-into-vulva penetration.

ARRRGH!
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 NBC is covering the story! Bullshit ahoy!

I don't have the energy to parse this right now, but I do have to say that my favorite quote is this:

...Women may be looking for orgasms, which, in turn, Mautz suggested, may serve a pair-bonding function. In the recent book, The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex and the Science of Attraction Bullshit Topped with Bullshit with Bullshit a la Mode for Dessert (which I co-authored crapped out of my ass), Emory University neuroscientist Larry Young argues that the big human penis evolved into a tool meant to stimulate both the vagina and cervix as a way [to] trigger the release of oxytocin in a woman’s brain, activating bonding circuits. 

BONERZ = WUV. It's science, dipsticks!
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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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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.
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Is there any interest in seeing the first three episodes in an aborted 1:6 scale melodrama, The Pink Squad, written [and crappily photoed] nearly a decade ago?

It was my earliest scripted photostory series [as opposed to my earlier, pictures-only attempt], and it contains many of the characters and themes that we know and love today:
  • Female protagonists
  • Queer characters
  • Trans characters
  • Disabled characters
  • Characters of color
  • Vermonters
  • Kinky sex
  • Horny robots
  • Mad science
  • An amazing amount of sarcasm
  • PINK HAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111eleventy

DISCLAIMER:
If I do post this story, please note that it contains humor that I thought was funny back then, but which now strikes me as blatantly racist, sexist or transphobic. That's the main reason I've refrained from making it public again.

On second thought, maybe I'll just summarize it or something. There are some cool, engaging, humorous, well-developed aspects to it, but it's also a glaring example of How Not to Write People with Marginalized Identities.

Or maybe there's no rehabilitating a bigoted piece of personal history, as fascinating as I find it for reasons of historical creativity. Arrrrgh, I dunno.

EDIT: Fuck it. Discretion is the better part of valor. No Pink Squad for you.

P.S. Earlier I wondered if Baozha started me on my pink hair kick. Uhhhhhhh, nope. I place all the blame at the feet of the Pink Squad.
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When I first wrote about Jodi Anderson's tedious slog of a novel Tiger Lily, I predicted that Pine Sap, Disabled Stereotype Extraordinaire, was going to die.

Now, having finished the book [give me a medal for endurance], I would like to apologize. I'm sorry. I was wrong. Pine Sap does not die. Instead, he becomes Tiger Lily's Consolation Prize Husband after Peter leaves Neverland to grow up in the UK as Wendy's husband. [I'm not gonna even go into how narratively wrong that is.] Pine Sap's status as Permanent Runner-up is not at all an improvement over my assumption that he would be the Tragic Dead Guy. He's still portrayed as inherently pathetic and not as awesome as Peter because of his disability.

So guess who dies? Tik Tok. Yes, Tiger Lily's adoptive dad bites it. On insistence from a shipwrecked "Englander," the Sky Eaters force Tik Tok to change his gender presentation and wear men's clothes. He loses his spirit and commits suicide as an instructive object lesson to Tiger Lily about what happens when you try to deny your true self.

Really, Anderson? You're gonna go with the Tragic Dead Queer trope? You realize it's a fucking evil stereotype, right?

...No, apparently you don't. Boy, you really do have shit for brains.
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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?

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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."


Read more... )
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Both organizations piss and moan obsessively about the evils of queer sexuality and trans identities while refusing to recognize the reality: namely, that queer and/or trans people exist within their ranks and that "ACK COOTIES GET IT AWAY!!!" is not a compassionate, acceptable, morally defensible to address these people.

I'm going to talk about the Boy Scouts because I have more experience with them than with Catholics. Sometimes I think that what happens in BSA hierarchy and what happens in local BSA troops are completely different. For example, all my family members involved in BSA describe an enjoyable experience of making friends, playing with their peers, going on adventures and learning fascinating things. I will not claim that everyone's BSA experience is like this, but I will note that, in my admittedly unscientific sample, nobody mentions "pissing and moaning obsessively about the evils of queer sexuality and trans identities" as a primary pursuit.

What is wrong with the BSA leadership? Why are they so pathologically focused on what a very small number of people do with their bodies? Don't they have better things to do, like run the damn organization?
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I don't care if he endorses trans-themed T-shirts designed by a trans guy. He's still a giant cissexist asshole.
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Wow, this temporary free 2-day shipping deal with my Amazon Prime test membership is really liberating me to purchase books that I have long yearned to buy, but never gotten around to. Today's purchases include two books about conjoined twins [Fearfully and Wonderfully Made and The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton], Sex Changes: Transgender Politics and The Development of Imagination [about paracosms!].

I'm quite curious about Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, the story of Millie-Christine McKoy, conjoined twins who were born into slavery in the US in the 1850s and became well-educated entertainers, dying in 1912. They were treated both as one person and as two. For example, their family called them Sister, but also gave them separate names. From what I recall of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, they had a joint sense of self, referring to themselves in the first-person plural. I look forward to finding more about Millie and Christine's concepts of their personhood as I read Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.

Conjoined twins fascinate me. In One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal, Alice Dreger actually touches on two of my interests -- conjoined twins and trans subjects -- by discussing the case of conjoined twin boys who shared a set of genitalia. When they were separated, one boy got the penis and was raised as a boy. The other penisless boy was raised as a girl. I haven't read the book yet, but I'm eager to learn more about these twins, especially since their case addresses both non-consensual separation surgery and non-consensual genital change surgery. [NB: Non-consensual genital change surgery rarely goes well. See David Reimer for details.]

Non-consensual separation surgery and non-consensual genital change surgery both piss me off for the same reason. In both cases, people with abnormal bodies [either conjoined twins or people with ambiguous genitalia] are changed against their will. Guardians and/or medical professionals decide that the conjoined twins and the intersex people must be modified to find societal concepts of personhood. In the case of conjoined twins, they go against our deeply ingrained belief that a single person must have a single body. In the case of intersex people, they go against our deeply ingrained belief that a child's genitals must easily appear to belong to one sex or the other. So we cut them up because we have problems with them, not because they have problems with themselves. We disrespect the autonomy of such people and the self-acceptance that they show in the vast majority of the cases because we get queasy seeing two people share a body or a person possessing ambiguous genitalia. They're not wrong; they have no need to be altered; it's our narrow definitions of personhood that must be changed.
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I came across a text ad on Amazon.com 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.
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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!

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Dan Savage, a gay male advice columnist who writes for the Seattle Stranger, has some cachet among liberals/Democrats/progressives as being queer-friendly, pro-kink and open-minded, but he still has lots of privilege as a thin, white, rich, cis, married, U.S. man. I've collected several criticisms of his advice which should make you think long and hard before calling this columnist helpful, progressive and open-minded. In no particular order...here they are...
Read more... )
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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.
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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!
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The Law and Order: SVU ep “Identity” [season 6, ep 12], summarized earlier, features a bitten penis, gangbanging, homeless women, ID theft, an anti-graffitti task force, a pair of unusually identical twins, a sex therapist, a secret language, possible incest, violent siblings, possible lesbianism, unethical investigation of medical records, non-consensual gender reassignment of a minor, molestation by therapist and, finally, “the perfect crime.” Now that I’ve summarized the plot for you, I’m exhausted. No, seriously, it’s time to examine some of the deleterious assumptions at work in your average SVU ep.

Thesis: SVU pathologizes everything in sight.

Read more... )

 

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I've been watching a lot of Law and Order: SVU lately [enough to realize that the script writers have an unhealthy obsession with prison rape jokes, which they are apparently contractually obligated to shoehorn in once per episode]. Among the many eps that I've watched is "Identity," ep 12 from season 6. I remember enjoying this ep especially because it features a pair of identical twins, of which I am one, as you no doubt know. I also remember this ep for its particularly exploitative and melodramatic plot twists. Heck, this thing has enough melodrama and occurrences for an entire season of a show! Let me summarize for you...

A corpse drops off the top of a building right through the windshield of some guys with blue balls. Stabler, Benson and the ME wonder who the dead chump is. His bling labeled "SCA" seems to be a clue. Also someone bit his penis real hard. DUNT DUNT! Read more... )
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I didn't say it. Stephen Marche says it in Esquire. He thinks that the recent spate of popular vampires represents not, oh, say, dangerous sensuality or suave seductiveness or something, but the desire of straight women to get into bed with gay men. He provides no actual evidence for his claim, other than noting that True Blood's anti-vamp crowd ["God hates fangs!"] sounds a lot like the anti-gay crowd. In fact, not till the end of his blithering ramble does Marche reveal what may be his thesis:

And so vampires have appeared to help America process its newfound acceptance of what so many once thought strange or abnormal. Adam and Steve who live on your corner with their adorable little son and run a bakery? The transgendered man who gave birth to a healthy baby? The teenage girl who wishes that all boys could be vampires? All part of the luscious and terrifying magic of today's sexual revolution.

So a gay couple with a son and a business, as well as a transgendered pregnant man, are both grouped in the same "luscious and terrifying" category as vampires. The gay guys and the trans guy are, according to Marche, categorically similar to cold, dead killers. I think that says more about the author's misogyny, homophobia and transphobia than it does about the attraction that many young straight white teenaged girls feel toward recent vampiric characters. Ugh, what a bigot.
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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. 
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 At Sailor Zeo's instigation, I experimented with the Apollo Maximus fig last night. 
modernwizard: (Default)
 At Sailor Zeo's instigation, I experimented with the Apollo Maximus fig last night. 
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Because I'm reading My Husband Betty again, I went to Helen Boyd's blog, thence to her personal site, where she linked to media appearances. From there I hit upon a clip from All My Children in which the transgender character goes to a transgender support group. Betty is in the clip, which is why the clip was linked from Boyd's site.

I have mixed feelings about the clip. On one hand, I appreciated the presence of all the other support group members, who were transgender activists and authors, appearing under their own names. I think that it's important to show all types of people in media so that all types of people can identify with the media figures. Furthermore, I also think it's important that all types of people be shown not as sicko freaks, but as happy, well-adjusted individuals, which all of the activists appearing under their own names appeared to be.

That being said, the clip really blew my mind because there was such a difference in presentation between the AMC trans woman and the trans activists. The trans activists, if anything, underplayed their roles, with a very matter-of-fact, level tone and no histrionic affectation, which gave the support group scene a very naturalistic air, as if the viewers were eavesdropping. By contrast, the AMC trans woman was a barely coherent pile of melodramatic jelly [behaving like the subject line], in the manner of all soap operatic characters when they are on the edge of something momentous [which they always are]. The acting style of the person who played the AMC trans woman did not fit with the rest of the players in the support group scene, which distracted me to no end.

Perhaps I shouldn't say that the AMC trans woman's character did not fit into the support group scene. After all, the AMC trans woman's character is a soap operatic type, and this is a soap opera. Therefore, with the insertion of an underplayed, naturalistic scene with well-adjusted individuals, the support group scene and the well-adjusted trans activists are the things that do not fit in the soap opera. Soap operas thrive on ostentatious suffering and angst, sad endings, bad turns of events.  I think the goal of trans inclusion is laudable, but it's hard to make trans people look happy, healthy and productive when the TV universe into which they are being introduced makes EVERYONE look miserable, perverted and stunted. So is it really much of a step toward trans understanding, inclusivity and tolerance to turn them into hammily degraded victims, just like almost everyone else in soap operas?
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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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