When (MTV’s) ‘Faking It’ Becomes Reality

MTV has just launched a pilot of a new TV show called ‘Faking It’. Here is the synopsis from MTV’s own website:

‘Faking It’ is a new romantic comedy about two best friends who love each other — in slightly different ways. After numerous failed attempts to become popular, the girls are mistakenly outed as lesbians, which launches them to instant celebrity status. Seduced by their newfound fame, Karma and Amy decide to keep up their romantic ruse.

MTV’s new TV show is about two straight high school girl’s pretending to be lesbians in order to become popular. This is a little more than just problematic. I mean, lesbians are constantly held up on pedestals by their straight peers, right? Being an out and proud queer kid in school totally makes everyone want to be your friend, right?

Let’s ignore the fact that lesbians are constantly mocked by their peers. That teachers often engage in homophobic bullying of queer students. Let’s ignore that fact that out queer women, especially those who are gender non-conforming, are more likely to be harassed and face harsh disciplinary treatment from faculty. Let’s ignore the high suicide rates of LGBT teens, which is AT MINIMUM four times higher than that of their straight counterparts.

Of course we can ignore the fact that corrective rape is a severe problem in our society that believes that most lesbians just need the ‘right man’ to show them the way? Let’s ignore the fact that there is a heavy stereotype that lesbians and bisexual women are just acting out a fantasy for the gaze of straight men. In fact, let’s just take this stereotype that actively damages queer women, leads them to be raped and sexually assaulted to ‘turn them straight’ and make it into a TV show! Sounds like a wonderful idea!

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When Clicks Mean More Than Violence

“Is the T Word the New N Word?”, is an op-ed that recently was published on the Advocate. Written by Parker Molloy (but not titled by her), the piece sheds some light on the current debate that has the trans community (specifically trans women) and the cis male drag community butting heads. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion over who can and cannot use the t-slur and the word sh*male. In the center of this all, is Parker Molloy and her continuous critique of the gay cis male drag community through shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and RuPaul himself (a cis gay male drag queen). This discussion has sparked op-ed after op-ed from trans women, drag queens, and everyone else under the sun it seems.

The title of the article sparked a public outcry across social media from Black people, cis and trans, straight and not. This is something the Advocate has done before, with an inappropriately named piece, “Gay is the New Black”. This is a common issue in the queer community, comparing the struggle for queer rights to the struggle that Black Americans faced during the Civil Rights movement. The ‘new’ Civil Rights movement is often used to describe the push for queer recognition. New, new, new. However, that implies that there is an old. It implies that queer people of color have their rights and their only struggles are being queer.

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You Mean Laugh AT Us

“You need to learn to laugh at yourself” is something I’ve often heard. It’s true. We need to laugh at ourselves. When people who have oppressed trans women for decades, erased them from the very riots they started, deny their existence, and even helped passed legislation against them, tell these same people to ‘laugh’ they are saying, “let us laugh at you, your lives, your identities. Let us laugh at your suffering, your pain, your dehumanization, and your objectification!” Not so funny now, is it?

When people defend the use of slurs, by telling those affected to just laugh, this is what they are saying. The use of slurs is funny! The pain, the assault, the murder, the rape, the dehumanization, it’s all hilarious! Comedy based on the age old trope that you can tell a trans woman from a cis woman because they are obviously male is hilarious! Who cares if it is not only fake, but run into the ground! Everyone loves beating dead unicorns!

This is not an issue that is just present in drag either. This isn’t and issue contained to RuPaul and his supporters/defenders (who are being rightfully called out). This is an issue that is deeply ingrained in the idea that jokes suddenly make everything ok. They erase the history and power of words, under the guise of humor. Suddenly these realities do not exist because the joke totally isn’t funny only because these ideas are rooted as truths! …Right?

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Gaming Culture and Safe Spaces

As of Tuesday, April 8th, the trans- prefix has been uncensored! We did it! I am continuing to work with Blizzard as they are also overlooking how they deal with issues like this in the future. For more on that, please see the coverage over on Ars Technica.

Diablo III’s most recent patch allows for the creation of clans. As someone who created several trans gaming groups, my girlfriend (Olivia Quin) and I thought this would be a wonderful time to create a trans gaming clan on Diablo III. There was already as Gaymers clan, why would there be an issue for a trans-related gaming clan? We were wrong. So very wrong.

It turns out that the prefix trans- or tran- is banned. I can understand that tran- would be banned to prevent people from creating groups using t****y, but why not just ban that slur and several variations for it? That should be enough, correct? Apparently not. Anything involving the prefix trans- is forbidden in clan creation. This means that clans with involving non-trasnsgender are also banned as well such as transformers, transdimensional, transcend, and any of the words beginning with the extremely common trans- prefix.

So, I contacted Diablo III support. I had to do it in a slightly roundabout way. This is the exact message I sent to them:

Hello!

I am contacting you in regards to creating clans in the newest Diablo III patch. I am trying to make a clan for transgender and gender non-conforming individuals who would like to play the game together in a relatively safe space of like identified individuals. However, I have come to find out that the prefix trans is banned in clan creation! I understand this is to prevent people from creating offensive clans, but it is doing just the opposite. You allow the word gay as a prefix for clans, as there is a Gaymers clan, yet do not allow the same for transgender individuals. In fact, this forbids words such as transdimensional and so forth. The word gay has much more room for offensive and harmful clan names than trans does and deletes the possibility of safe spaces for transgender people to get together and enjoy your games. This creates a harmful environment for people like myself who wish you play your game and know that I will be a respected member of my clan, regardless of my gender identity, presentation, how my voice sounds over Vent/Skype, and so on. This sends a message that gay people are allowed to create their own clans and freely interact on your servers, but trans people are not. Please reconsider your ban of the prefix trans- and thus banning all transgender related clans and groups.

Thank you for your time.

I was told to post something on the forums as that was the best way to contact the developers. As someone who knew nothing of the Blizzard forums, I did just that, adding in this statement as well:

Banning the prefix trans while allowing the word gay sends a message. You can be an openly gay gamer, but you cannot be openly trans. They allow for clans to be created around being gay, such as the Gaymers clan, but will not allow a similar TransGamers clan (which is what was trying to be created). This creates an environment that allows for people to be openly gay, but not openly trans, and requires people to create codewords, and in community buzzwords to create a similar clan for a similar experience, gaming with people who share the same identity and will respect you for who you are. Blizzard is sending a very poor message to the trans gaming community by not allowing people to create safe clan experiences for themselves while allowing others to do that with words which can be used in a much more harmful sense (such as gay).

This seems pretty straight forward. There are no negative drawbacks to unbanning the prefix trans- and allows for people to create safe spaces for like-minded trans gamers and their allies, friends, partners, and so forth. The unbanning of the trans- prefix would allow people to also create a variety of non-transgender related clans in the game. The filter system was already pretty disliked by the Blizzard community due to how strict is can be, why would something this small be seen as anything but positive?

I was wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.

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The Myth of Slacktivism

A ‘slacktivist’ is someone who chooses to do all or most of their activist work through online mediums such as Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and so on. These people are often disregarded as lesser and lazy activists when compared to those who are able to do activism work offline. For example, UrbanDictionary.com defines slacktivism as, “The act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem”. The example given is people signing online petitions as opposed to getting involved in neighborhood watches or other offline activities. The concept of ‘slacktivism’ and that people who focus their ideas online are ‘slacktivists’ is extremely problematic and downplays the importance and reach of online activism.

The idea of slacktivism is rooted in ableism. Not everyone has the ability to mentally or physically engage in activism offline. For example, someone who has to deal with social anxiety may not be able to attend marches or large gatherings. Someone who suffers from a pain disorder may not be able to walk in marches or stand for long periods of time. Implying that people who participate in online activism are inherently lazy, ignores the fact that some of these people may not be able to physically attend activist events, no matter how much they want to. These people do important work in the ways they can, such as online work that is so quickly discredited without thinking about the reasons someone may not be able to attend or do offline work.

The idea of slackitvism is also classist. I live in an area with no public transportation. There is no way for me to attend many meetings, marches, and so one without a ride. The idea that people who participate in online activism have the means to travel or to take time off of work in order to participate in offline work is classist. For example, people may not be able to take off work in order to attend offline events and thus may spend valuable and limited free time doing online work. For people in areas with limited resources, the closest areas that have a large enough resource pool may be hours away. These people may not have the resources in order to set up their own grassroots organizations or the money and time to travel and thus, resort to online activism in order to be a part of events and causes they feel are important to them.

 

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Speak Out, Act Up

“Just ignore them, they will stop”, “Don’t give them attention”, “They’re wrong. People won’t believe that stuff”, are a few of the things I hear when someone in the media does something to spread misinformation about a group I happen to be associated with. Why do we tell each other to ignore this? Why are we forced to ignore potentially harmful information?

I have a feeling it plays into the idea that we most be a model at all times. We must always be on our best behavior and that we must always play the game with a smile and a nod. Yes, we see you being problematic, but don’t worry, we wouldn’t dare call you out in case we lose an ally! This is of course, extremely harmful, dangerous, and can be potentially deadly.

Take for example one of the most recent the Regular Guys show on Atlanta 1005FM. They had a caller call in about Karen Adell Scot, a teacher who recently came out as a transgender woman and will be attending classes from now on as the woman she is. They took this segment to pull the “think about the children” card as well as repeatedly call her transmisogynistic slurs, and violently misgender her.

This comes not too long after the one year anniversary of Lucy Meadows, another trans teacher who was harassed by the Daily Mail and other media outlets to the point she committed suicide. A year after, we are experiencing the same issues of misgendering, transmisogyny, transphobia, and blatant disrespect for the mental well being of another human.

 

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Not A Performance: Jared Leto and the Media

(Warning: Dallas Buyers Club spoilers)

So, Jared Leto won an Oscar for his portrayal of Rayon, a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club. A cis man won an award for portraying (poorly) a trans woman in a movie. This almost writes itself like a joke, waiting for a punchline. Sadly, the punchline is all too common, trans narratives being over written by cis voices. In fact, Rayon’s character was originally written as a drag queen. The director and Leto decided to change Rayon to a trans woman….without changing any of the script. Rayon’s character is not based on any real person. She is an entirely fictionalized representation meant to bring pity from the main character, Ron, as well as drive his character development.

This is interesting, because Leto refuses to acknowledge the character he played, the fact he portrayed a woman. When confronted with his transmisogyny he spoke of “the Rayons in the world”. He did not speak of trans women. Even in his Oscar acceptance speech, he mentioned Ukraine. No where did he ever mention the type of very REAL people he was portraying in the movie. To Leto and the director, Rayon was just a character, an act. To them, there are not real women in the world like Rayon.

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Southern Poverty Law Center: TERFs are a hate group

Recently a petition was posted online on Change.org asking for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to list Gender Identity Watch as a hate group. For those who are unfamiliar, the SPLC lists active hate groups across the United States as well as tracks hate movements. Gender Identity Watch is a website owned and run by Cathy Brennan, and other notorious TERFs. This site, along with several others, posts trans women along side rapists and murders. Writer note: I do not link to GIW and so on because they IP log in order to harass and stalk.

The SPLC responded to the petition, signed by over 7,000 people, saying they were unable to list Gender Identity Watch as a hate group because it fails to match their definition of a group. While a shaky response, it is the response that was suspected, considering that the owner of the group, Cathy Brennan, has been used as a source for the SPLC before. This response falls a part under critical evaluation for several reasons, one including the fact that Gender Identity Watch is a part of a much larger group of websites (such as Pretendbians) that actively attack trans* people, especially trans women. Also, the website is also just a poster child for an even bigger problem within the community, something that creates these websites and vicious trans*phobia, transmisogyny, and cissexism, Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs).

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Misgendering is Violence

Violence. The act of intentionally causing harm to someone. Violence exists in all kinds of forms, not just physical violence. Violence can be enacted against a person with words. It can be enacted against the very psyche and being of someone without ever laying a hand on them. This is the type of violence that happens when someone intentionally misgenders a trans* person. The act of intentionally misgendering a trans* person is enacting violence upon them. Misgendering is an act of malice when done intentionally. It is meant to attack the very being of a person, their very identity and soul.

What is the first thing someone does when they intend to harm a trans* person? They usually do not quietly pick up arms and physically attack. No, they first deconstruct the very person they are attacking. They misgender, ungender, and dehumanize the victim. They use slurs. What happens when people cannot physically assault a person? They yell slurs and misgender/ungender. When people wish to attack trans* people, even on the most basic level, the first thing these people resort to is intentional misgendering. This is violence. This is an attack onto a person because this is one of the worst things they can do, deconstruct and erase their identity. Even the media jumps on this bandwagon of violence. Since they cannot get to us, they attack us with words.

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Media’s Giant (Trans) Exploitation Problem

“Focus on the science, not the scientist.” That is what Caleb Hannan promised Dr. V when interviewing her about her golf putter. However, during his research for his piece, Hannan found out that Dr. V happened to be trans*. Upon this discovery, Hannan broke his promise to his client and proceeded to write a piece, focusing on Dr. V’s past, her trans* status, misgendering her, and outing her to her investors. Due to this, Dr V committed suicide. Despite this tragedy, the piece still went up.

A piece littered with misgendering, focusing on her history as a trans woman, and painting Hannan in the light of some detective uncovering the Watergate of this century. Why? Because the woman he was writing about happened to have a different birth assignment than the one he assumed? He broke the trust and privacy of the person he was writing about for a profit. His story about a golf putter suddenly became one of lies and deceit in his eyes. Why? What does the assigned gender of a person have anything to do with golf? Was this story about her overcoming misogyny? Was this a story of intelligence beating out bigotry? It was not. This was supposed to be a story about the science behind the golf putter Dr. V invented.

Forget “focus on the science” that he promised this woman. She was no more, so to the wind that went. The entire piece became about the scientist, that Hannan had killed with his own hands. This man even had the gall to call a piece full of misgendering, pointless back story, and broken promises a eulogy. Last time I checked, a eulogy was not the cause of death. He even went as far as to brag on Twitter about the “strangest story” he has ever written. Are eulogies supposed to be strange? Or are they supposed to highlight the triumphs, life, and positives of a person’s life? Hannan is directly responsible for the death of a woman. So, what will happen?

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Buck Angel And Transgasm: The Issues

I was going to keep quiet on this for a bit, let this issue sort itself out. However, after personally dealing with and now seeing legal threats, I can’t keep my yap shut. Buck Angel’s racist, classist, transmisogynistic and sexist history is out in the open already. It is not any news to many people that Buck Angel blames trans women for their own murders via not disclosing. He used to believe that trans men should just ‘man up’ when it comes to affording surgery. He looked down upon people who asked others to help them with their surgery funds.

However, Buck seems to have changed his tune on that one. In fact, him and Jody Rose, started Transgasm which despite the name, was not about porn, sex or orgasms. Transgasm was about crowd sourcing to raise money for trans* people and their surgeries. It looks at taking the works of trans* people, selling them in the Transgasm store and dividing the profits. 50% of the profits would go to the creator of the product, 25% would go to the group pool for the surgeries, and 25% would go to keeping Transgasm around.

In reality, it seems like a pretty ok idea. The limit was 7 people with no time frame. Now, depending on the make-up of the group, and estimates the lowest range would be 7 CAFAB people sourcing for top surgery. Estimates for the surgery alone are around $6,000, meaning that $42,000 would be needed to be raised. However, in essence even MORE would have to be raised, since minimum, only 25% of profits is going towards the surgeries. The idea behind this is that these people would market their own products or services in order to fund their surgeries.  This article on the Advocate, written by Parker Marie Molloy explains the breakdown of the site, its intentions and one of the biggest issues.

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Remembering ALL Our Dead: Transgender Day of Remembrance

Trigger Warning: Violence, assault, murder, suicide, racism, trans*phobia, transmisogyny

Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) is not without its issues. In fact, TDoR has some pretty big issues. Most of the murders of trans* people are trans women and trans feminine people of color, however, there seems to be a lack of discussion on race and how it impacts the lives of these women. There is no doubt this is not just an issue in theory, but in practice. While there have been women of color speakers at the TDoR events I have been to, they are always run by white trans* people. Clearly the event needs to be broadened and run by trans women of color.

There is another aspect that TDoR ignores. While their website chronicles the reported murders of trans* people across the world at the hands of others. This means that a large number of trans* murders are still undocumented as well due to incorrect reporting, unknown identity, undiscovered bodies, and so on. However, it does not report on the murders at the hands of the trans* people themselves. Trans* people murdered by the idea that society does not want them. Trans* people murdered by the idea that they are not worthy of life. Trans* people murdered by the fact they must face every day in a world that wishes them dead.

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