Saturday, March 1, 2014

March 1. 2014

I’ve had a jumbled, angry, sad, frustrated article running around in my head ever since the Piers Morgan-Janet Mock interview. Technically, it started as only jumbled and frustrated after the Katie Couric-Laverne Cox-Carmen Carrera interview, but evolved – or perhaps devolved – after the Morgan interview. Every time I sat down to write it, to form some kind of articulate thought, I’d only get so far before it digressed back into incoherent noise. So stick with me, Poppets, while I deconstruct a few thoughts.

First, in my happy, rose-colored world, we wouldn’t be talking about transgendered men and women at all. We’d talk about men and women, period. What their bodies looked like at birth would be irrelevant. Hell, what their bodies look like now would be irrelevant. Who they are is what would matter. The very fact that we have to have trans-activists, and interviews with trans-activists, in the 21st century is appalling. But I also believe people of color are actually equal to white people; that women should be paid the same amount for doing the same job; and that LGBTQ people should be able to live their lives with the same rights and protections as straight, cis folks. So yeah…my happy, rose-colored world doesn’t exist and I get that. Fine, we still need interviews with transgendered activists.

But what made either of these respected journalists think these interviews were appropriate? I understand an opportunity to educate. In fact, as someone who lives outside of the gender binary, I appreciate an opportunity to educate. But there is so much more that needs to be explained than what these women’s genitals look like. And making blanket statements that they were born men, or used to be boys, completely disregards the entire point of gender – that it doesn’t necessarily align with our sex and just because our bodies are male or female doesn’t mean we were ever that gender.

Still, grudgingly and with reluctance, I can forgive the intrusive questions. Transactivism on this mainstream level is a relatively new thing. Here’s what I cannot forgive – the utter bullshit that followed after the interviews. First, Katie Couric got called out and, instead of expressing remorse or even simple understanding that she had mis-stepped, she talked about “teachable moments.” Great. Let’s teach then. Let’s teach about the violence and discrimination that face transgendered men and women every day. Let’s teach about the struggles for acceptance within the LGBTQ community and the straight, cis community. Let’s teach about states where the laws don’t protect transgendered people’s basic human rights, and often explicitly take them away. Those are the important teachable moments, not what someone’s genitalia looks like.

Then there was Piers Morgan, who managed to double down, not once, but twice. First, he offered up one of those faux-ally moments, giving an interview to Janet Mock because he’s an ally – while throwing her under the bus for sensationalism-driven ratings. Then, he brought her back to further the conversation, but instead of actually listening to her and trying to understand where he’d gone wrong, got defensive and angry that she hadn’t kissed his ass for being willing to have her on the show in the first place. And finally, to cap it all off, he brought a bunch of cis-gendered people on to explain why he’d been offensive. Instead of, you know, learning it from the woman he’d offended. With friends like this, Poppets…

And don’t for a moment believe that race didn’t intersect in these two situations. White people believe themselves to have rights to black bodies, black spaces, especially those of black women. And when you look at Laverne Cox, Carmen Carrera, and Janet Mock, you see black women. If one is a white person, as Piers Morgan and Katie Couric are, one’s socialization kicks in and says they are fair game. At that point, Morgan and Couric had two options: they could give into that socialization, or they could fight it. We know which they chose.

But it kept coming. For every voice on social media and in comments online and forums speaking out against the offensive questions, there were more shouting them down. Telling the people who came out in favor – truly in favor – of the three women being interviewed to sit down, shut up, be grateful for national exposure, accept breadcrumbs, even if they were tainted. And it wasn’t just the straight, cis folks doing the shouting. It was us, too. It shouldn’t have been – and it was.

The “LGBTQ community.” That’s how we refer to ourselves, Poppets – “community.” And community is a powerful thing. Only it’s easy to forget the “T” part of our community. It’s easy to forget these men and women aren’t drag queens, or caricatures, or circus performers, but are people. People who aren’t here just to entertain or educate us. People who are supposed to belong in our circles. Who are supposed to be able to trust we’ll have their backs, even when the straight, cis community doesn’t. Because that’s what “community” means. At least, that’s what it’s supposed to mean, and what I hope it can mean.

Until next month, Poppets, take care of you – and each other.

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