I’ve decided to try to be relevant and cash in some up to date page hits on my blog. So let me just weigh in on this issue so that I can promote myself shamelessly.
What? Is being transparent about my intentions that shocking?
So about a week ago, C☆NDY magazine released a cover that featured members of the transwoman community being PHAT. You know, Pretty Hot and Tempting.
Let me be perfectly frank. I would do each and every one of these ladies. Yes, that is gross, disgusting, and objectifying. But then, that’s how sexual attraction works. Fine, I’ll throw in some cuddling and sweet conversations about puppies at the end of the fantasy. Happy now?
Probably not. Because a lot of people already aren’t.
This article of course showed up on Advocate.com, critiquing it as being heteronormative (meaning straight acting), objectifying, reinforcing beauty standards, and not real activism.
Then this article showed up critiquing the critique as an attack on transgender women of color.
Of course my natural response to this is:
Well, since my twitter account is at about 400 followers, that means that I am hereby required by Internet Participant by-Law 34…wait, 86…to participate. Don’t look up rule 34, especially if you’re a fan of My Little Pony. Just don’t. Your childhood will thank you.
You looked up Rule 34 didn’t you? I warned you. You have no one to blame but yourself.
Well, now that you’ve washed your brain out with bleach, let me get on with this. Firstly, yes, the cover is reinforcing standards of beauty…it’s a fucking fashion magazine. If they got the frumpiest, soup sandwiched looking transgirl in the world for the cover, they would have spackled her with some MAC make-up, strapped on some steel belted Spanx, and sewed the the Johnny Choo’s onto her feet, and then pulled some fucking Industrial Light and Magic level photoshop to make her look like Kim Kardashian. Hell, Kim Kardashian doesn’t even look like Kim Kardashian most of the time.
But seriously. That’s a fashion magazine for ya. Still not getting it? Fine.
Both of those are Tina Fey. One is her in an airport, the other is…you guessed it A MAGAZINE COVER! You see that’s how it works. They glam you up to sell shit. Because sexy works. Now, we all know Tina Fey has done a lot for women in the entertainment industry, has made some brilliant satire of cultural expectations of women’s beauty and femininity, but there she is, all gussied up like a call girl from 1953. Still, I’m sure someone is still angry.
Now, look. Some of the criticism is valid. I get it. Yes, all of the women on the Candy cover are traditionally beautiful women. But to say they aren’t activists is about damn stupid. Just because they aren’t all testifying before Congress about ENDA, giving highly paid lectures at universities, or have been kicked off of every mainstream website because they pissed off the editors, doesn’t mean they aren’t activists. Do you think marching in the streets and chanting with signs is the only way to be an activist? You ever hear this story before?
Dr. King, I wish I could be out there marching with you. He said, no, no, no. No, you don’t understand. We don’t need you on the – to march. You are marching. You are reflecting what we are fighting for. So, I said to him, thank you so much. And I’m going to miss my co-stars.
And his face got very, very serious. And he said, what are you talking about? And I said, well, I told Gene just yesterday that I’m going to leave the show after the first year because I’ve been offered – and he stopped me and said: You cannot do that. And I was stunned. He said, don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen. He says, do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch. I was speechless.
That’s Nichelle Nichols talking about playing Lt. Uhura on Star Trek. Martin Luther King, the go to guy when talking about activism in America, straight up said it to her. “Your being on t.v., putting out a positive role model and image does just as much for us as marching on Selma does.” You see…he got it.
Hell, this scene in The Heat of the Night did more for black actors in Hollywood than the invention of the camera:
In a media driven society, the images of our communities are the first ones people get. You know how many people I deal with, who have never met a trans person in real life before me? Lot’s. Lot’s and lots. Of course, where does their usual image of trans people come from? If you guessed popular media, you guessed correctly! Because I totally set that one up for you…. But you do realize that the old image of transwomen in the media was basically this: crazy hookers, crazy killers, crazy drag queen hooker killers, and drag killer hooker queens. That’s pretty much it. I think probably the most positive media portrayal had to have been this:
Yeah. John Lithgow in a wig. It was that or the Crying Game for the first 70 years of trans media exposure. Now you have Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, Carmen Carerra, and those other women in that photo. Seriously folks. There were like seven other people on that cover. Give them some love too.
But honestly. When Laverne Cox gets on t.v. and makes us seem like deep, intricate people with her character on OitNB; when Janet Mock gets on t.v. and tells some reporter, “You know, there is like this whole person here that is wrapped around that vagina you keep focusing on. I’m right here.” They’re doing activism.
Honestly, most activism is stuff OTHER than writing spiteful Tumblers, and yelling at guest speakers on campus. Activism is sitting down to talk to the head of H.R. about why they should cover hormone treatment, it’s talking to your co-workers about what to expect, it’s correcting accidental misgendering in casual conversation, things like that. I have a friend who works in women’s reproductive health, and she will tell you bluntly, that the screamy-shouty activists do less for supporting her organization than the ones going around with a clip board collecting signatures. Activism comes in all forms. Additionally, it ignores all the times these people have given lectures, written articles, spoken at meetings, and performed “mainstream” activism.
Now I’ll be honest. I would like to start seeing less “Mainstream Beauty” trans celebrities. I want a dreadlocked and nose pierced black transwoman on tv. I want to see a well….dreadlocked and nose pierced white transwoman on tv. Okay fine, I like chicks with dreadlocks and nose piercings. But you get my point; I want to see a greater diversity of body, personality, and culture type be presented. Yet, I’m not going to shit on what I got. If I want to see a transwoman who hates to wear lipstick, thinks Converse are the pinnacle of fashion, and is more about talking history books and dick jokes than clothes and glamour, then it’s on ME to get that person out there. Me. I’m talking about me. I want to be a famous comedian and I really like my Chucks.
As for the racial aspect. Shit. Look, I don’t care who’s speaking for me as long as they are doing a good job of it. They could be a handicapped albino transwoman. I’m not going to steal anyone’s thunder. Transwomen of color have a double whammy of having the uphill fight of being trans on TOP of the issues of being a racial minority. There’s so much bullshit there I wouldn’t know where to start shoveling. Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, and all those other transwomen of color are doing a damn fine job of representing me as a person, so I’m not going to bitch about the job they are doing.