WBEZ | transgender http://www.wbez.org/tags/transgender Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Transgender teenager named Prom Queen http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/transgender-teenager-named-prom-queen-111411 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/StoryCorps 150116 Reyna Ortiz A bh.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When he was 12, Ray Ortiz packed a blue duffel bag and prepared to leave home forever.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s just no way in hell that I&rsquo;m going to live a life that I&rsquo;m not happy with,&rdquo; Ortiz remembers thinking.</p><p>&ldquo;At the time I didn&rsquo;t know what transgender was,&rdquo; Ortiz says in this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps. Kids at school called him &ldquo;Gay Ray,&rdquo; so he assumed that he was gay.</p><p>He wrote his mom a letter saying &ldquo;not only was I gay, but that I wanted to be a girl.&rdquo;<br />She was supportive and gradually Ray transitioned to living life as a female, going by the name Reyna and using female pronouns. &ldquo;I just made a mental decision like: I&rsquo;m going to do what I want. And I don&rsquo;t care what anybody else has to say.&rdquo;</p><p>Ortiz has three brothers, one older and two younger. And they provided a lot of support when it came time for her to attend Morton East High School in Cicero.</p><p>Other students were &ldquo;horrendous,&rdquo; Reyna said. She told her older brother and she says he went to her high school, into her classroom and confronted her bully. She says kids never bothered her again.</p><p>Ortiz became friends with the most beautiful girls in school. &ldquo;And they were willing to fight and slap somebody if they disrespected me,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;But eventually people just got used to me. By my junior year, I can honestly say, I ruled that school.&rdquo;</p><p>Emmanuel&nbsp;Garcia was a sophomore at Morton East when Ortiz was a senior. Garcia was struggling to come to terms with his identity as a gay Latino man. &ldquo;Seeing someone who was so open and out with their gender identity, it was intimidating,&rdquo; Garcia said in an interview recently. &ldquo;She carried herself so fearlessly.&rdquo;</p><p>During Reyna&rsquo;s senior year, she was nominated for Prom Queen. She went without a date, and sat by herself when the court was announced.</p><p>Then, they announced the winner: &ldquo;&rsquo;And the winner of Prom Queen of 1998 - Ray Ortiz.&rsquo; And I just remember everybody coming to the stage. When I turned around it was just flashing lights and paparazzi. Pictures everywhere and people applauding.&ldquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We always hear that the Latino community is full of machismo and we never hear about a community embracing their own,&rdquo; Garcia said. &ldquo;To have this person kind of pioneer sexuality and gender identity in 1998 was unheard of.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 16 Jan 2015 08:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/transgender-teenager-named-prom-queen-111411 US announces protections for transgender workers http://www.wbez.org/news/us-announces-protections-transgender-workers-111265 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flag.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &nbsp;&mdash; The Justice Department is now interpreting federal law to explicitly prohibit workplace discrimination against transgender people, according to a memo released Thursday by Attorney General Eric Holder.</p><p>That means the Justice Department will be able to bring legal claims on behalf of people who say they&#39;ve been discriminated against by state and local public employers based on sex identity. In defending lawsuits, the federal government also will no longer take the position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bans sex discrimination, does not protect against workplace discrimination on the basis of gender status.</p><p>The memo released Thursday is part of a broader Obama administration effort to afford workplace protection for transgender employees. In July, President Barack Obama ordered employment protection for gay and transgender employees who work for the U.S. government or for companies holding federal contracts.</p><p>The new position is a reversal in position for the Justice Department, which in 2006 stated that Title VII did not cover discrimination based on transgender status.</p><p>&quot;The federal government&#39;s approach to this issue has also evolved over time,&quot; Holder wrote in the memo, saying his position was based on the &quot;most straightforward reading&quot; of the law.</p><p>The memo covers all components of the Justice Department as well as all U.S. Attorneys&#39; offices. The Justice Department does not have authority to sue private employers, and the new memo does not affect that.</p></p> Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/us-announces-protections-transgender-workers-111265 Billboards demand respect for transgender women http://www.wbez.org/news/billboards-demand-respect-transgender-women-110535 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/transgender_140722_nm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Ten billboards targeting misperceptions about transgender women are up on the South and West Sides of Chicago.</p><p>A pair of anonymous high-heel clad legs is paired with this message: &ldquo;She&rsquo;s just walking, not working. Respect transgender women.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think the biggest stigma is that trans are street workers,&rdquo; said Danielle Love, a peer outreach educator for <a href="http://www.chicagohouse.org/?post_causes=translife-center">TransLife</a>, a program of Chicago House. The nonprofit advocates for the transgender community and is behind the billboards.</p><p>&ldquo;My own personal story to tie into that is just 15 years of if I&rsquo;m walking to a store and I get stopped by the police and they say what are you doing? Where are you going. Why are you out here?&rdquo; Love said. &ldquo;Just by those questions and the fact I was pulled over, that already says right there a lot.&rdquo;</p><p>The intent of the campaign, which kicked off in July, is to blanket areas where there are fewer resources for transgender women who face many societal and health barriers. Soon posters will go in doctor&rsquo;s offices and health clinics. <a href="http://firebellydesign.com/">Firebelly Design</a> did the billboards pro bono.</p><p>Lex Lawson, housing manager of the TransLife Center, acknowledges some transgender women engage in sex work.</p><p>&ldquo;That is work and that&rsquo;s valid work. It&rsquo;s survival. There&rsquo;s no shame in that. This is more to say that that&rsquo;s not the only thing trans women are. They are more than sex workers and if they are, we need to examine why people feel that&rsquo;s the only option they have,&rdquo; Lawson said.</p><p>It&rsquo;s hard to quantify the local transgender community in Chicago. But Chicago House encounters individuals who have difficulty accessing housing and employment. <a href="http://www.thetaskforce.org/downloads/reports/fact_sheets/transsurvey_prelim_findings.pdf">National research</a> from a few years ago found widespread discrimination against transgender people.</p><p>&ldquo;All we want are equal rights as everyone else. We are employable. We are your neighbors,&rdquo; Love said.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" rel="author">Natalie Moore</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter. <a href="mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a> Follow Natalie on <a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" rel="me">Google+</a>, &nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore">Twitter</a></em></p></p> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/billboards-demand-respect-transgender-women-110535 Transgender community struggles to find its place in modern India http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-07-18/transgender-community-struggles-find-its-place-modern-india-110525 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/real pic for web siri.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><br />The Mahabharatha, one of India&rsquo;s most ancient texts, tells tales of gods and demons, of kings and queens, and of common men and women. The epic story takes place over hundreds of years and serves as the foundation for Hinduism. The most popular stories are of Lord Vishnu or Arjun, passed on in Indian households from generation to generation in songs or bedtime stories. But the less talked about characters are Mohini and Brihannala &ndash; who are versions of Lord Vishnu and Arjun in female form.<br /><br />Stories idolizing transgender characters are not uncommon in Hindu mythology, nor were transgender people uncommon in ancient Indian society. Eunuchs, transgender people and cross-dressers were referred to as Hijra &ndash; an Urdu-Hindustani word adopted into modern Hindi. They were hired regularly to guard queen&rsquo;s chambers or assist priests in temples, both highly respected positions.<br /><br />Today&rsquo;s transgender community live in a very different reality.<br /><br />Hundreds of years of imperialist British rule have left imprints of colonial-era puritanical values within, what was, a vastly accepting society. Traditional Indian culture was seen as primitive and soft in contrast to the rational and masculine tradition of the western world. Educated Indians began distancing themselves from customs perceived as effeminate or traditional, so as to assimilate with the British elite. This is when the Hijra first became marginalized and ostracized from the rest of Indian society. &nbsp;<br /><br />Furthermore, the British imposed an anti-sodomy law in 1861 which outlawed all acts of &ldquo;unnatural intercourse,&rdquo; thus criminalizing the Hijra community entirely. &nbsp;Today, the Hijra community find themselves on the margins of society, often living in precarious circumstances and vulnerable to abuse.</p><p><strong>A very different reality&nbsp;</strong></p><p>&quot;The amount of discrimination you face because of your gender and sexuality and because of your caste and class&hellip; that&rsquo;s the matter,&quot; says Akkai Padmashali, a Hijra born in Bangalore. &quot;We&#39;re fighting against this attitude with society every day.&quot;<br /><br />Despite being born into an educated, middle class family, Akkai found that her family reacted with anger and revulsion to her decision to identify as a girl, having been born biologically male. At the age of sixteen she ran away with two of her friends and joined a community of Hijras. Barred from most other professions, the Hijras often earn money from sex work. Akkai was one of them.&nbsp;<br /><br />&quot;I didn&#39;t want to do sex work. It was pressure. I had to earn money so I did it,&quot; says Akkai. &quot;Men. Homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, they all came to us for sex work. They don&#39;t do these things with their wives or their partners so they come to us.&quot;<br /><br />The Bangalore police picked up Akkai and several of her Hijra sisters while they were participating in sex work. &quot;We were taken to the police station. The whole station wanted to know how we had sex, what sort of sexual acts we indulged in. They kept us for the whole day and made fun of us&hellip; the whole station.&quot;<br /><br />In joining the Hijra community, Akkai had lost her value from mainstream society - becoming, in effect, a non-person. If clients were abusive, there was no one to help. Even the police were against her.</p><p>BT Venkatesh is the senior legal advocate for Sangama, a human rights organization for sexual minorities. &quot;Most Hijras do sex work because there is no other work for them,&quot; he says. &quot;They are pushed into that by society and society should accept them.&quot;<br /><br />&quot;In some areas, the Hijras are arrested, beaten, raped, kept illegally in the police station and no one is willing to be a surety for bail. It is a very bad scene. But in Bangalore, Sangama will come to the police station and prosecute them for unconstitutional behavior,&quot; she says.<br /><br />&quot;If the police is [sic] beating me, I will take the beatings,&quot; says Akkai. &quot;I will not turn around and beat him. Then go according to the law, if you die, you die. But we follow the constitutional laws.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div id="PictoBrowser140718161254">Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer</div><script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser/swfobject.js"></script><script type="text/javascript"> var so = new SWFObject("http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser.swf", "PictoBrowser", "500", "500", "8", "#EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("source", "sets"); so.addVariable("names", "Koovagam Festival"); so.addVariable("userName", "chicagopublicmedia"); so.addVariable("userId", "33876038@N00"); so.addVariable("ids", "72157645752438001"); so.addVariable("titles", "on"); so.addVariable("displayNotes", "on"); so.addVariable("thumbAutoHide", "off"); so.addVariable("imageSize", "medium"); so.addVariable("vAlign", "mid"); so.addVariable("vertOffset", "0"); so.addVariable("colorHexVar", "EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("initialScale", "off"); so.addVariable("bgAlpha", "90"); so.write("PictoBrowser140718161254"); </script><br /><p>On April 15th, 2014, the Indian Supreme Court passed a landmark judgment, which now permits transgender people to legally identify themselves under a &ldquo;third gender&rdquo; option. In India there are an estimated two million transgender people who, until now, have been unable to obtain official government documents due to exclusion from the legal system. In the past, a hospital could turn away a Hijra due to confusion over which ward to place them in.<br /><br />Under this ruling, transgender individuals may legally register for health care, bank accounts and passports. In addition, they now fall under a protected group called the OBCs, or Other Backwards Castes, who are extended a 37% reservation for government positions.&nbsp;<br /><br />Barathi K is a Hijra from the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. She says that the ruling is the first step towards acceptance from society.&nbsp;&ldquo;The first problem that we are facing is that the family is not accepting us. That will automatically be eradicated after we get job opportunities, economically some growth will come, slowly acceptance will come.<br />Society will also start to respect us once we get opportunities for employment&hellip; so that will happen once we mingle with our family. And that will happen because of the Supreme Court judgment. So really, really we are happy.&rdquo;<br /><br />After four years of sex work, Akkai decided it was time to rejoin her family. With the help of her younger brother, Akkai was able to negotiate a way back. &quot;I fought in a very positive sort of fight,&quot; she says. &quot;I am this. I just want to be what I am. Just to have my own feelings. That kind of debate was taking place for eight years.&quot;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>For higher caste families, Akkai imagines the struggle is even more difficult as those castes can often be more conservative. &quot;Just imagine if you&#39;re [the highest caste] and become homosexual and you come out, how does your caste treat you? The community will put you out of your caste. Same with transgenderism. People don&#39;t [compromise] with that, they&#39;ll always judge you.&quot;</p><p>BT Venkatesh has been going door to door and working with families by encouraging them to accept family members who are part of the hijra community. &nbsp;He says he also wants to see &nbsp;law enforcement to provide more protection for hijras.</p><p>&nbsp;&quot;We have to start with the police. They are the ones who should enforce the protective laws to help sexual minorities...A police officer we were prosecuting got angry with me and shouted &#39;Are you a Hijra?&#39; and I said, &#39;Of course I am!&#39; Because I feel their struggles, their issues, their pain.&quot; In all of Venkatesh&#39;s time working with Sangama, he has never lost a case.</p><p>&quot;Things are changing very slowly. But they are changing. Now in Bangalore, the police think twice before arresting a Hijra. They know that Sangama will come after them,&quot; says Venkatesh.</p><p>Meanwhile, the day-to-day struggles continue for Akkai and the transgender community. Despite growing awareness and small signs of acceptance, there are many challenges yet to be addressed.</p><p>&quot;I think behind the happiness there is a huge amount of sadness,&quot; says Akkai. A huge amount lack of space. You can&#39;t wear a sari outside, you can&#39;t behave feminine in the outside society. If you do, you&#39;re done, you&#39;re killed.&nbsp; You&#39;re targeted and you can&#39;t express what you are.&quot;</p><p>It&#39;s only been four months since the Supreme Court ruling so changes on the ground are slow. Still, many members of the hijra community feel like the recognition of their human rights by the government and society at-large are an important step toward rejoining the mainstream.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Siri Bulusu is a freelance journalist based in Bangalore,India. You can follow her on twitter @siri_notsiri</em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 15:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2014-07-18/transgender-community-struggles-find-its-place-modern-india-110525 Transgender man learns to accept love http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/transgender-man-learns-accept-love-110424 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/StoryCorps 140627 Nick Heap.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&ldquo;I was the oldest of three girls and I had really only male friends for most of my growing-up years,&rdquo; Nick Heap says in this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps. &ldquo;I had long, long blonde hair, long enough I could actually sit-on-it, blonde.&rdquo;</p><p>Nick grew up female and transitioned to male as an adult. He recorded his story as part of a partnership between StoryCorps Chicago and the<a href="http://transoralhistory.com/"> <u>Trans Oral History Project</u></a>.</p><p>As a kid, Nick was a &ldquo;tomboy&rdquo; who enjoyed riding around the neighborhood on his dirt bike, without a shirt on. His parents were supportive of expressing his identity as much as they understood it, but he struggled to understand himself.</p><p>In seventh grade, Nick wrote anonymous love letters to a girl at school who figured out pretty quickly who was writing them. &ldquo;Within days it was all over the school,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;The harassment I would get after that was daily.&rdquo;</p><p>Nick&rsquo;s parents were called into the principal&rsquo;s office, but they stood firm: &ldquo;Is she causing an academic disruption in the classroom?&rdquo; they asked. &ldquo;So she wrote some notes to another kid. Kids do that.&rdquo;</p><p>Nick says that years later he talked to the girl who passed his notes around. She became a family counselor as an adult and they were able to talk through the experience in a healing way.</p><p>Even with that kind of support, for a long time it felt like he was on the outside looking in.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really hard feeling like I was utterly alone,&rdquo; Nick says. &ldquo;Now that I am passably male one hundred percent of the time, I am finally free to express those aspects of myself that are feminine, safely. But for so long, I spent so much of my life being ultra-masculine.&rdquo;</p><p>Over time, Nick has learned to have more patience with his family and himself.</p><p>&ldquo;For so long in my life, I couldn&rsquo;t feel the love of all the people around me,&rdquo; Nick says. &ldquo;It was like I was walking around inside a shell of armor. And their love just couldn&rsquo;t get to me. I couldn&rsquo;t feel it. I saw it, I knew it was there, I just couldn&rsquo;t feel it. And today that&rsquo;s not the truth. I can absolutely experience all this amazing love that has been all around me all the time and I&rsquo;m able to give that back to people now.&rdquo;</p><p>In June,<a href="http://storycorps.org/outloud/"> <u>StoryCorps launched the &ldquo;Out Loud&rdquo; initiative</u></a> to collect stories from LGBT people. One of these stories will be broadcast nationally on NPR each week for the next year.</p><p>The Trans Oral History Project continues to collect stories in partnership with StoryCorps Chicago. They <a href="http://transoralhistory.com/uploads/toolkit/ilive-interactive.pdf">recently published a toolkit</a> for gay-straight alliances and community organizations that work with LGBT youth.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 27 Jun 2014 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/transgender-man-learns-accept-love-110424 Life in Northwest Indiana's steel closet http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/life-northwest-indianas-steel-closet-110264 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/steel.PNG" style="height: 470px; width: 325px; float: left;" title="" />As Illinois gears up for its first legal same-sex marriages, across the border in Indiana gay marriage is still officially banned.</p><p>Hoosiers say attitudes there are starting to soften, but some workplaces are still more closeted than others.</p><p>A new book reveals a little-known community of LGBT steelworkers who punch in every day at Northwest Indiana&rsquo;s huge steel mills.</p><p>&ldquo;Steel Closets&rdquo; by the author <a href="http://www.annebalay.com/" target="_blank">Anne Balay</a>, documents life in the macho environment of the steel mills where LGBT workers face discrimination and are often afraid to report it to the union.</p><p>Balay, a former English professor at Indiana University Northwest in Gary and the University of Illinois at Chicago, spent five years interviewing some 40 current and former steelworkers for her book.</p><p>She and retired lesbian steelworker Jan Gentry joined WBEZ&rsquo;s Michael Puente at our Crown Point bureau.&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 02 Jun 2014 10:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/life-northwest-indianas-steel-closet-110264 Morning Shift: New discoveries about ancient mummies in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-01/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummies <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Spo0ky mummy Flickr Chris Devers.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>We hear how researchers are discovering new things about the long dead. Plus, we hear about the Department of Justice&#39;s new initiative to help the transgender population, and the music of Rachel Ries.</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummie/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummie.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummie" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: New discoveries about ancient mummies in Chicago" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 08:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-04-01/morning-shift-new-discoveries-about-ancient-mummies Morning Shift: The unique challenges facing the transgender community http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-09/morning-shift-unique-challenges-facing-transgender <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Flickr University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC).jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The transgender community faces many challenges - including ignorance from the general population. We talk with some leaders in the trans community in Chicago about how everyone can be more educated.&nbsp;</p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-unique-challenges-facing-the-tra/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-unique-challenges-facing-the-tra.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-the-unique-challenges-facing-the-tra" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: The unique challenges facing the transgender community" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 09 Jan 2014 08:40:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2014-01-09/morning-shift-unique-challenges-facing-transgender Gay advocacy group wants Chicago to suspend sister city program with Moscow http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-advocacy-group-wants-chicago-suspend-sister-city-program-moscow-108236 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Moscow Sister City_130731.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>LGBT advocacy group Equality Illinois wants Chicago to suspend its sister city program with the Russian capital of Moscow.</p><p>The <a href="http://chicagosistercities.com/sister-cities/moscow/">program</a> organizes local events, such as the Russia Day celebrations and the Russian-American Business Forum, to help strengthen cultural and commercial ties between the two cities.</p><p>Russia recently passed a law that bans people from holding gay pride rallies and informing minors about the LGBT community.</p><p>Equality Illinois also calls for Illinoisans to cancel business dealings with or travel plans to the eastern European country.</p><p>Equality Illinois CEO Bernard Cherkasov says some local businesses have already stopped selling Russian products.</p><p>&ldquo;We live in a city that is very conscious of treating everyone with equal dignity and respect, and by us partnering with Moscow, a city that&rsquo;s... the opposite of where Chicago stands, I think we&rsquo;re going to send a strong message by saying that enough is enough.&rdquo; Cherkasov said.</p><p>Chicago Sister Cities International says they must continue the program so LGBT Russians might still feel welcome here. A statement from the organization also noted that it&rsquo;s important to keep the lines of communication open.</p><p><em>Lee Jian Chung is a WBEZ arts and culture intern. Follow him <a href="http://www.twitter.com/jclee89">@jclee89</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 30 Jul 2013 17:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-advocacy-group-wants-chicago-suspend-sister-city-program-moscow-108236 Privilege in a dress: Arrested Development's transphobic slip http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/privilege-dress-arrested-developments-transphobic-slip-106843 <p><p dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1.15; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt; text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2x16_Meat_the_Veals_%2831%29.png" style="line-height: 1.15; width: 516px; height: 290px;" title="Mrs. Featherbottom attempts to fly on an umbrella in 'Meat the Veals,' one of the classic program's all-time great episodes. (Still from Arrested Development)" /></p><p dir="ltr">Sometimes there&#39;s so much beauty in the world, I feel like I can&#39;t take it, and my heart is just going to cave in. However, other times things just suck. This week, <em>Arrested Development</em> sucked.</p><p dir="ltr">I&rsquo;ve been excited for months about the promise of the show&rsquo;s return. <em>Arrested Development</em> is one of my favorite things in the world, a show that never sacrificed intelligence in its quest for jokes. Creator/writer/producer Mitchell Hurwitz created a show that was dense with jokes, some so brilliantly weird that it took viewers multiple views to pick up on the humor. Hurwitz reportedly spent weeks crafting some of the episodes, and it took Hurwitz five years to get the reboot off the ground. If the <em>AD</em> could come back, he wanted to get it right. The viewers deserved that.</p><p dir="ltr">However, a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.queerty.com/arrested-development-makes-tranny-joke-in-new-ad-20130421/" target="_blank">recent joke</a> from the show&rsquo;s promotional materials calls into question that capacity for caring about their audience. Writer Zinnia Jones&nbsp;<a href="http://freethoughtblogs.com/zinniajones/2013/04/arrested-development-of-good-taste/" target="_blank">reports</a> that the show has been using transphobic humor to sell its relaunch. One advertisement, which has now been pulled, asks viewers, &ldquo;Who&rsquo;s your favorite tranny granny?&rdquo; The caption is next to pictures of Tobias in drag, as Mrs. Featherbottom, and George Sr. in a dress.</p><p dir="ltr">On the joke, Jones writes,</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It&rsquo;s...not funny at all. It&rsquo;s the sort of lazy humor that every comedy, given enough time, will arrive at eventually &ndash; like a Godwin&rsquo;s Law of transphobia. These low-effort attempts at comedy are made under the assumption that the mere idea of men in dresses, or trans people, is inherently laughable. Treating both as though they were the same is just the icing on the cake.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Although the show heavily featured &ldquo;men in dresses,&rdquo; the joke was never about Tobias wearing a dress. It was about the delusion that he could trick his family into believing that he was a woman, despite giving one of the worst drag performances in history. <em>Arrested Development</em> wasn&rsquo;t critiquing Tobias for wearing a dress; the show lampooned him for being a bad actor &mdash; and a hideously self-involved one.</p><p dir="ltr">Throughout the show, the characters&rsquo; persistent narcissism is the real target. The Bluths are the worst, most clueless people in the world, and that makes them hilarious. It&rsquo;s smart comedy about stupid people.</p><p dir="ltr">However, this joke is what is clueless and stupid. Instead of making the Bluths the butt of the joke, it&rsquo;s an affront to transgender viewers who believe in the show and are as happy to see it return as the rest of us. The show has a strong following in the queer and trans communities because a) it&rsquo;s funny b) we hate George W. Bush, too and c) it&rsquo;s hella queer inclusive, with multiple out recurring characters and a notable lesbian star. (Hi, Portia!)</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Arrested Development </em>premiered in 2003, when few shows would touch queer audiences with a 10-foot pole. <em>AD</em> made us feel embraced, and it&rsquo;s treatment of Tobias is surprisingly sweet when you think about it. What&rsquo;s considered funny about Tobias isn&rsquo;t that he&rsquo;s gay; it&rsquo;s that he thinks people don&rsquo;t know. Most shows would shame him for it. In <em>Arrested Development</em>, his wife and daughter stick by him anyway. What&rsquo;s more affirming than that?</p><p dir="ltr">This humor achieves the opposite effect, using transphobic language to marginalize transgender viewers. Jones writes,</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Here it is, the all-too-frequent reminder that this is not for you. It&rsquo;s meant for other people, so that they can laugh at you. It tells us that the fact of our humanity wasn&rsquo;t actually taken into account at any point between someone having an idea, someone cobbling it together, someone approving it, and someone clicking &lsquo;post&rsquo;. Just being able to go about our lives would be too much to ask &ndash; we have to be someone&rsquo;s punchline.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Whenever jokes like these are made, people are quick to defend it as un-PC and the creators as equal opportunity offenders. However, what is equal opportunity about this joke? For the trans community, &ldquo;tr*nny&rdquo; is considered a hateful slur, comparable to using the &ldquo;n-word,&rdquo; the six letter &ldquo;f-word&rdquo; or the Jewish &ldquo;k-word.&rdquo; You would never see <em>Arrested Development</em> ask its audience who their favorite &ldquo;n-word&rdquo; is.</p><p dir="ltr">What makes it okay with trans people? Where was the outrage?</p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s because in comedy, we often see hierarchies of offense &mdash; people who are seen as okay to make fun of without much backlash. When <em>The New Normal</em> called intersex people &ldquo;<a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/because-racism-so-last-year-new-normal-making-fun-intersex-people-now-104822" target="_blank">pathetic</a>,&rdquo; many viewers barely batted an eye. People don&rsquo;t seem to give a flying truck that <em>Two Broke Girls</em> regularly makes Asians into desexualized, &quot;<a href="http://www.grantland.com/blog/hollywood-prospectus/post/_/id/41440/yo-is-this-racist-2-broke-girls-and-the-new-long-duk-dong-we-never-asked-for" target="_blank">Yellow Panic stereotypes</a>.&quot; When someone says the word &ldquo;f*ggot,&rdquo; we know to be scandalized. Look at what&rsquo;s happened to Isaiah Washington and Mel Gibson. Homophobia helped kill their careers.</p><p dir="ltr">When Stacy Lambe of Queerty&nbsp;<a href="http://www.queerty.com/arrested-development-makes-tranny-joke-in-new-ad-20130421/" target="_blank">wrote about</a> <em>Arrested Development</em>&rsquo;s transphobic slip up, many commenters called Lambe and Jones&rsquo; critique &ldquo;attention-seeking outrage.&rdquo; Eric Auerbach wrote, &ldquo;Transphobic humor? Give me a f*cking break.&rdquo; TinoTurner felt that the criticism only showed that Queerty is &ldquo;really hard up for stories.&rdquo; The respondent instructed Lambe to &ldquo;f*ck off.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">By telling trans people they don&rsquo;t have a right to be offended, it upholds the idea that it&rsquo;s okay to make fun of some and not others, a marginalization that shows trans people aren&rsquo;t worth caring about. We saw this same calculation in a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/4ad20b4edf/michael-shannon-reads-the-insane-sorority-letter" target="_blank"><em>Funny or Die </em>video</a> this week, when Michael Shannon read off Rebecca Martinson&rsquo;s infamous &ldquo;sorority girl letter.&rdquo; Shannon and <em>Funny or Die</em> took out Martinson&rsquo;s use of the word &ldquo;f*ggot&rdquo; but kept in &ldquo;ret*rded.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">What makes it okay to offend differently abled folks? <em>Funny or Die</em>&rsquo;s misguided idea that they aren&rsquo;t part of the audience. They aren&rsquo;t watching the video to get offended. My brother is differently abled. Just because he isn&rsquo;t watching doesn&rsquo;t mean he doesn&rsquo;t receive that message every day, when kids push him at school or mock his inability to read. He isn&rsquo;t just called a &ldquo;ret*rd.&rdquo; He&rsquo;s also called a &ldquo;f*ggot,&rdquo; just like I was &mdash; but for different reasons. The other kids at school don&rsquo;t think he&rsquo;s gay. They want him to feel weak and pathetic. It&rsquo;s about power.</p><p dir="ltr">These words shouldn&#39;t just be painful for him. They should be painful for all of us. Ableism, homophobia and transphobia are an embarassment to everyone.</p><p dir="ltr">At its best, comedy can work as a force for healing and take that power back. <em>Jezebel</em>&rsquo;s Lindy West&nbsp;<a href="http://jezebel.com/5925186/how-to-make-a-rape-joke" target="_blank">reminds us</a> that the best jokes work upward, critiquing those who are in power, rather than mocking the already marginalized. The best comedy opens up a space to ask questions about society, offering us an avenue to laugh and to critique. Although we think about it just as entertainment, comedy is about social justice. It&rsquo;s giving a voice to the voiceless by finding the laughter in our pain.</p><p dir="ltr">A&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thebacklot.com/louis-cks-extraordinary-ten-minutes-of-gay-tv/06/2010/" target="_blank">scene from</a> the TV show <em>Louie</em> is a model for how boundary-pushing comedy should work. In the scene, Louie C.K. and his comedian friends discuss gay sex with Rick Crom, an out gay comedian. They ask Crom probing and often homophobic questions about his &ldquo;lifestyle,&rdquo; which exposes their discomfort with the issue. The scene sets itself up for bigotry as a way to combat it. Crom schools them:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">&quot;I don&rsquo;t think about p*ssy. I don&rsquo;t care what you guys do. You&rsquo;re the one&rsquo;s who asked me. You ask me this sh*t every time I&rsquo;m here. I talk about gay sex more with you guys than I do any of my gay friends. You guys are obsessed.&quot;</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">The scene then abruptly turns. After Crom&rsquo;s speech, Louie C.K. asks if Crom gets offended when C.K. uses the word &ldquo;f*ggot&rdquo; in his stand up. Crom tells him he can technically use any word he wants, because he knows C.K. doesn&rsquo;t mean to offend, but C.K. has to realize what that word says to gay men. Using that word tells gay men that, like the bundle of sticks it refers to, they deserve to be tied up and burned. &ldquo;F*ggot&rdquo; affirms the our history of violence against queer people.</p><p dir="ltr">This scene was an extraordinary moment in television, proving that humor can be a tool for dialogue and education. It can help to heal our wounds, instead of reopening them. In taking the transphobic material down without apology or comment, <em>Arrested Development</em> hopes trans people and their allies weren&#39;t paying attention and that no blood will be shed over it. But we&#39;re watching. We&#39;re a part of your audience. We expect better.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Nico Lang writes about LGBTQ issues in Chicago. You can find Nico on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/nicorlang" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/nico_lang" target="_blank">Twitter</a> or&nbsp;<a href="http://achatwithnicolang.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">Tumblr</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 25 Apr 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/nico-lang/2013-04/privilege-dress-arrested-developments-transphobic-slip-106843