Bathrooms: Number Two

Sorry about my last post. Well, not too sorry. It is fun to joke about things once in a while. Sometimes a situation is so ridiculous, you have to look at it from a crazy perspective just to shine a light on it. Bathrooms are silly and bathroom politics are too.

I have talked quite a bit about bathrooms in past posts but I have never really talked about them exclusively. Well, today is our lucky day.

As the famous lead singer of R.E.M., Michael Stipe once sang:

Everybody poops
Sometimes

Transition is a trip. People who are not trans are lucky in some ways and they are missing out in others. Sure, I have my bad days but I also have gloriously good days, which were rare pre-transition. You really get a fascinating look into human behavior from the male, female and in between perspectives. The in between part is where I feel I reside right now. I knew going in that there would likely be an awkward phase where I was neither seen as particularly male or female. Life on either side of that binary is far more simple than in between, but it is also less enlightening. When you live between genders you really learn how much of a joke gender really is.

Bathrooms really drive this point home. What bathroom do I use? Well, I use the one that best corresponds with how I am presenting at the time.

Cisgender people often get confused by the fact that I may present as male on one day then female on another. I tend to socialize as a woman, but I do much of my shopping and other errands as a guy. Why can’t I pick just one? If I want to transition to female, why am I not just being a female full time?

I have several reasons/excuses. I do not have an extensive wardrobe. Just when I was getting there, I moved to Montana from Hawaii and all my clothes changed from just clothing to Summer clothing. They don’t work in Winter. My current wardrobe is lacking but improving. What else? Well, being female is a LOT of work. I am far from a prissy type of trans woman but I still have to focus on things most women take for granted like walking or gestures. I surprised many by coming out. People tended to see me as male and I fit the part. I still do. I fit it better than I fit the female role. It is easier to be male for me, at least right now. I don’t like this fact but it is what it is. Another reason? I have convinced myself that I am doing the public a small service by being gender fluid. It makes people think.

The main reason though? Bathrooms. They now really cause me a great deal of stress and anxiety. To top it off, one of my medications, Spironolactone, causes water to pass through me faster than I can drink it. This means, I have to make frequent potty stops. It used to be that I would use a bathroom in a supermarket like once or twice a year at most. Now it is almost once or twice a week. I have to sit on an aisle at theaters in case I need to get up and go. This is particularly embarrassing at plays, where the performances are live.

People see me get up and head for the restroom. I feel them watching me wondering which room I will enter. I know it weirds them out. It weirds me out too.

On days where I will be out for a good while, running errands and whatnot, I almost always go as a male or I present androgynously. I know it confuses people. This allows me to use the men’s room if I have to go. Honestly, few things can ruin my day like someone making a rude comment about me, while I am in a stall in the women’s room. Nobody ever has. Still, I fear it SO much.

In Hawaii, bathroom laws were VERY liberal. I could pick a room based upon my mood. In Montana, it can depend on which town I am in. There are also a lot more guns, and a culture of WHITE. I have lived most of my life as a white male, and yet, I get nervous around cultures dominated by my kind. The diversity of Hawaii or New York is much more comforting to me. Montana has a very Libertarian attitude towards most things, “Don’t fuck with my shit and I won’t fuck with yours.” which is not bad for a trans person, but the utter lack of diversity makes it feel impossible for me to blend in. That is an exhausting way to live.

When I present as female here, I always have one eye behind my back. I know many women reading this are thinking, “Well, duh! All women feel that way.” and I understand. Women have to deal with unwanted advances and the threat of sexual assault. I sometimes fear for my life in public places. This is new to me. Not only are trans people more likely than almost anyone to attempt or commit suicide, they are also incredibly likely to be physically assaulted, sexually assaulted and/or murdered. Especially trans women. Most of all, trans women who are minorities. Well, I am white, so there is that, but when I live in a state where white is the primary color, being trans makes me stand out. This place gives me the heebie jeebies sometimes. Where I currently live, homosexuals tend to stay underground. If gays and lesbians are underground here, I feel they may have a good reason to do so. I can only stay underground if I present as a male. I do not aspire to doing this my whole life, but in this environment… eeeeep! I hope we move somewhere else soon.

Shame is universal. There is a LOT of shame that simply comes with being trans. I waited 37 years to transition because of shame. I do not present as female full time because of shame. I fear bathrooms because of shame.

The shame of being trans is a huge burden at times. It has lessened greatly with hormones but it is still present and I worry. I worry about my safety, yes, but I also worry about others around me. I can easily feel like dead weight, an embarrassment. Why would anyone want to hang out in public with an eyesore like me?

Damn bathrooms! I use the women’s room when I am presenting female and you know what? It is remarkably similar to the men’s room. What’s most surreal, is using the women’s room at a place where I used to go as a guy. The layout is almost always mirrored and sometimes the paint is different, like pink stalls instead of blue, which I imagine most readers already knew. Neither room is glamorous. People do much the same types of things. Women get a bit more privacy at the expense of having fewer toilets. I sometimes have to wait with the rest of the women in lines, although I hate lines for different reasons than most women. The longer I am in line, the more chances people have to object to my being there, which is just awful. I feel the worst when I am in line with children and their parents. I can’t help but imagine what they are thinking, so I end up thinking those things for them.

I have many friends who have been sexually abused, most of them female.

I guess what I am saying here is: I understand why lawmakers in conservative states are trying to pass laws to keep trans people out of restrooms. The fear they feel about someone like me using a female restroom is irrational and there are very, very, very few cases of people impersonating women to get in a restroom to assault a woman but it is still a fear, much like the fear I feel by being myself in Montana. We already have laws against assault, we already have laws against lewd behavior, we already have laws against rape. A law, preventing me from using a female restroom would be redundant for all the reasons one might reasonably think it could be useful.

The unreasonable reason such a law would be passed is people don’t understand enough about why anyone would transition. Many think it is a kink or perversion. They want me out of the women’s room and back in the men’s room. I already live with enough shame. More than enough. Such laws would only reinforce my shame.

People really think weird things about trans folk. They often think we are sexually deranged. In reality, my naughtiest thoughts are so mundane, people would fall asleep to them. It doesn’t help that hormone therapy has almost killed my sex drive. I get the warm tingles from acts of romance and love. What does not turn me on is hearing the woman in the stall next to me taking a turd.

I feel like I stand out like a sore thumb. Most early transitioners feel this way, so while I understand why someone may wish to keep me out of the women’s room, I feel much safer there, especially in establishments where alcohol is being served. If I really wanted to assault women, I could think of far better places than the bathroom, and I could think of far less conspicuous presentations than as an obvious and awkward trans female.

Cisgender readers, ask yourself, “Have you ever been in a public place and seen a trans person? Did you feel uncomfortable?”

Be honest.

I am trans and I can answer yes to both of those questions. There was a trans woman who used to eat lunch at a cafe by the University of Hawaii where I would hang out if I needed to kill time and her presence made me very uncomfortable. She was SO obvious. Tall, extremely masculine face, WAY too much makeup, terrible posture, and she dressed like someone thirty years younger than she was. I was extremely uncomfortable whenever she was there. I also felt terribly hypocritical for thinking those thoughts. Once, I noticed her get up and head towards the restrooms and I watched her walk the whole way just to see which one she used.

I never thought to say anything to her. I spent a lot of time just gawking critically and feeling uncomfortable in her presence.

This woman was brave enough to transition well before I did. She never came there with friends, and her fashion sense, now that I think about it probably reflected the lack of support and advice she was getting from others. It reflected her shame.

I worked at a Waikiki swimming pool and I remember the terrible comments my co-workers would make any time someone looked even remotely trans.

Unless I learn to blend in, and that is NOT easy, I will make people uncomfortable by my very presence and that does not mean those people are just simple minded bigots. That is the hard, honest truth. My presence can make people think, and some of those thoughts may disturb them. Sometimes I embrace this new fact of my life and sometimes I get tired just thinking about it. It is kinda’ cool, having the power to make people question gender with my very presence. Not quite a superpower, but still…

That trans woman I used to see at the cafe? She brought out the transphobia in me. She also taught me by her very presence. I learned a bit about how to dress appropriately, to be understated with makeup, and to keep my friends close so I could lean on them for advice and protection. She taught me not to transition into HER. She opened my eyes to what my life would likely become if I was not careful… and perhaps, even if I was. She taught me humbling lessons but she did not stop me from transitioning.

It is just… I hate to say it… I understand the bathroom thing. It should be simpler than it is. Not knowing what the bathrooms will be like frequently keeps me from going out as a female. In spite of getting a slight thrill from freaking out the squares, I don’t want them to worry about their restrooms because of me. Restrooms should be taken for granted and I often enough put my transition on hold just so others can continue to have that luxury.

I do not need a, “Papers please” bathroom law. Trans people in general don’t. A certain percentage of cisgender people need such laws, or think they do, so they won’t have to worry about thinking certain dark and nasty thoughts when I walk into a room with them. I understand. My superpower can cause people to think things they would rather never think. They would rather live in a simpler world. A world of just men and women. Nothing in between. They would rather brush folks like me under the rug. It is not their intent to shame me. They just want to avoid having their own shameful thoughts.

I kind of envy folks like that. It seems so simple. They want laws in place to reduce the number of times they think things that make them feel ashamed. Really though, if lawmakers spent more time feeling ashamed of themselves, and asking themselves why they feel that way, they would do a much better job.

Aloha,
Tori

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Tranny

I am back after a much needed hiatus. Recharged and ready for Summer!

What have I been doing all this time? I am so glad I asked. I have been delving into a fight between The Jets and The Sharks, or The Bloods and The Crips… actually, it has been a debate over using certain words, between RuPaul, Carmen Carrera and their fans. What is the debate about? Again, glad I asked. If you saw the title of this post, I bet you could guess one of the words in just one try. For those of you who are bad at guessing, I will give you a hint, it is about the word, “Tranny” and also, the term, “She-male”. Still have no clue? Then let me beat a dead horse into the ground. I already told you, the debate is about the word, “Tranny” and the term, “She-male”.

Disclosure time, I am a fan of, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the local drag scene. Local drag performers have been very encouraging of my transition, and sometimes beneficial by donating to my too small wardrobe. Also, while I follow her on Facebook, I have never been that impressed by Carmen Carrera’s trans advocacy.

For those of you who do not know, Carmen Carrera was a contestant on, “Drag Race” a few seasons ago, before she came out as trans and began transition. She now enjoys minor celebrity and a decent modeling career. Carrera is currently one of the most visible trans advocates out there. Her beauty gets her extra press coverage, unfortunately beauty is easy on the eyes but not a skill that is required in order to explain the subtle nuances of the trans experience to the cis world. Carmen is rapidly improving in this area, but she is clearly not a seasoned veteran spokesperson.

Also, a disclaimer, I will call RuPaul by male pronouns and Carrera by female terms. This is how they each identify so it is proper, and not meant as a slight in any way shape or form to RuPaul the character. It is confusing enough, these pronouns… but RuPaul is one of the few Drag Queens whose stage name is the same as his given name. He is RuPaul Charles, she is glamazon character, RuPaul. It is kind of like Steven Colbert, the character is not the person, now, with added pronoun confusion!

Sheesh! There is so much to discuss concerning this simple and silly topic. I have to start back when this became a big issue amongst the LGBT community and catch y’all up from then to the present day.

A couple of months ago, on an episode of, “Drag Race”, there was a mini game amongst the contestants called, “Female or She-Male”. The contestants had to look at pictures of outfits and body parts, and correctly guess if it was of a cis female or a drag performer. Hilarity ensued.

Actually, controversy and hilarity ensued. The morning after the episode aired, the trans community was up in arms. How dare, “Drag Race” compare drag queens to cis women for laughs? How dare they use the term, “She-male”? Almost a week to the day later, Logo, the cable television station that airs, “Drag Race”, relented and decided to remove the segment from future airings and from the downloadable stream on their website. Logo stated they would not support anti-trans language. RuPaul reiterated his support of transsexual people, and seemingly agreed with his station’s verdict.

Oh, they also, got rid of the weekly, “You’ve Got She-mail” segment title, where RuPaul sends a video message to the contestants explaining something about their next challenge. In this case, if you didn’t figure it out, “She-mail” is a play on words, it sounds like, “E-mail” or even the godfather of reality competition show’s, “Survivor’s” own, “Tree-Mail”. Get it? She-mail.

Finally, the, “Tranny” debate took off. The term, “Tranny” was now being deemed inappropriate by the trans community whenever it was used on, “Drag Race”, a show that frequently allows contestants to be called or call each other, “Bitch” or, “Bitches” in both complimentary or derogatory ways. It also, heavily features the terms, “Fish” or, “Fishy”. For example, “Bitches, that bitch is a fishy fish!” For those of y’all who are a little bit slow, the terms, “Fish” and, “Fishy” are in reference to the odor of a cis female’s genital area (as if these queens actually know) and means a drag performer looks convincingly feminine, instead of well, like a typical, over the top, drag queen. It can be used as a compliment or an insult, but it is usually complimentary unless one is being too fishy, because too much fish can spoil the drag. But, “Bitch” and, “Fish” are not the controversial drag terms. “She-male” and, “Tranny” are. Got it? Good. Moving on.

Where was I? Ah yes, “Tranny”. “Tranny” was deemed, “The T-Word” by many of the most vocal trans advocates, including Carmen Carrera and folks, that is when a civil war broke out between the drag queens and the transsexuals.

(Snapping is heard. Then whistles. A Leonard Bernstein overture plays. Drag queens enter.)

When you do drag
You do drag all the way,
From your first time on stage
To your final sashay.

(Enter trans folk.)

When you are trans
You’re a curious thing.
Little boy’s now a girl,
Little girl, you’ll be king.

(End Musical Interlude)

This is where I came in. I follow a bunch of trans news and advocacy communities. It is more than just a hobby, it is a way of life now. Since transition puts me in the hands of the medical community for the foreseeable future, trans news developments can and do have an important impact on me. It is good to know this stuff. On the other hand, I get to listen to the petty issues amongst the trans community, and like most any community, if things are slow, it seems like sometimes, they will just make something up to stir up drama and controversy. With that in mind, and the fact that I am a, “Drag Race” fan, I heard this debate emerge within the trans community and spoke up. I love language, and I am fascinated by its living nature. Language evolves, sometimes quite quickly. Inner cities are often on the forefront of language evolution, now, so is the Internet, FTW… lol… SMH… and not SMH, “So Much Hate”, SMH, “Shakes my head”.

Trans language is also, quite fluid and quick to evolve. And it is complex. Trans folk, who keep their ear to the ground when it comes to the trans community, can lose touch with the fact that cis people are just not keeping up with the ever evolving lingo. You kinda’ need degrees in both Latin, and political correctness.

But, wow! To be on the ground level of language coinage?! Count me in!!!

So of course, I start speaking my mind in online discussions. For the most part, I do my best to calm down the lynch mob, “Tranny is not a slur. Context folks, context. Tranny is an abbreviation. Tran is just part of a prefix.” At the same time, I do not really like the term when directed towards me or any other trans woman. Same with, “She-male”.

It is amazing to me, how sensitive the average trans person can be to words. Try joining a trans online community and see how long you last before you are reprimanded for saying the wrong thing. There are some fragile, fragile trans people and we all are expected to tiptoe around them so their feelings never get hurt, ’cause, high suicide rate and whatnot. And yes, trans folk sometimes play the trans card, even amongst themselves.

The world is not the trans online community. It is full of reality and with reality comes brutal truths. Sometimes that honesty and brutality comes in the form of hate.

The more watered down and convoluted trans language becomes, the more specific it becomes. Along with specificity, comes confusion. Even trans people can not always keep up with the rapid changes in trans lingo.

Drag, on the other hand, is steeped in tradition. Drag performers are harsh. They are the Don Rickles of the LGBT community. Drag is rooted in Vaudeville, burlesque and the difficulties of growing up different in a large city. Drag is funny, rude, crude, histrionic, flamboyant and all kinds of awesome.

One unspoken rule of Drag, which quickly follows the first two unspoken rules concerning not talking about Fight Club, is Rule #3: Do NOT tell a drag queen what to do or what to say.

When the Transgender, PC Police came with sirens blaring, the Drag community fought back. “Tranny is OUR word, bitches!”

“Tranny” is indeed, in many ways, their word. It was an abbreviation that came from within the drag community, as best as I can tell, and to many drag queens from all over the English speaking world, trans folk should not even dare try to take their precious T-word away.

Drag Queens en masse, claim, “Tranny” as their own, as do car enthusiasts who use the term as an abbreviation for both the Pontiac Trans-Am, and for a car’s transmission. “What kind of tranny ya’ll got in yer Tranny?” Car talk. Smokey chased a famous T-topped Tranny. K.I.T.T. was a younger, sleeker Tranny than the Tranny The Bandit liked to ride. Still car talk, folks.

Trans folk are getting louder and louder when it comes to the term, “Tranny”. Many insist it is a slur. I was not so sure.

This is when Carmen Carrera’s advocacy came into the spotlight. She started talking about the term, “Tranny” being a slur, as did other trans celebrities Janet Mock and Laverne Cox. Suddenly, a middle of the pack, “Drag Race” veteran was speaking out against her Mama, RuPaul!!! Drag queens and their fans alike went apeshit!

Here is a smattering of comments I saw, pretty much as written, by members of the LGBT community, about Carrera. I did rephrase them a bit in order to preserve the anonymity of the posters.

“She is a stupid, TRANNY!”

“Tranny bitch will always be a tranny bitch!”

“He is just a penis in a dress.”

“He needs to get over himself, the fucking she-male tranny.”

“That tranny better know better than to bite the hand that feeds him!”

etc…

Then RuPaul himself, ever the peacemaker, broke his silence by tweeting things like, “Trust! LogoTV hasn’t “distanced” itself from me, not while I’m still payin’ the f%kin’ light bill over there.” after Logo had distanced itself from these next two comments made by RuPaul in a recent audio interview.

“No, it is not the transsexual community. These are fringe people who are looking for story lines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we’re dealing with. It’s not the trans community, because most people who are trans have been through hell and high water and they know — they’ve looked behind the curtain at Oz and went, ‘Oh, this is all a f**king joke. But, some people haven’t… You know, if your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a f**king hard-ass road.”

And…

“My 32-year career speaks for itself. I dance to the beat of a different drummer. I believe that everybody, you can be whatever the hell you wanna be. I ain’t stopping you. But don’t you dare tell me what I can do or say. It’s just words. Yeah, words do hurt… You know what? … You need to get stronger. You really do, because you know what, if you think, if you’re upset by something I said, you have bigger problems than you think.”

Now, the trans community goes even more apeshit than the drag community had!

“RuPaul is a transphobic bigot!”

“How would RuPaul like it if I called him a, “N” word and a, “F” word?”

“RuPaul is such a fucking faggot. I hope he is a victim of a hate crime.”

…and other gems…

Then, a funny thing happened. My opinion of the word, “Tranny” entirely changed. All it took was watching members within the LGBT community using it as a slur, directing it towards a trans woman, and seeing the piss poor response from many within the trans community in retaliation. In this case, “Tranny” was not being used as an abbreviation. It was being used as a demeaning and dehumanizing insult, pure and simple. Comments from the trans side were not any better, but hey, they were responding to a slur and that slur was being directed at them even from within the LGBT community.

Nobody has called me a tranny to my face, not in an insulting way, and I confess, I have used the word myself, often in self referential and/or self deprecating ways. But, back when I was in the closet, any time I was at work or with friends and a trans person came near, someone would elbow me and mutter something akin to, “Hey, get a load of THAT tranny.” or worse… often, much worse.

Also, let’s be honest here, some of you did not know the term, “Tranny” has its origins in the drag world, you learned it from the sex industry. Same with, “She-male”. Even when these terms are not used as slurs, they can shine people like me in the wrong kind of light. Very few transitioners enjoy being out, or being on stage like I do. Many are timid, soft spoken, introverts. Being related linguistically to performers and sex workers is not exactly how people who live the life of a trans person, rather than being a tranny for a living, like to be remembered.

Also, people DO in fact, mistake me for a drag queen often enough, even when I am looking and feeling frumpy. My wife would disagree with people calling me a queen.

A friend recently asked me what I look like in drag. He has not seen me since I started transition. I laughed, and told him I look like a man. He got the point, even though technically cross dressing as a man is being, “In drab”, not, “Drag”.

A man in a mobility scooter complimented my dress, then accused me of being a prostitute, on the night of this season’s, “Drag Race” finale. How sweet.

I had another good friend decide that now would be a great time to show me his dick. I mean, hey! I am trans, right? Must mean I am kinky. Spoiler alert, I am surprisingly Puritanical. I did let my friend down easy though, and yes, that pun was intended. 🙂

Terms like, “Tranny” and, “She-male” do complicate my life simply by confusing even my most tolerant of friends and guys on mobility scooters. They are indeed terms that can be and are frequently used as slurs, frequently enough that they should be discontinued in polite conversation.

It is unfortunate the drag and gay communities had to get involved, since it becomes a lot of infighting under the LGBT umbrella. Besides, I understand the point the drag queens and their supporters are trying to make. In many ways, I even agree. I just have problems with many of their methods of delivery. It is hard to argue the sanctity of a drag term, when even drag fans are defending its use BY using it as the very kind of slur they claim it is not.

So yeah, uh… try not to say, “Tranny”. Yes, I know it is just a word.  KTHX.

Bye,
Tori

Political Correctness

I empathize with cis folks out there. I really do. Especially the advocates. Trans language and pronouns are not easy to grasp without a language lesson. The English language is far from perfect, but imagine being a trans person in a country that speaks a Romance language, like Spanish, where the sex/gender of the subject effects far more words than just pronouns.

I mention this now, because it keeps coming up in trans news and trans community circles.

Just in the last month, Katie Couric, Piers Morgan and Joss Whedon have stepped into the proverbial hornet’s nest of saying the, “Wrong” thing or things, and upsetting a large part of the American trans community in the process.

For the most part, though, I can understand both sides of the issue. The trans community is quie reactionary. Any minority community tends to be reactionary. Especially when they intend to change the paradigm. The key word here is minority. If there are fewer people, sometimes they must be louder to be heard. In the case of feminism, it is not numbers but value, if community in general does not value women as much as men, then again, it takes a louder voice to be heard.

Outrage is often enough, well, I dare not say feigned. Outrage is often a conversational and political tactic. It can be useful at times and it can also be counter productive.

This brings me to Joss Whedon.

When asked on twitter what makes a strong female character, he tweeted back, they must have “Strength, value community and not have peeny/balls.”

http://observationdeck.io9.com/really-joss-whedon-really-1510302906

Now, that was not the greatest joke ever told, but the outrage that emerged from the trans community surprised me. Is Joss Whedon trans phobic? Such topics popped up all over the blogosphere.

Oy! How many words can be written about a smaller than 144 character tweet? Tweeting is not the forum for nuanced and in depth replies. But shame on Joss, I guess, because he failed to mention that some strong female characters could also have a peeny and balls.

His point clearly, to me at least, was a strong character IS a strong character, and if you wish to make a strong female character, start by creating a strong female character. There is no difference between strong characters of any gender, unless they are not written to be strong.

Of course, I probably went past 144 characters with that simple translation.

Whedon, made a mistake that caused a backlash. He failed to mention trans people in a tweet. He also, mentioned not having a peeny or balls, a sensitive subject amongst trans women as I will address later in this post.

Shame on you Mr. Whedon, creator of strong female characters, the 2nd major lesbian character on American television, champion of ensemble and teamwork in your television shows and movies, celebrator of characters who can transform, grow and be accepted by their former foes. Most of all, shame on you for never writing a strong female character with a peeny and balls. Boycott!!!

Sigh… such trans phobia.

Now, I am going to lump Katie Couric’s interviews and Piers Morgan’s interviews together, in order to discuss the American media’s way of handling trans topics and the trans community’s response.

Katie Couric interviewed two trans women, Carmen Carrera, a model and former contestant on, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”, and Laverne Cox, an actress currently on, “Orange is the New Black”. The interviews were back to back beginning with Carrera. The conversation started about an online petition for Carrera to become a Victoria’s Secret model before Couric asked about plastic surgery. Carrera admitted to getting her nose and breasts done, and then, Couric asked about whether or not Carrera had or intended to have, “The operation”. Carrera explained how that was a private issue and she would rather not talk about it.

Then Laverne Cox was interviewed, and their discussion was mostly about playing a trans character on a television show. Eventually, Couric mentioned Carrera’s response to the surgery question and asked Cox’s thoughts about that. Cox agreed with Carrera. It is a private thing. She went on to say that there is more to trans people than the operation and to focus on the genitals inadvertently objectifies trans women. This worries Cox because there are other, more important issues concerning the trans community including disproportionate amounts of violence, homicide and very high rates of unemployment.

On to Piers Morgan’s interview of author, Janet Mock. Mock was on the show to promote her book, “Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity and so Much More”. It was a fairly lengthy interview spit in two by a commercial break. For the duration of the interview, the subtitle below Mock and Morgan, explaining the interview, as news channels tend to do, read, “Was a Boy Until 18”. Much of the interview was directed at Mock being a boy or a man until she transitioned, how she told her boyfriend she is trans, how pretty she is… etc. The interview concluded with Morgan telling Mock how he, “Can’t think of anyone better to be out there promoting all this than you.”

In both Couric and Morgan’s case, the trans community as a whole objected. I think the objection to the genital question is pretty straight forward, who would want to be asked such a thing on national television? The objection to Morgan’s interview is a bit more complex and nuanced so I will start with that.

Four or five days after the interview, Mock tweeted at Morgan that she was not born a man, that she also, was not born a boy and she even  dropped a slightly censored, “F” bomb in one of her tweets. The next day, Morgan had Mock on his show again to explain herself. He interviewed her for about sixteen minutes and then spent another five or so minutes discussing the interview with a panel of three pundits.

Unfortunately, Mock never really explained what was so wrong about saying she was born a boy and was formerly a man. She came close a few times, but I expected her to be much clearer, since she must have known it would be the focus of the interview. Also, as an author, words are her trade. And yet, it must be flustering to be berated by a host on national television.

That said, Morgan, a mediocre interviewer at best, was clearly hurt by the outrage he had been subjected to since Mock’s tweets riled up the trans community. Why, he wanted to know, didn’t Mock just say something during the first interview?

Morgan kept insisting he was a huge supporter of the trans and LGBT community. I do not doubt he feels that way about himself.

After the interview came the pundits. Unfortunately I have not found a complete video of this segment, only partial, but I feel like I saw most of it. Amy Holmes defended Morgan for the most part, like the professional talking head she is. Marc Lamont Hill defended Mock, and frankly did a better job of explaining her position than Mock did herself. Unfortunately, he had to compete with three other people for air time. Ben Ferguson was just an unsympathetic prick, insisting Mock was feigning outrage to sell more books, suggesting that her tweets were planned by Mock and her publicist to garner more attention, he also yelled, “She was a boy! She was a man!”

Back to Couric, who at the end of the week following her interviews, addressed the criticism sent her way. She explained that she wanted to leave the interview intact both on air, and online to serve as a teachable moment for her and her viewers.

From where I sit, Couric handled the situation exponentially better than Morgan, and Cox and Carrera handled it better than Mock.

Nobody in their right mind would ask Couric on national television, “So Katie, how’t it goin’ you know, down there? Any recent yeast infections or herpes flare ups?” I think she got the point the moment Carrera refused to answer her question.

Also, Couric would never ask Neil Patric Harris on national television, “Since you are a gay man, and I am sure all kinds of straight people are wondering; what is your favorite sexual position? Are you a top or a bottom?”

Mock and Morgan, did things differently and less successfully. Again, back to Joss Whedon, tweets are not a good means for conveying complex and nuanced ideas. I am not quite sure if Mock realized how effective her tweets could be at uniting the ire of the trans community. At the same time, while I credit Morgan for having her on again, he did spend what felt like more time, talking about his own hurt feelings rather than listening to why Mock would object to being labeled, “Born a man” and, “Born a boy”. It is a shame, and they both missed an opportunity to have a grown up discussion about a complex issue.

When it comes to being trans, many trans folk feel as if they were born with a birth defect. The brain insists one thing, the body something else. This is why we have a word for gender, which is conceptual, and sex, which is physical. To hear Mock explain it, as soon as she knew the difference between male and female, she understood herself to be, and identified as female. I can relate. And yes, it does make my eyes cross a bit to see, “Was a Boy Until 18” under her interview for its entire duration, something she may not have even realized at the time.

At the same time, I do feel for Morgan, and perhaps it is just the large dose of estrogen my doctor shot into me this morning. Look, trans semantics are not simple. When I joined an online trans community, I spent about three months saying all kinds of the, “Wrong” thing, only to be gently corrected and I am TRANS. If Morgan considers himself an advocate, well, I feel his pain. I believe he is an advocate. There are all kinds of land mines, and different trans folk become irate about different things. I have never considered Morgan to be a particularly good interviewer, but I have never thought of him as any kind of phobe either.

I have blogged about how my friends, wife and parents are reacting to and adjusting to my transition. They say things that would enrage the trans community quite frequently. This stuff takes time to learn, and practice is needed to consistently say the, “Right” things. If I got all upset whenever someone said something, “Wrong” to me, I would be in the midst of a divorce right now, have driven a wedge between my immediate family, and have no remaining friends to call on for help. We all must pick our battles wisely.

In the case of Janet Mock, her reaction backfired. She was berated on air for three tweets, and then a panel followed up to reinforce the old, “She WAS born a boy!” mantra. What a shame.

Carrera, Cox and Couric fared much better. It was a teachable moment, and it moved the conversation forward. People will be much less likely to ask trans people about their privates, at least in the American media. Yippee!

One more thing of note. I am not oblivious to the fact that none these three women would have been interviewed at all if they were not trans. There is a great deal of curiosity about trans folk. It will take time before we are not seen as a novelty item. Almost everybody knows a homosexual or 90. The same does not apply to trans folk. To complicate things, many trans folk just blend into society after transition, as the goal is to match the life to the brain, most successful transitioners just want a mundane life as the man, woman, androgen… etc. they always knew they were. I am thankful for Mock, Cox and Carrera for doing some heavy lifting for a relatively small and easily misunderstood community.

There are not many of us trans folks. But words ARE important. It is time to teach the masses. But we must be patient and forgiving. There is no reason to expect even the strongest advocate to just inherently know this stuff.

Trans folk are particularly vulnerable to bigotry. Don’t believe me? Find any interview of Cox, Mock or Carrera on YouTube and just start reading the comments. I know, comment sections can bring out the worst in all of us, but it is just the norm for trans folk, not just online, but in public, within families… etc.

Trans folk are often diagnosed with mental conditions above and beyond gender dysphoria, in fact I believe it is more common than not. In a recent poll, over 40% of trans folk have attempted suicide (and that does not count the successful attempts by closeted and uncloseted trans folk). So, perhaps we all can do a better job of listening to the trans community even if it may seem like they are upset about something extremely minor or even irrelevant.

Aloha,
Tori