The Not-So-New Fad: Tokenizing Transgender for Your Entertainment

Maybe its me, but recently there seems to be a larger surge of media trans-fuck-ups than usual. Myself, I am rather disconnected with pop culture. I do this on purpose because, as a general rule, I tend to hate everything mainstream because as a general rule everything mainstream is a big, hot problematic mess.

We are all painfully familiar with the old, common “joke” of a male actor dressing up to make an intended “ugly” woman for some strange comedic value focused on the jest of femininity presented and the shame of a man lowering himself to play a woman. But apparently for Saturday Night Live – a program that has in the past offered a mix of men playing women legitimately to create character as well as to create a farce – the “man in a dress” joke doesn’t go far enough. They needed to extend it to transwomen too.

This weekend’s SNL ‘Estro-Maxxx’ Sketch (obtained via GLAAD)

Am I the only one who thinks that a bunch of non-trans people dressing up like trans folk (even in jest) is a type of appropriation that should be equally as rebuked as other equally oppressive appropriations? Not only does this appalling video play on any number of oppressive stereotypes about transwomen, it also promotes cultural constructs on gendered feminine  behavior and female body expectations. What’s fascinating to me here is that the main punch line isn’t men in dresses but the presence of (intended to be} life-like breasts on a person who was originally assigned male. We have progressed past the shock value of a man in women’s clothing  and graduated to needing actual physical recreation of our apparently hilariously hormonally deformed bodies. The combination of the (arguably) most well recognized “female” secondary sex characteristic, breasts, with the constructed “male” facial hair and voice creates an extreme contrast of hyper-male and hyper-female – a fabulous freak act for the audience to gawk and wonder. And to add insult to injury, the airport scanner. I guess the writers did their homework and found an issue that really affected transfolk… OR what is more likely is that they wanted an easy way for a transwoman to be outed, and result in her being seuxalized and objectified. Are we supposed to be complimented when the security guard gets aroused by the transwoman’s revealing image? Are we supposed to appreciate the mocking normalcy placed on us here?

I hold little doubt that the writers thought that this “funny” sketch would also plays some role in trans liberation. Its trans on TV, that’s gotta be helpful, right? Seems like now days anyone who can mutter the word trans is automatically considered to be rallying for progress. Never mind what ignorant, backward crap they are spewing, they claim to be an ally so that means they have to be one, right?  Speaking of which, good o’l Lady Gaga is at it again. I continue to wonder how a woman with what seems to be good intentions and such cool outfits can fail so miserably at her claimed passion – supporting trans and queer folks…and everyone else in this case. Via her latest song: Born This Way, not only are “transgendered” people brave for coping with our shit lot of “disabilities,” so are all the other crap-life people like queers and people of color such as the “cholas” and “orients” (Cause apparently she picked up her racist slurs back in the 1800s). I can’t tell if she is implying that disabled people are a separate group that she is cheering for or if she is saying that essentially all non-white, non-straight, non-normal people are disabled because we are different. But its ok to be different, Lady Gaga says. According to her, suburban housewives AND god are on our side, which I have to admit is news to me. Its good to know that even though I’m struggling through my horrible life with all my weird identities and physical disabilities, Lady Gaga is going to get a Grammy for “standing up” for a community she knows nothing about. Good thing I have Lady Gaga to tell me that it isn’t my fault that I am an outcast with a shit life. Its God’s fault because I was born this way.

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