WTF Chaz Bono? Empowerment or Oppression? Pick one.
I really don’t want to be like every other trans/queer blog who has Chaz on the brain, but this really deserved attention. During an interview with David Letterman on Wednesday Chaz outwardly spoke out against gender identity disorder. As I mentioned in my last entry, I have some strong reservations about Chaz Bono’s points on gender politics and constructs of normalcy. Still, Chaz’s comment may very well be the first dissenting reference to gender identity disorder in pop culture ever. That is a big fucking deal. Was it as thorough as I would like, course not, but the fact that he put the idea that GID is a problem out into millions is a huge step. I think it would have been good to expand a little about his stigma comment surrounding mental “illness” – but the fact that he and Letterman said “stigma” and not the ableist “we’re not crazy” argument is promising. He does give a lot of promotion to therapy, which to me, without further explanation of why therapy can be useful to some but maybe not others, seems to send mixed signals to an uninformed audience, but it could of been worse.
What Chaz did was, for all intents and purposes, give a brief trans 101 on national television – and it actually wasn’t a horrible train wreck. He even referenced queerness within trans communities, another rarely talked about issue. There is also a very brief discussion about trans positioning within LGB communities where Chaz states its “the best fit we have” which is neither here nor there. For me its a great fit, maybe not for others. From there he continues to point out what I think is the most important thing there is to know about homophobia/transphobia which is that it all stems from societal discomfort with gender non-conformity. So get your scrap books out; This is one of those extremely rare occasions when Midwest GenderQueer is actually being somewhat optimistic about something. But as the Letterman interview went on, that optimism was found to be short lived and I came back to reality.
Of course, no interview with a trans person is complete without digging into the nitty gritty details of a the SEX CHANGE. In a previous post I referenced Chaz presenting alternate concepts on what trans folks may want for surgery, something the completely counteracts in the Letterman interview supporting the idea that top surgery was “essential” to a transmasculine transition. Well fuck, guess I got it all wrong. Better get the knife out or else change my label quick! This comes back to the spokesperson issue. If you want to tell your story that’s great, tell it, but don’t try to transcribe what all trans people think, say, want, and/or do – granted this time around he was generally good at making “I” statements… just not good enough. I’ve seen a lot of comments among trans folk saying that Chaz talks about his transition too much. I don’t think its possible for a person to productively express themselves too – art can not be created if we limit ourselves and neither can social change. Sometimes some of us need to be vulnerable in order to get the message out there, and we all find our ways to do that. It’s great that Chaz is empowered in discussing his physical transition and the details of his sex life. Some may argue that someone’s gotta do it, and I’ll be the first to admit that it is not going to be me. I put myself out there in a lot of ways, and I’m continuing to push my comfort levels for the sake of visibility, but I have my limits. I’ll gladly tell trans folks almost everything about myself and my experiences because trans folk need to know; its relevant to their lives. Non-trans folk don’t need to know the details of my transition story because there isn’t anything they can do with it other than be entertained. What my body looks like, why it looks like this, and what I do with it sexually are not teaching aids and I have found I can easily provide in depth trans education without invading my privacy. That’s what makes me uncomfortable here. I expect Chaz’s reasons for focusing on his transition is 1) he’s excited about it and 2) he wants to promote visibility and understanding. That said, I also think he’s good at marketing, very good. I worry that all this media attention is just more trans exploitation where we are the freak show for all the normies who don’t give a damn about our rights, they just like how fascinating we are. And speaking of fascinating things, I’m starting to think that Chaz is incapable of talking about his transition outside of a sexist paradigm. While discussing his “male personality” he states: “I can be insensitive and be a guy in that way…” to which Letterman responds “Amen, brother.” as the bump fists. Really? What the fuck? In addition to misogyny, Chaz is oppressing his own male/masculine community by stereotyping us as emotionally dense oafs. He states that because of T he is capable of being an “asshole” and “pigheaded” because apparently he was never an asshole before T. How many trans folks have fought hell and high water trying to convince a loved one that hormones was not going to turn us into another person?? (Fuck you, L Word) Like I said before, that’s not T dude, that’s your messed up, sexist idiocy! And if you’re an asshole now, you’ve probably always been one.
Letterman also talked about his own ignorance in reference to when his show aired a transphobic skit earlier this season. It wasn’t quite an apology, but it’s always good when people own up to their shit. Of course that was shortly followed by him making a transphobic joke about Cher possibly being trans, stating “was there anything about her I should know about?” Of course the audience laughed heartily. How is this happening? Here you have some awesome stuff to make you think that Chaz Bono might turn our media image around, and then he goes and acts like an uneducated, sexist moron. Should I be happy with the fact that it could be worse? I think that when empowerment is eaten with oppression, oppression has too strong of a taste to drown out. So props to for GID refusals and activist messaging but don’t get too cocky, Chaz. I’m still waiting on you to up your feminism, queer up your politics, and get a fucking clue.