Friday, January 21, 2011

Dear Pop Culture: Leave TransFolk Alone!

Ok, so am I the only one who really would prefer it if pop culture would leave transfolks alone? I'm not saying I don't want our folks in media, quite the opposite, I want our faces, our stories, our experiences out there; I want visibility for our people. That said, there is a difference between visibility (which I define as socialized educational promotion of our community and cause) and simple exploitation or just plain annoying stereotyping.

Pop Culture often will poke fun at or provide cameos for community leaders or performers that it respects. And if this were what was happening for transfolks, to for example have Kate Bornstein on TV, that'd be awesome. But that isn't what happens. I am so sick of non-trans media outlets feeling that they have the right to represent us when they don't have a clue about what they are doing. This isn't just a trans issue, is a problem for all groups outside the privileged minority, but I'm trans so I'm gonna talk about trans stuff. The reason why transfolks (and queers) are included in media is because we are considered weird and fascinating. We're an interesting hook. Many people take it as a compliment when, to repeat previous sentiments, Pop Culture throws us a bone with a "its better than nothing" mentality. Me, I would rather be ignored than have to deal with mainstream adaptations of my people based on what outsiders think we are.

This week, The Simpsons, an old school favorite of mine (until it stopped being funny around season 20, but I still love the old episodes) has finally got on the culture-crash band wagon and making jokes about trans folk. I have to admit that unlike last years' Family Guy disaster, the Simpsons trans cameo was far from monstrous, but it wasn't anything to cheer about.

via The Bilerico Project

(Note: You think its a coincidence that that one women looks like Winne from the Kinsy Sicks?) I have to admit as an activist I thought the little rally was cute, but I am left feeling confused, wondering about the intent. To me, I see a cute little community rally portrayed, with queers and other 'queer' groups - but I'm a radical queer and see this as my community. To others - the creators included perhaps - I'm sure that they saw one 'freak' community(transfolks) and then wanted to continue to highlight how weird and strange queers are by adding other "weird" things like the Furries and the "1900s style gays". Were they trying to make fun of Furry communities too? Possibly the Simpsons' intent was to humanize these communities, but it isn't clear to me. Why include Furries (who aren't expressly 'gay' by the way) but not Leather? And I can't help but laugh at the episode's androcentric gay community with 1 lesbian (Selma). I definitely recognized our community in this in the stereotype promoted here: that all transfolk are trying to pass inside a cultural mirror of gender conformity. And maybe its because this is a real life problem for us that I was irked to see it used by non-trans people to crack a joke for a primarily non-trans audience. Yeah, we have a hard time, thanks for laughing at our troubles - and what's worse, not even knowing or caring how it affects us.

I definitely do not think that non-trans or non queer people can not or should not be a part of the trans movement. What I do think is that when it comes to representation, best leave it to the community OR at the very least educate yourself before doing something stupid or offensive. But Pop Culture doesn't do that. It just throws us in because we are interesting or funny or fascinating, and that's fucking bullshit. Am I reading too much into this mostly harmless clip? Honestly, part of me thinks I am, but the rest of me is saying that every little bit helps, or hurts. And if we don't play watchdog for ourselves, who else is going to do it? It is not impossible for the media to get it right, for example the trans character on Degrassi (Canadian show, go figure) is widely recognized to be a good adaptation. So clearly the issue here is lack of trying. Pop Culture doesn't care about actually representing, they just want to exploit. Surprise, surprise. The continual usage of the trans community as an community clown or freak act plays into our dehumanization, not the other way around.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Trans Advocacy Network is Now Taking Applications for Membership From State and Local Organizations

Contact: Gunner Scott

Trans Advocacy Network is Now Taking Applications for Membership From State and Local Organizations

The recently formed Trans Advocacy Network (TAN) is now taking applications for membership. TAN is an alliance of transgender organizations that work at the state and local level, coming together to build a stronger trans movement by facilitating the sharing of resources, best practices, and organizing strategies.

Transgender organizations that work on advocacy, training, and/or education related to transgender rights are eligible to join as members. LGBT organizations are only eligible to join as members if the organization is actively advocating on issues that directly relate to transgender equality. National organizations and individual activists are not eligible to join. Organizations that are in the process of forming will be examined on a case-to-case basis to determine their eligibility.

In the upcoming months TAN plans to administer a survey to gage and asses the needs and current resources of membership organizations; provide topic based conference calls and webinars; and provide access to materials and resources through their resource sharing program.

There will be several upcoming opportunities to meet the TAN Steering Committee Members and learn more about TAN including: The Creating Change Conference ( as part of a team presentation on February 3rd titled “Stronger Together: A Trans Strategy/Skills Sharing Institute,” on February 5th at the session titled “Caucus for State/Local Transgender Advocacy,” and from March 20th-22nd at the National Center for Transgender Equality’s Policy Conference and Lobby Day (

Organizations interested in applying may go to: and fill out a membership application. Once the application is reviewed, if your organization’s membership is approved, the organizational contact(s) will be invited to join the TAN members list serve.

For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact or visit

Founded in 2010, the Trans Advocacy Network (TAN) is an alliance of transgender organizations that work at the state and local level, coming together to build a stronger trans movement by facilitating the sharing of resources, best practices, and organizing strategies.

The Rebecca Juro Show Returns Thursday, January 13th at 7pm Eastern with Guest Autumn Sandeen

Yes, at long last it’s the return of The Rebecca Juro Show!

We’ll be coming to you every Thursday with two hours of news, issues, politics, interviews, rants, and of course, your phone calls!

This week, our guest is Pam’s House Blend blogger and activist Autumn Sandeen. We’ll talk with Autumn about the battle for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and her part in that effort, and much more.

We’ll open this week’s show with a special feature on the tragedy in Tucson.

The Rebecca Juro Show Live Feed:

Studio Call-In Line: 928-277-4921

The Rebecca Juro Show. Thursdays, 7pm Eastern. It’s gonna be good so don’t miss it!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Democratic Party’s New LGBT “Equality” Agenda: Big Words, Short Arms

It’s really interesting to see how mainstream cable newsmedia is lauding the Democratically-controlled 111th Congress for getting so much done. It’s not entirely undeserved of course, but when one takes a close look at what actually did get done this past session of Congress in terms of protecting and ensuring equal civil rights for all Americans, we find that their actual results are really not quite as impressive as some would like us to believe.

The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a great example of what I’m talking about here. Long overdue to be sure, but also only actually impacting the lives of just a tiny fraction of a single percent of the American LGBT workforce, just like the rest of the “progress” made on LGBT rights by this administration thus far, mainly by Executive Order of one form or another. What about the rest of us, the majority of the American LGBT workforce who work in the private sector or for state and local governments in areas of the country without laws which protect their LGBT citizens? Well, apparently neither the mainstream news media nor the Democratic Congressional leadership felt we were worthy of their attention over the last two years, so for the vast majority of LGBT American civilian workers and jobseekers things continue to be just as rough as they’ve ever been, even rougher in fact, what with the higher-than-normal number of straight job applicants and a lower-than-normal number of available jobs out there just in general.

Despite the Democratic Party leadership’s seemingly almost continuous promises to introduce and vote on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act during the 111th Congress, when push came to shove left-wing pundit and politician alike wrapped themselves in the flag, focused in like a laser on the fight to protect just the miniscule fraction of LGBT Americans who work for the government, and patted themselves on the back for a job well done as the Democrats once again threw the bulk of the American LGBT workforce and our families back under the bus for at least another 2-4 years.

And so, once again a self-congratulatory Democratic Congress and Administration along with its attendant liberal mainstream media flotilla sails off into the sunset, flags flying so proudly and brass buttons shining so brightly in the sun, leaving behind the bulk of the American LGBT workforce and our families, unnoticed, uncommented upon, unprotected.

Someone remind me please: Exactly when was all that “CHANGE” stuff supposed to kick in?

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a really hard time seeing any actual differences between the way things were for the vast majority of LGBT American workers under Clinton and Bush and the way they are now, after two years of Mr. Fierce Advocate and Democratic control of both houses of Congress. I mean, sure, we’ve made some significant progress here and there at the state and local levels, but when it comes to the really big ticket federal items, the kind of legislation that can actually make a difference in people’s lives, the kind we waited nearly a generation for the Democrats to have the necessary majorities in Congress and control of the White House to finally enact into law as they promised, unless you’re one of the relative handful who’s employed by the federal government in some capacity, the Obama Administration and the 111th Congress didn’t deliver very much which will help make your life better as an LGBT American.

Yes, it’s great that LGBT Americans are now protected by a federal hate crimes law. It’s also great that for the first time in the history of our nation LGBT Americans are defined as a protected class under federal law. That happened in this Congress, and it’s worthy of both notice and commendation. Thing is, since the protections of this law only kick in once a serious violent crime has been committed and an LGBT person is likely already seriously injured or dead, it’s difficult to see this law as actually protecting anyone from anything. In the end, all the hate crimes law does is help ensure that the perpetrator of a hate crime serves a tougher, more just sentence than they would otherwise, and that those hate crimes are more accurately tracked by law enforcement officials than they had been in the past. It doesn’t actually improve anyone’s life or actually protect anyone from anything, it simply helps to balance the scales of justice once someone’s life has already been made horribly worse or taken from them entirely, not at all the same thing.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that the Democrats don’t deserve credit for all that they did get accomplished in the 111th. At the same time, though, I also think that’s it’s important that we don’t forget that the Democrats have once again failed to deliver on their promises for the vast majority of LGBT American working families, even though they swore up and down to us a thousand times that this time it would be different with firm control of both houses of Congress and the White House.

Once again, even with the political winds at the their backs and firm control of the legislative agenda this time, the Democratic Congressional leadership and the White House still wimped out and took the easy, cowardly way out in advocating for basic civil rights for all Americans, and once again, American LGBT workers and our families will continue paying the price for their cowardice for years to come.

Have we finally had enough NOW?