Tag Archives: popular culture

You Don’t Even Know What Trans People Can Do

If I see one more dead trans woman on a cop show, I am going to pull out my already thinning hair. Pop culture loves the narcissistic trans guy (or even better, “boi”), the drug-addled butch lesbian, the screeching drag queen, and the sensationalized dead trans woman. With media images like this it’s no wonder mainstream America thinks we’re so desperately unhappy and to be avoided at all costs. Well, I know some great folks who are ordinary and amazing all at once. Here are a few of them:

  • My friend Jamie just biked across the continental divide twice today. She freaking bikes all over the place, sometimes for charity. I did an interview with her a while back.
  • My friend Jay is a sociology professor. He teaches about medical sociology. Don’t know what that is? Look it up!
  • Tom Léger started a transgender-focused press and two of his books have already won awards. See his interview with Morty Diamond.
  • Imani Henry is a longtime activist in NYC and just got his masters in social work. Take that, social safety net! Imani is on it!
  • My friend Aleisha owns and runs a kick ass hostel in Ontario with a full-sized Dalek in the lobby. I may be making up the Dalek but I don’t think so.
  • Imogen Binnie and Ryka Aoki wrote two of the best books out there in the last year. Seriously. Buy them. Read them. Tell your friends to buy them and read them.
  • My friend Riley is programming a physician management system, one of the biggest ones in the country. Your blood pressure and medication list? She helped build the system that captures all of those data.
  • A tiny town of 50 in Wyoming has a trans woman postmistress. I was thrilled to get postcard stamps from her, and I’m not sure if she knew why.

I know five trans social workers, two trans nurses, three trans doctors, five trans professors, one trans firefighter, a whole mess of trans writers, three trans folk who run successful nonprofits, and more than a dozen who mentor young people. Many people I’ve met volunteer a good portion of their time, contribute to their communities, and have befriended their neighbors. We are geeky, serious, shy, brazen, endearing, hardworking, curious, affectionate, love animals and movies and pets and long walks on the beach—sometimes.

We are ordinary, except for this radical thing we had to go and do to get where we are today. And for some of us, even that thing feels pretty average. We identify in all kinds of ways around our gender, and often we don’t feel like talking about it. Especially if you come up to me to ask about the dead trans lady on TV last night. For real. Go buy a book by Carter Sickles and then come at me for conversation.

Lowered Expectations — Media, Money, & Mad Men

It’s not that I’m in a bad mood on this rainy Tuesday, it’s that I don’t have any energy left for annoyances. Yesterday started off with someone relaying a situation to me: what if a woman was being pestered to get an HIV test because a previous boyfriend of her hers was HIV-positive (or so they presume). What if the boyfriend refused to get one for himself and refused to use a condom? Could I test her and call him to say she was negative? Also, can people get AIDS from toilet seats?

There are so many things wrong with that hypothetical that I scarcely know where to begin. But maybe this is a good Square One:

screen still from Mad Men: The Crash

What about this syringe looks like a good idea?

If you’re concerned your sexual partner has HIV or AIDS, don’t have sex with them without a condom. I don’t know, seems like decent practice to me. Also, if your fiancee insists you have an HIV test, tells people on social media he thinks you have AIDS, refuses to get a test himself, and IS SUCH A DUMB ASS HE SCREWS YOU USING NO PROTECTION, do not, under any circumstances, marry him.

I open up my work email inbox, and lo and behold, there are two messages asking for me to donate money to a person who is crowdsourcing some thing or other. My work email. And I have no fewer than four personal email accounts. Read More…

Why Girl Scouts Will Survive the Zombie Apocalypse

girl scout sash illustrationLast winter, after a 2-year analysis of whether they should lift their policy excluding gay scouts and scout leaders, the Boy Scouts organization declared that the ban would stay in place, and then backtracked a little to take up the issue again in the summer of 2013. Sorry, boy scouts in America, your leaders are more invested in protecting your parents’ archaic judgmental attitudes about sexual orientation, at the expense of your potential future happiness and self-worth.

Worse, I would argue it’s going to leave you more vulnerable in the case of a zombie attack. Here’s why.

1. Their promises–Both groups have similar core mission statements that they make, though the Boy Scouts call it an “oath” and the Girl Scouts a “promise.” Boy Scouts also swear to be “morally straight,” meaning they’ll have strong character and live their lives with honesty. Go Girl Scouts, who won’t waste energy ensuring they’re justified in defending themselves, can just orchestrate a response to a mass invasion and get on with it.

2. The Girl Scouts’ Inclusivity–Beyond the feel-goodness of multiculturalism, there is the strength in having a diversity of experience on the table when a community needs to take action or set policy. If social positionality affects our lived reality, and if we are capable of learning from our experiences, then the Girl Scouts’ history helps them here. Admitting girls (and scout leaders) of all racial and ethnic heritages, sexual orientations, and gender identities ensures they’ll have a broader base of experience to bring to moments of crisis. And in a zombie apocalypse, they’ll need all the help they can get. Read More…

Bodies, Accountability, and Journalism: What’s So Offensive about the Steubenville Trial

Judge Thomas LippsA guilty verdict was handed down by Justice Thomas Lipps today, for both defendants in the Steubenville, Ohio rape case that has caught the attention of the nation. As the verdict was read, reality descended on the two young men charged with raping a drunk and unconscious young woman at a party last August. Multiple reports about the incident noted that before and during that party, young men on the high school football team were used to behaving however they saw fit with no boundaries enforced by the adults in their lives, and that their coach, Reno Saccocchia, was considered a frequent aid in cleaning or covering up the antics of his football players. The trial highlighted accounts by several witnesses and text messages that rather than one awful moment in which Trent Mays and Ma’Lik Richmond had a terrible, hurtful lapse in judgment, this rape behavior was more about an accumulation of unaccountability by the young men, their coach, their friends, and their parents.

The trial itself was not free of misogyny. As I’ve written about during other publicized sexual assault investigations, questions swirled around regarding the ability of the young woman to give consent to her treatment. Even though there were concerns that she’d been drugged by the defendants or their teammates, even though many witnesses attested that she was drunk–which ought to have answered the question of consent right there–and even though the assailants and others said in various media that she was unconscious, “not participating,” or passed out, the defense still saw an avenue to drag her reputation and prior behavior into the testimony at trial. Decades old questions regarding the (in)ability of men to acknowledge or notice a lack or removal of consent were brought to bear as valid discussion once again. In what some analysts called a re-victimization of the young woman, texts, photos, and video of the assault were circulated among other football team members, high school students, and the Internet at large. And of course the trial called up many of those humiliating moments after the fact as part of the prosecution as well as the defense’s case. Read More…

We Saw Your Boob, and He Is Named Seth MacFarlane

Dear Academy Awards Producers–

biggest boob of the nightDid you think the name, “Academy Awards” sounded too generic or uninteresting, so you should “update” it to “The Oscars?” Are you now concerned that your rebranding campaign has only one major cultural reference point, that of the disastrous emceeing job by Seth MacFarlane? Did the new name of “Oscar” make you think that audiences wanted the ceremony to channel the sloppy mind of a chauvinist? Perhaps you forgot that Oscar from the show The Odd Couple wasn’t actually a complete asshole?

Did you really think that the “We Saw Your Boobs” musical number was funny or in any way original? Did a feeling resembling shame even darken your hearts when you asked actresses in the audience to pretend to be embarrassed or humiliated? Were those shots ahead of time any indication at all that maybe this was too offensive for an awards show meant to highlight the best moments of Hollywood in the previous year? Was there even one moment in rehearsal or the planning meetings in which you wondered if this would cross a line for viewers or the people who have given their lives to your industry? Or were you just so taken with the idea that rambunctious young men may tune into your show over Sunday night reruns? Did anyone dare to mention, if only at a whisper, while writing the lyrics to this number, that maybe including four rape scenes in the “boobs” lineup might not be in the best taste? Maybe only for the films that were based on real life rapes?  Read More…

Commentary Roundup: Critiques of Oscars 2013

audience at the 2013 OscarsI keep wanting to write something about this, and I may in the next day or two, but in the meantime, here are very thoughtful analyses of The Man Who Loved the Sound of His Own Voice, Seth MacFarlane, and Hollywood’s love of the cruel.

And now because we’re all so pissed after reading all of this, here’s something to remind us that some people in Hollywood, even award winners, are pretty awesome people:

Post in the New Year

congresswomen2013 is here and already people are waving their fists at the sky in frustration. Mitch McConnell of the US Senate is angry his congressional colleagues want to take up gun control debates on the floor. Murmurs from DC point to anger over the nominations of Chuck Hagel to head the Department of Defense and of John Kerry to lead State. Shooting victims from Aurora, Colorado, bemoan the possible trial of the Man Who Would be Joker, and the Hell’s Angels rode en masse to Connecticut to obstruct the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting at the Newtown victims’ funerals. If any of us had any hope that the end of the election could bring down the vitriol a notch or two, we had another thing coming. Glenn Beck may be relegated to the superhighway, but Ann Coulter continues to get attention for saying this jackass thing or that, and the Tea Party continues its clamp down on legislative productivity.

Therefore, I propose a few things for the sane among us to get through these trying times: Read More…

Zombie Risk During the Holidays

zombie christmas greeting cardMany of us think of the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year as a happy season, filled with parties, presents, feasts, and family. The more cynical among us may grouse that such occasions are not cause for celebration, but very, very few of us see the holidays for the danger that it poses, which is this:

If the zombie apocalypse happened during the holidays, more people than usual would perish.

There are many reasons for this. In order to better protect the public good, I have listed them forthwith. Read, share, remember, people.

The Santa Myth–It sounds sweet to leave the back door unlocked or the sliding door unbarred, or the flue to the chimney in the open position, but these are all easy entry points for the undead to get into your house and ruin your merriment. Those aren’t reindeer hooves on the roof, people. Look, if zombie doomsday lands during Christmas season, you’re going to have to own up with your children about the fact that Santa does not exist. There’s no need for putting out cookies and milk, and there’s no reason to remove the barricades around the perimeter outside the house, either. Just hole up and hold on to dear life that DARPA or some one who still has a living brain will figure out how to help humanity survive.

Driving on Treacherous Roads to Visit People–The sun sets early at this time of year (Australians and Chileans excepted), which means that the howling for human flesh begins in the middle of the day. If you insist on seeing Aunt Maude because she gets lonely on Thanksgiving, for heaven’s sake depart at 8:00AM, an hour after dawn. You really owe it to your loved ones to take care while traveling in such trying times; bring those tire chains, crank-operated radios, and flamethrowers.

Giving Presents–Who knows what lies behind the pretty wrapping paper? To be extra safe that there’s nothing amiss in any given box, just hand out the presents in gallon-sized ziplock baggies. Remember the old adage: If you can’t see it, you don’t need it!

Drinking Lowers Alertness–Holiday celebrations sound like a good idea, sure, but consider that slowed reaction time, inhibited instincts to sense danger, and lowered ability to communicate could be the difference between getting away from hungry zombies and becoming a late night snack. Pass on the bubbly and pour yourself another mug of coffee instead. Also consider that gorging on Christmas cookies may make you sleepier than usual, another potential problem if you need to speed away to safety.

Christmas Lights Are a Beacon–Nothing says tasty person treat like an inflatable glowing, giant snow globe on the front lawn, or string after string of holiday lights. Even with their reduced intellectual capacity zombies will scrape over to ENORMOUS GLOWING OBJECTS. Save more than your energy bills. Save your lives and turn the lights out. You can have the Hannukah spirit in the safety of your walled off basement. Just tell yourselves the Maccabees had it worse and still somehow came out of it.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Old Movies Young People Should Watch

I’m 42 years old. I’m staring middle age in the paunch. I refuse to have a crisis, in part because it’s a trope, but after having a crisis in my mid-30s over the whole gender shenanigans I’m hesitant to create any more angst for myself. It’s like reflecting on the 9 years I lived in Syracuse. I counted up the snowfall for all those years and determined it was 1,100 inches. That is more snow than I care to experience in this and my next lifetime (note to the reincarnation powers: please don’t stick me in a desert next time around just because I wrote that). So snow and angst have been crossed off my bucket list, great.

buddy hackettGetting older brings with it some other unfortunate awkwardness, however. I make cultural references that people under 30 don’t understand. And for me these pop culture mini-Litmus tests are even more out of date than my age would suggest they’d be, because my father was 41 years old when I was born, so he harkened back to the freaking swing era. I can make a Hoagie Carmichael mention and not even have the 50-year-olds in the room know what I’m talking about.

There’s a lot of wonderful stuff in those bygone eras from the middle of the 20th Century, for sure. And it’s a high bar to think that in our Internet age college students would spend any time paying attention to anything produced in the previous millennium, but on the other hand, we’ve never before seen such effort made to restore old film, make out of print books available again, or set up tributes to once-forgotten authors. So with the wealth of content available to us today, it’s good practice to see older stories, for the first time, or on repeat. These are some of our cultural predecessors, inspiration for the generation of writers and directors once removed from our contemporary literature and film professionals. It’s also good to retain our collective history–I see young adults all the time at the HIV nonprofit that I run, who have never before heard the evidence supporting safer sex practices. These individuals didn’t live through the advent of AIDS, didn’t lose close friends, didn’t wonder who would come down sick next, didn’t watch their government ignore them while so many people, nearly 600,000, succumbed to the virus. And there is a whole body of written and cinematic literature out there that works through that pain, and offers insight into our problems today, including and beyond AIDS.

With the rewards of such reflection in mind, I offer a list of suggestions for anyone under 35. These are movies they should see: Read More…

The Rise and Fall of TV Commitment

This originally appeared on I Fry Mine in Butter in 2010.

In a world where there were three television networks, people watched them.

Here are a few finale viewing numbers from years past:

M*A*S*H, 1983: 105.9 million viewers

Roots (mini-series), 1977: 36.38 million households

Cheers, 1993: 80.4 million viewers

Friends, 2004: 52.5 millions viewers

The Cosby Show, 1992: 44.4 million viewers

Lost finale shotLast week, Lost’s series finale garnered 13.5 million viewers, and still it seemed like everyone and their neighbor had glued their eyes to their flatscreens. It pales in comparison to most Super Bowl games and any time Michael Jackson gave an interview. And it should be noted that the season 1 finale of Lost attracted more than 20 million viewers, so the show had definitely seen a decline of its viewership. But Nielsen numbers be damned, whatever happened to cult favorites?

Jericho, the terrible post-apocalyptic, conspiracy theorist’s daydream came back to television after a fan campaign roared its demands to the network, and got a whole 7 more episodes before it was canceled again.

So color me confused that FlashForward was canceled last week due to low ratings, even as it was at least as watchable—in my humble opinion—as V. And here’s where I get a little steamed: I know we’re going to be left hanging, forever. After I’ve dedicated significant attention to Charlie and Mark and Dmitri and Lloyd, to wrapping my brain around seeing things in the future that can’t have happened without seeing them in the future, and to remembering which agent is a double agent, which strings on Mark’s board lead where, and that we still don’t really know who D. Gibbons is. Even if some of the dialogue is stilted or some of the acting a bit forced and strident, I didn’t watch the show thinking “I bet they’re all in purgatory and waiting to die.” If I want to watch that crap I’ll rent Heaven Can Wait again. Ain’t nothing like a little Dyan Cannon screaming her guilty head off. Hell, I’d even watch The Heavenly Kid over again before I’d spend 5 years combing through Lost. (For the record, I gave up on the series after a few episodes into season 2.) Read More…

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