Posts Tagged ‘media

13
Feb
14

“Transparent” A transparent Trans review.

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I just finished watching the pilot episode for “Transparent” the latest attempt out of Hollywood to portray the trans experience. And Wow. I mean, really, wow. That was not what I expected.

And I mean that as high praise. At least kind of. But let me explain.

I would be lying if I said I had gone into this without expectations. I’ve been hearing about this show for quite some time now. First rumours. Then confirmation. Then hints through the trans pipeline about the behind the scenes production.

It took very little detective action to take a look at who was working on this. It even turned out that I was connected to the director, Jill Soloway from about 20 different directions. Including the husband of the first woman I ever had a crush on at summer camp. Who I recently reconnected with when she asked if she could take some naked pictures of me! (They’re on the internet, if you really want to know that much about me. And they’re quite nice really!)

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Seriously, so much enduring love to my queer friend who saw through the facade of “straight white guy” and gave me her copy of this to read.

So that’s my full disclosure of a sort. And I went in with split expectations. On the one hand, some of the people I was connected to the director through are people whom I admire a great deal. Including my mentor and friend, the amazing improviser, David Razowsky. I also was very impressed by the work Soloway has done previously. Including as a producer and writer of the series Six Feet Under and director of a section of a film based on the autobiographical novel Valencia by queer author Michelle Tea. A book that was really quite inspirational to me when I read it out in L.A. just previous to my transition.

On the other hand. Hollywood hasn’t been doing the most bang-up job of representing trans people lately. There have been close steps, almost okays, but then they invariably fail.

With only a couple of exceptions, the late night television roster seems to have been a veritable factory of faux-pas and insensitive portrayals lately. And in primetime, we are still far too often portrayed as sex objects, psychos or the as punchline for jokes that were already old when Milton Berle was putting on a dress for laughs.

So I’ll admit, when I saw that the pilot for Transparent was out on Amazon Prime, I pressed play with a great deal of skepticism. If perhaps skepticism tempered with a bit of hope.

And right from the first moment, I was surprised. First of all, the titles. These weird, throwbacky, seventies sitcom style titles. A font that looked lifted straight from The Jeffersons.

As a child whose favourite babysitter growing up in the Seventies and Eighties was our little black and white tv, I was hooked instantly on a wriggling worm of nostalgia. So, imagine my surprise when the very next shot is of a couple in bed and, and….

Waitaminute! They’re showing that woman naked!

This isn’t the seventies anymore, this is how people actually sleep in their beds as couples!! Naked, with sheets partly thrown off. Because it gets hot in L.A.!

Holy heck!

Already I knew that whatever expectations I might have where going to be up for grabs. Still, I watched each scene, waiting for the reveal, ready to be all clever and know-it-all trans advice columnist and say, “Ah ha!” I knew the hammer was about to drop!! There it is! There’s the awful, cheap joke about a guy in a dress!

But it kept not happening.

Now, I don’t want to give too many spoilers here. I suggest that you watch the show yourself. Give it your own attention. If I were to tell you too, too much it would spoil what I liked most about it. Which was that I found it consistently surprising.

What I will tell you is that Jeffrey Tambor was quite sensitive in his portrayal of a late-middle-aged father in the beginnings of male-to-female transition. I consistently liked how he played each scene he was in. And his relationship with his three children was very real feeling to me.

Also, it’s a great deal more adult than what you may be used to on network tv. There’s nudity and there’s sex. Quite a lot of it actually for a half hour sitcom.

If that’s not your thing, you might want to steer clear. I know I have one friend who is not at all prudish personally, but who consistently fast-forwards through love scenes, because she just hates them! She’d get a nice short film out of this episode.

As for myself, I liked the more adult theme, mainly because I think it gives the writers a lot more leeway to explore genuine human stories. It opens up far more avenues than traditional sitcoms are able to explore. Which in turn, I hope, will allow the cast and writers to flesh out (Ha!! Sorry, I couldn’t resist…) a more authentic portrayal of the trans woman of the title and the characters around her.

F--k Yeah Jim Croce!!!

F–k Yeah Jim Croce!!!

There were a few other touches I liked personally. The music was one of them. There is a very nice scene where the daughter and son of the main character are going through their dad’s record collection and they stop to comment on a Jim Croce album that they loved.

The whole scene reminded me very much of my own father and his record collection. Which included that same Croce album, which I loved as well!

For me, that allowed me to flip perspectives and identify also with the kids of this trans parent. Their characters being much more of my own generation, than Tambor’s trans character.

As for Tambor himself, I also harboured very conflicted feelings. I really, really like Jeffrey Tambor as an actor.  And though he’s perhaps better known for his roles in Arrested Development or The Larry Sanders Show. I was a huge fan of the show, Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into The Future when I was a geeky punk teenager. In fact, in many ways it was pretty seminal to the person I became. It still inspires what I aspire to be. “Live and direct.”

But picturing Tambor’s character from that show, a harried, perpetually stressed out television producer named Murray, as a trans woman, was causing me a bit of dissonance, to put it mildly. It was a little hard to shake.

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But Murray!! Your mustache is so epic!

Also, I’m really tired of seeing cis people (Someone who identifies as the gender they were identified as at birth. Ie., not trans.) play trans in tv and movies. Still, Tambor does an excellent acting job here, and given the early transition time period of this show, I found the casting to be actually appropriate.

To the producer’s credit, there appeared to be several authentic trans people playing smaller parts. And I have it on fairly good authority that if this show gets picked up for more episodes, they plan on casting a credible ensemble of genuine trans people. Fingers crossed.

So, would I recommend this show? Though I know the sort of trouble I could get in to with my more radical friends for saying this; yes, yes I would. I think it’s worth at least giving a chance to.

Transparent is currently available on Amazon Prime as an Amazon Original Pilot. A “Test Pilot” if you will! (I know, I know! Listen, I was a comic before I was a radical trans activist okay?? A girl’s just gotta get these things out sometimes.) And if enough people watch it and tell Amazon that they like it, the show will get a go at more episodes.

I rather hope it does. I’m curious to see where they go with this story and these characters. I’m hopeful they might even do it right! Certainly if they can continue to be able to surprise my jaded media-analyzing self, they’ll be on the right track.

And finally, I personally hope it gets picked up because, speaking frankly, I’d love to be part of that cast! This queer trans, activist, adventurer and pageant queen is ready to balance out all the marching and saving the world stuff with a little more of the making people laugh scene again!!

Slainte!

05
Nov
13

Tammy’s Twist – A Trans-Tastic Evening Of Comedy

Come on everybody!

Let’s TWIST!!!

 

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Hi there! It’s Lorelei, you know, the weird tall woman who writes a newspaper column called “Ask A Transwoman” and purports to be a bona-fide pageant queen. (It’s true! Honest! Miss Trans New England 2009!! W00t!!) The Transproviser her very-own self!!

Anyway, the other thing I do, and did for years and years before I became the fabulous transgender activist I am today, is Improv and Comedy! This is relevant because I’m co-hosting a show in NYC next Saturday with the amazing trans stand-up comic Tammy Twotone. And I’m really hoping you, my dear faithful readers, will go!! Or if it’s totally unrealistic for you to make it, maybe you could encourage your friends to go.

SingingTandLcropBut why is this so important, besides being a super-funny night of some of the best comedy on the freaking planet?!?! It’s important because this is what we’re always talking about. It’s transpeople making our own media. Telling our own stories (and jokes!). We’re not waiting for Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment industry to catch up, we’re doing it ourselves.

And we bring a heck of a lot of talent to the table. Tammy has been doing standup for decades. Perfecting her craft and paying her dues, until she got to the point where she has finally been trusted with producing her own show. This show.

As for myself, I spent years studying improv and sketch comedy at Second City in Chicago and LA. Performing with a number of different groups, and on any stage I could get up on, all over the country. I was also the showroom manager at The Hollywood Improv for several years, studying and getting to know some of the greatest comics working today. (As well as a lot of the not-so-greatest…  Gods help me.)RedDurkinNY

Beyond that, we also have the amazingly funny and smart trans comic (TransComic?) Red Durkin joining us. For my money, Red is one of the best up and coming comics working today. Trans or otherwise.

Tammy, Red and I all come from pretty different comedy backgrounds, so it’s not often you will see the three of us sharing one stage like this. This is special. And not just because of our collective transness! We also have quite a line-up of cis LGBQ comics joining us as well as some totally straight cisfolks! (CisComics?) They bring credits as diverse as “The Chappelle Show”, “Louie”, MTV and even freakin’ Nick At Night!!

But for this to be successful we need to pack the house! Show ‘em we’re not just awesome, but we’re a viable market. Trust me, if there’s one thing The Industry values above all else, it’s the ability to bring a crowd!

Now is the time to stop talking about how there needs to be more transpeople being represented. We will be representing loud and proud this coming Saturday, 10pm at The Broadway Comedy Club in NYC!!!  All you have to do is show up!! (And buy a ticket and two drinks of course.)

See you there!!

The Broadway Comedy Club 318 West 53rd St., New York, NY 10010

Tammy Twotone, – Producer/Host

Lorelei Erisis -Second City, LA Improv

Coleen Scriven – NYC Fringe Festival

Kim Deshields -Nick at Nites’ Funniest Mom

Rick Crom – ‘Louis’, ‘Chapelle Show’

Micah Sherman -Second City

Red Durkin -PrettyQueer.Com

Harrison Greenbaum -MTV Comedians to Watch

Emma Willmann

Danny Palmer

Stacy Kendro

The Silent Opera

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the door. There is a 2 drink Min.

For res. call 212-757-2323

11
Mar
13

“She’s Got A D!%k” A TransComic Analysis

So, if you’re trans, by this point in the news and social media cycle, you will have heard about the Justin Timberlake starring trailer for a faux romantic comedy called “She’s Got A D!%k” on Saturday Night Live this past weekend. And you probably already have, or are trying to form, an opinion.

The first I heard about this sketch myself was just this evening, on a Facebook thread in which my opinion as a Second City trained Sketch Comic and Improviser was solicited. And I resisted reading any of the comments before I watched, so I could get a fresh take on it.

What I got was at least two good chuckles, one of which was a Eugene Levy reference, which, was really just spot-on. Also, a couple of “Awwws.” And the thought, that afterwards I read reflected in various comments, that, gosh, I’d really like to actually see this movie!! It would probably even become a guilty favourite.

There has already been at least one pretty insightful blog post by a transperson, written by Antonia D’orsay who is the Executive Director of This Is How. And though I don’t agree with everything Ms. D’orsay has to say about the subject, it is well worth a read for it’s pretty in-depth analysis of the deeper issues.

So, that being the case, I’ll stick with looking at the sketch from the point of view of a comedy professional who also happens to be trans.

I could break down the technical details of the sketch for hours, but basically what you need to know is, despite the title of the movie, it’s not really a sketch about trans people. Or rather more specifically, the subject of trans people is incidental to the main joke. That joke being, how formulaic romantic comedies are.

Take one “meet cute”. Flavour with any randomly contrived conflict (spin the magic wheel and it lands on…. “Woman with a penis”) that’s only ever really a matter of characters being honest with each other. Add a pinch of concerned authority figure (Eugene Levy!). Stir in a quirky friend (The magic wheel lands on…. “Funny black guy”). Separate the obviously meant to be together couple for a really unacceptably dumb reason (the aforementioned penis), that makes the audience want to scream at how dumb they’re being. Bake for 70 minutes or so and then let the characters finally get over the contrived conflict and get together.

Que the audience reacting with, “Awwwwwwwwwww, that was sooooooo cute!!”

Heck, if anything was offensive, my pick would be the borderline stereotyped black character. Not that I think anyone will complain. It worked and was funny. Which sounds simplistic, I know. But my experience with what people will or will not be offended by in comedy is that’s usually where the safe side of the line lies.

I'm ready for my close-up Mr. Michaels!

I’m ready for my close-up Mr. Michaels!

As for it being a cis woman playing trans . Yes, this usually bothers me in lots of other things. However, the requirements of sketch comedy are such that it is common for members of an ensemble to play all sorts of characters they quite clearly aren’t. And I thought that the lovely and talented Nasim Pedrad did an excellent and rather sympathetic job. So, while Lorne Michaels is more than welcome to call me anytime he needs an authentic trans person (Please call me Mr. Michaels!!! Please, please, pretty please with a token trans woman on top!!!), the only way I’d have a problem with this is if they actually made this movie for reals. In which case, it damned well better be a trans actress playing the part!

Finally, I have to say that I find it to be a fairly positive thing that mainstream comedy shows like SNL feel their audience is familiar enough with trans people to use us as a comedic reference in a way that isn’t just the old “hairy guy in a dress” trope that was already a standard when Milton Berle was using it (yeah, I’m looking at you Craig Ferguson!). This may not seem at first blush to be so significant or even positive, but I assure you it is. Comedy, especially sketch comedy, tends to play to the reference level of its audience. So, for a show as broadly appealing as SNL to produce a sketch with this level of sophistication in its reference to transgender people and our lives, it has to be assumed that the bulk of the unwashed masses will actually, “get it”.

So, there you go. I liked it. It was okay, not great, but well done and funny. And possibly even slightly positive!

Possibly. Maybe. I hope.

27
Nov
12

Killer Kosilek, Part Deux!

Well hello dear internetizens!  As many of you will have noted, a few weeks back I wrote a blog about Michelle Kosilek, the transsexual woman and murederer who won her case to have her GRS provided for her while incarcerated for life, which I concluded with a plea for folks not to add fuel to the media fire.  And although the story has died down just a bit, it seems that the embers keep bursting back into full flame.  With the ensuing roaring pyres of comment threads that you might expect.

Well, at least I know I’ll never be a transgender issues writer who finds herself lacking for material…  Just today I ran a across a fresh thread of vitriol spewing off the posting of a spanking new opinion piece about the case from the blog of a Boston area radio station.

And either because I’m apparently a masochist or I’m just an idiot who likes to stress myself out unnecessarily, I read through the comment thread and the piece it sprang from.

Basically, I saw nothing new.  But since it seems the flames from this unpleasantly ongoing case will not die down, I was inspired to sit down and write out a couple of things worth considering, in addition to what I have written previously.

To begin with, do any of you realize how much the state is paying to fight this?  I’ll give you a hint.  The surgery costs in most ranges I’ve seen reported go from a low-end of $7,000 (the most likely, bare-minimum cost that the prison system would provide) to a high-end of $20,000 (unlikely that an inmate will get the ‘premium’ surgery).

Also, Kosileks lawyers had offered to waive their fees, which are substantial, if the state did not appeal. Since an appeal was called for by some important folks in high positions, it proceeded before the lawyers could even meet. Therefor negating the fee waiver.

How much are those fees? Right now, including out of pocket costs for Kosileks legal team (paying experts, etc.), they stand at around $800,000 altogether, of which $644,573 would have been waived.

But that’s not all!!  Since this appeal is apparently going through, that means we, as taxpayers are not only on the hook for previous costs, we’re going to have to foot the bill for even more!  I believe the proper internet lolspeak expression to insert here would be: FACEPALM.

So, who does this benefit?  Well, Scott Brown for one.  Soon to be former Senator Brown was one of the loudest voices calling for the condemnation of this decision and for the State to begin appeals.  Brown, it might be noted, was in the middle of very tough fight (that we now know he lost) to hold on to his Senate seat.  And this sort of issue was just the perfect thing to fire up his base of support.  If you doubt me, go check the comment threads about how this is, “… an example of why the right hate liberals.”  Also, see all the comments from folks saying they are liberal but don’t support this.  Nothing like firing up that swing vote.  In fact Brown desperately needed it.  Interestingly, it should be noted (again) that the judge who made this decision is himself quite conservative and a Reagan appointee!

But, you say, what about Governor Patrick?  He backed the decision to appeal.  And he’s even been a vocal supporter of trans rights!  Good point.  Same idea though.  As the defacto top Dem in Massachusetts, Patrick needed to look tough and appeal to those same, “I’m a liberal, but don’t support this” swing voters for the party to come out on top in this very important election year.

Want more?  Okay.  Remember the Drug Lab Scandal?  You know, the one that was going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in overturned convictions and force the state to retry all those cases?  Yeah, that one.  How long has it been since you heard about that?  Want to take a wild guess about which juicy, issue and opinion-triggering story kicked it out of the headlines?

Given the topic of this blog, you can probably guess.

I could go on about ratings and page-views and other behind the dirty scenes media tricks and tropes, but you seem like intelligent folks, I’ll let you make that leap yourself.  I could also mention how there are a lot of people who are very upset about the passage of the recent Trans Civil Rights Law in Massachusetts, who are gearing up to fight us on the remaining issue of Public Accommodations.  And how stirring up all of this incidental anti-trans sentiment is very useful to them.  How this issue lets them get under the skin of otherwise very well-meaning folks.

If you doubt this, look at any of the threads on this topic and read the comments from people who say they have no problem with transgender people, but then go on to throw around ugly slurs and misconceptions, deliberately use the wrong pronouns and generally question the whole validity of transsexualism, transgender people and the medical need for Gender Reassignment Surgery.  Oh, and that’s not even getting into the folks who go on to compare transgender folks to pedophiles.

It’s all given a very thin veneer of, “This is not about transgender people, it’s about a killer.”  But as a writer, media analyst and member of the media myself, I can tell you pretty comfortably that the broad generalizations that follow easily give the lie to this excuse.

And yes, trust me, the headline on the piece that inspired this blog is pretty leading.  I write headlines, I know.  The author is deliberately putting you in a mind to question the validity of gender reassignment surgery.  As someone who writes a regular opinion column myself, I stand her no judgment for that.  But readers need to be aware, it’s not a journalism piece, it’s an opinion piece.  Frankly that’s what the headline is supposed to do.

So, what am I saying?  I’m saying, come to your own conclusions.  Read my previous piece about the case itself if you want to hear a reasonable argument from a bona-fide transgender person.  But please think, ask questions.  Ask yourself, who stands to benefit and what are they trying to get you to think?  And most importantly, what are they trying to get you NOT to think about?

Slainte!

03
Nov
12

My Mom, Joe Biden and I all agree, Transgender Discrimination is the ‘Civil Rights Issue of Our Time’

The Vice President of the United States of America giving my Mom a great big bear hug!

So, as many of you might know, my incredibly adorable and emotionally opinionated, old hippie Mom made quite a splash this week.  She had the chance opportunity to meet Vice President Joe Biden, who was coming out of the Democratic Party Headquarters in Sarasota Florida when he spotted my Mom’s big blue eyes and made a bee-line to her to give her a big old bear hug!  It was just serendipity that my Mom was next door at her hairdressers when VP Biden was in town.  She didn’t even know the Dem Headquarters were in that building!

But when my Mom saw the Secret Service guys and found out who they were there to protect, she put on a fresh coat of lipstick and talked her way through the checkpoints.  We’re a lot alike that way.  It’s little coincidence that I became a genuine Pageant Queen (Miss Trans New England 2009), or that I’ve got a lot of opinions myself, that I am never afraid to say and say it LOUD!  It’s just how I was raised.

The further details of this encounter are easy to find.  The last time I googled, “Biden + Transgender” the results were hovering around one and a half million, with over 600 ‘news’ hits.  Suffice it to say though that my Mom, when she had the opportunity to say a few words to the Vice President of The United States of America, spoke of her transgender daughter and the imperative need to help transgender people achieve full civil rights!

My Mom posing proudly with her blonde curly locked transgender daughter.

I know that the resulting statement from Biden that “Transgender Discrimination Is ‘The Civil Rights Issue Of Our Time’” was somewhat surprising for most of the world to hear. In fact he is not far from correct in his statement.  Though even as a trans woman whose main focus is on the struggle for FULL Transgender Equality, I would remind folks that the fight for trans rights is ultimately about a fight for Human Rights for all who are oppressed.  Even so, it was surprising for most of the world to hear the VP make such a strong statement in support of transgender people.

But it wasn’t surprising to me folks!  This is the woman who raised me!  The woman who, when I was a baby and she was asked to be the featured speaker at a Feminist Rally, angrily declined when they expressed discomfort at her male-bodied child being present (In hindsight, seriously ironic…).  This is the woman who built the house I grew up in with her own freaking hands!!  And who convinced our local Rep, Speaker Of The House, “Tip” O’Neill to help her get in the program that allowed her to do so.

My Mom standing excitedly by my side moments after I won the title of Miss Trans New England.

My Mother is a woman who has never been afraid to speak her mind.  Something she also raised me to do.  A woman who, when she has something that she cares passionately about, and there’s nothing she cares more passionately about than her transgender daughter, is very good at getting people to do what she wants.  So no, I was not surprised to hear that Joe Biden, after being drawn in by my Mom’s Irish Eyes a-Smiling, said exactly what she wanted him to say!

I have been very proud of my Mom not only for being so supportive of me and working so very hard to raise me to be the person I am today.  But also for the tireless efforts she puts in to try and be a friend and ally to the whole trans community.  And when she encounters those who are alone and rejected by their own families, she never hesitates to be as much of a surrogate family member to them as health and distance allow her to be.

Though I am an only child myself, through my Mom’s Love I have found a growing network of Brothers and Sisters (and Zisters!).  Her example reminds me constantly that we are not simply a community, we are a Family!

And yes, I’m pretty much bursting with pride that my Mom, Linda Carragher Bourne, changed the world just a little bit this week.  Proud that she made the public discourse over the issue of anti-transgender discrimination just a little bit louder by getting the man who holds the second highest office in the country to amplify the heck out of it!

And with that dear readers, I duly turn my blog over to my Mom.  Who has something she would like to say directly to all of you.  I’d strongly recommend that you listen.  Not that you have any more choice in the matter than even the Vice President of The United States!

Good Evening, Friends! Hope you’re enjoying your Friday “reprieves!”

Now. We have PRECISELY FOUR DAYS until Election Day. That’s not much at ALL.

I shall be putting together a Blog very soon, but, time is of the essence, and I shall not wait one single more minute to say what needs to be said!


Yeah. Luck was with me, this week, at the Democratic Headquarters here in Sarasota. I got to “catch the eye” of Vice President Joe Biden. I got to SAY to him, basically, “Our Transgender Population, which includes SO VERY MANY Loved Ones & Friends, is NOT reaping ANY Benefits of Constitutionally Affirmed Civil Rights, HUMAN RIGHTS!”

Biden, in turn, responded that Transgender Rights is “a (or “the,” depending on which news source you are reading; personally, I can’t exactly recall. Just being honest here, Friends.) ‘Civil Rights Issue of Our Time.” It was a wonderful moment, for me, personally, for my trans daughter, my countless number of Transgender Friends! It was also, let’s be frank, kind of adorable. The Hug. The sweetness of “it all.”

K. That’s DONE now, Friends. That’s YESTERDAY’S NEWS! I cannot stress that point ENOUGH! I was blessed with the HUGE opportunity to Speak OUT for Trans Rights. I was, apparently, “heard,” evidently agreed with.

Now. This Old Granny Rabble Rouser was lucky enough to “light the match.” However, the Community Organizer, from past days, rises up in me and SHOUTS: TIME’S AWASTIN’!!! We need ACTIONS! We need them more than EVER! We need them RIGHT NOW!

I am here PLEADING with each and every one of you to whom ANY Human Rights are held dear, most especially to those who are working day & night to achieve RIGHTS for Our Precious Transgender Population (which is MUCH larger than “folks” want t’ know!), to GET OUT THERE! TO MAKE SOME NOISE! To share YOUR STORIES! Wherever, However, with the Largest “audience” that you can REACH!!! This is CRUCIAL, Peeps!

I want EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU (yes YOU!!!) to be at YOUR Local Polling Place on this coming Tuesday, with your voices, with your willingness to share YOUR TRUTHS…and, yes, with your SIGNS! The ones that will inform EVERY SINGLE “about to vote” voter that YOUR LIVES and LIVELIHOODS ARE AT STAKE in this Election.

The SOLE possibility for Transgender Rights being ANYWHERE near supported, endorsed, at the Federal Level, lies with an Obama/Biden “Win.” There is ZERO possibility for anything but fewer rights, more violence, more untethered bullying and Hatred (Hate CRIMES! Loss of LIVES!!!) if their Republican Opponents are inducted into the Office of Presidency/Vice Presidency of OUR United States. ZERO. ZIP. NADA.

So. GET OUT THERE, Lovies! Make a NOISE! Be your SweetSWEET selves, but, BE HEARD!!! It’s, honestly, and quite tragically, Our Only Hope…

Yes. That ‘s precisely what I feel, what I (at 60) KNOW! Pretty eyes be damned. That’s simply an Old Hippie “Theater In The Streets” bit, Friends. Ya use what ya GOT. THEN! YOU ORGANIZE YOUR ASSES OFF!!!

Just. DO IT!!!

Love OUT! Fist Raised HIGH! Your Always Lin
Power To OUR People!!!! That includes ANY disenfranchised “group,” but my Heart is Specific here. I know a zillion of yours are too!!!

-Linda Carragher Bourne

Trans Rights Now!

If you’re looking for more on my Mom meeting the Vice President, check out these links to The Huffington Post, Advocate.com, my own paper, The Rainbow Times and The SF Weekly.

If you find yourself inspired to get involved in the fight for Trans Civil Rights, I strongly recommend checking out and contacting the following organizations to find out how!  The Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition and the National Center for Transgender Equality.

For much more in depth information about the discrimination that transgender people face daily, I urge you to read over the results of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey performed by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

And of course, don’t forget to get out and vote for Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate for President, Barack Obama next Tuesday!!!

06
Sep
12

Why the Michelle Kosilek ruling is not a terrible, horrible, awful thing (even though she might be).

It’s been quite a week for me.  Without getting into details not relevant to the subject of this post, suffice to say it was one filled with all kinds of trans community related drama.  So when I got home tonight and noticed there was some sort of controversy raging around a transgender inmate here in Massachusetts, I’ll be honest, I did everything I could to ignore it.  I’m just about on trans-issue overload as it is.

I made dinner, chatted with my roommates, watched part of a documentary about Johnny Carson until it stopped working.  Then watched some stuff about the great Improv director and teacher Del Close.

Then I made the mistake of going over to Facebook.

Why, oh why do I do these things?  Of course all the drama was right there, flooding my feed.  There were even a couple of messages from my Mother in my inbox, practically begging for my opinion.  So, finally, mainly for my Mom and because, okay, I’m a transgender advice columnist, so it’s sort of what I do…  I broke down and started surfing stories about Michelle Kosilek a convicted killer incarcerated right here in Massachusetts for the 1990 murder of her wife.

Kosilek, I should note for clarity, is also a transgender woman.

This is not the first time I’ve encountered her story.  Kosilek started her male to female gender transition while in the custody of the State 12 years ago.  She has also mutilated herself genitally and twice attempted suicide.  Without going into too many details, what is important to know is that her Doctor diagnosed SRS (Sex Reassignment Surgery) to be a medical necessity in her case.  A Federal Judge agreed with this earlier today and ordered the surgery to be provided by the State.

It will be completely unsurprising to anyone who has ever turned on the TV, Radio or Internet, or spoken to other human beings about anything out of the ordinary, and most especially about issues related to transgender folks, that this decision has caused a storm of controversy.

Those are the facts you need to know up front.  And yes, you can bet I have an opinion all my own.

I will say that the controversy seems to break down along much less partisan lines than I usually see in trans related debates.  I have seen both trans- and cisgender people who are shocked and appalled by this taxpayer funded freeloading surgery.  And I have seen both cis- and transgender folks agreeing that this is a reasonable and progressive decision by the court.

Everybody though seems to agree that it’s a very uncomfortable controversy.  “Wicked” uncomfortable even, this being Massachusetts.  I mean, look, this a person who killed their wife and is serving life in prison for the crime.  Not a nice individual.  A criminal.  A murderer!!  And if I’m going to go ahead and be really bitchy and judgmental about it (hell, I am a Pageant Queen, I’m allowed bitchiness occasionally…), kinda friggin’ creepy looking.  I mean, those eyes….

Anyway.  The one thing that’s for certain is that no one who cares about trans issues wants Michelle Kosilek to be our postergirl.  You can just almost picture the folks who have worked to oppose trans civil rights gleefully cackling like a Bond Villain, steepling their fingers while watching tonight’s news.

For our opponents, Michelle Kosilek must seem like the human embodiment of all the “Bathroom Panic” commercials used to scare people away from thinking critically and positively about Transgender Rights.  Either that or as sure proof of the Immanentizing of the Eschaton (go ahead, look it up, it’s a fun surf).

But what does it all really boil down to?  My dear readers who think so carefully about all things and never jump to hasty conclusions.  I can hear you asking!  What do you think Lorelei?  Is this taxpayer funded freeloading?  Enlightened legal progress?  Guide us!

Ooooooooookay, since you put it that way.

First, let me be clear, like many of you, I’m ragingly jealous!  Why should this murderer have surgery that I’m not sure I’ll EVER be able to afford myself, provided by our tax dollars?!?!?!  Why, when most insurance plans routinely deny this necessary surgery to perfectly law abiding transgender folks, should an incarcerated felon get it for free???

Well, I’ll tell you why.  Did you notice that phrase, “necessary surgery”?

Yeah, that’s really the only important thing here.  Forget the heinous crime.  Forget the super-creepiness of Kosilek herself.  And remember only that a Medical Doctor has given a diagnosis that without this life-saving surgery, an incarcerated human being under the enforced care of the State is at risk.

You see, inmates aren’t allowed to provide for their own medical treatment.  Or much of anything else for that matter.  While they are incarcerated, and Kosilek is for life, we as “The State” are required to take care of their basic needs.  We must feed them, house them, clothe them and if they are sick or broken, we have to try and fix them, make them healthy again.

For all of you who could give a Rat’s Ass about Trans Rights, this is the argument for you.  If we are a just and fair society, we must support the decision of the trained medical personnel who care for our prisoners.  If a Doctor deems a treatment necessary to the health of a person whose freedoms we have forcibly curtailed, we must not oppose that.  For that way lies a slippery slope.

If we, as laypeople, can say our taxes will not save this life.  Then where does it stop?  Wouldn’t it ease the taxpayer burden to allow those awful rapists to be consumed by cancer?  Should we really mend the broken hand of a sticky-fingered thief?  What about the junky drug dealer who contracted Hepatitis from a dirty needle before he was even arrested?  Do we save a few bucks off the ever-increasing deficit and say, “Sorry, no help for your suffering.”

No, I for one do not wish to live in a society that does not care for the least among us.  Though it could be argued that is the case already…

Michelle Kosilek’s prison appointed Doctor has deemed this a necessary procedure.  Therefor the Judge made the only ruling that was just and proper.

Not enough for you?  Okay, this next argument is for my trans-peeps who are upset that a prisoner is getting treatment they themselves have been denied.  Who hate that this heinous murderer is being handed the surgery we want so badly and so often struggle to attain.

I want you to breathe.  Listen to me.  Ready?  Receptive?

Okay.  This is legal precedent.  Which is good.

Very good.

A Federal Judge just said that a transgender/transsexual woman MUST be provided with SRS because it is a Medically Necessary Procedure.  That’s HUGE.  It opens up all kinds of avenues for good lawyers to argue that Insurance companies should cover SRS for all transgender people because a federal court has already ruled it medically necessary.  And if it’s a procedure that’s considered life saving for an inmate, then how can the insurance companies properly justify denying it to regular law-abiding folks like you and me?

And I’m quite sure if I can see this argument, there must be some of our opponents of Transgender Civil Rights out there who see the same thing and are very, very nervous about the outcome of all this.  Who will scream and fuss and cuss and do their damndest to strike this ruling down.

We may not much like our new postergirl.  If you’re like me, she may actively give you the willies!!  But we cannot have it both ways.  If we are trying to tell people that SRS is something we need.  Something we must have to be healthy, happy and whole.  Then we cannot deny the necessity of this procedure for anyone.  Even Michelle Kosilek.

So, I beg you to stop shouting at each other.  It will only make the work of our opponents in the overall struggle that much easier.  If we are already tearing at each other over this decision, they need hardly lift a finger to set us back.

I’m not asking you to like it.  I’m not even asking you to go to work tomorrow and tell all your coworkers how awesome it is that this Convicted Wife Murderer is getting SRS…

I’m just asking you to think about it carefully and rationally.  Think it all through.  And if you agree with me, then at the very least, please don’t throw any more wood on the media fire.

Thank you.

01
Feb
11

A Trans-Analysis of SNL (and some really blatant self-promotion)

Pageant Queen At Work!

Lorelei Erisis doing what I do best!!!

There are those moments when I think to myself, “Lorelei, keep you’re your trap shut”.  Sometimes I listen, sometimes I don’t.  This is clearly one of those moments where I don’t.

There was a sketch on SNL last weekend that’s got all kinds of folks up in arms this week.  It was one of SNL’s standard fare commercial parodies starring guest host Jesse Eisenberg and several other cast regulars.  The sketch was a commercial for a fictional product called, “Estro-Maxx”, an estrogen supplement for male to female transsexuals hoping to speed up and simplify their gender transition.

I haven’t watched SNL regularly in years, so I had no idea about this sketch until this morning when I opened up Facebook and saw several of my friends and acquaintances from the trans world expressing their horror and dismay over this particular sketch.  Some were even calling for a public apology from NBC as well as a removal of the offending sketch from all media and future broadcasts.  In short, it was a shit-storm.

So, trans-activist that I am, I clicked the link, ready to formulate my own facebooked expressions of dismay but also trying my best as a comedy person to keep an open mind.  One minute and 55 seconds later, my impressions were similarly divided.

As a transwoman, I was deeply unsettled by the depictions of a transwoman with a beard and one with a mustache.  I was also jarred as an activist by the sloppy pronoun usage in referring to these transwomen.

But as someone who has spent most of their life studying, performing and working in the comedy field, I couldn’t help but think maybe there was something there.  I’ll admit, I did laugh a couple of times.  Not a hearty laugh, but enough of a chuckle to count.  I still felt somehow offended, but there were details that kept nagging at me.

As it happened, I had to get to work and get on with the day to day of paying the rent and living life.  But I kept an eye on the opinion threads through the day, wanting to feel out how other people were reacting.

The more I thought about the sketch though, the less offended I was.  There were little details that made me have to think.  Inferences I made based upon what I know about comedy and from a lifetime of eagerly staying up late to hear Don Pardo say, “Live from New York!”

When I got home just a little while ago I watched it again and discussed it with my friend Widow Centauri, who I met while she was doing standup and I was running the show at The Hollywood Improv.  Here are the conclusions that I’ve come to.

(click the link  below to watch the actual sketch on NBC.com)

http://widget.nbc.com/videos/nbcshort_at.swf?CXNID=1000004.10045NXC&widID=4727a250e66f9723&clipID=1279560&showID=61

First, yes it is offensive.  It’s comedy though and sometimes comedy ain’t pretty and almost all comedy is offensive to someone.  Even “self-deprecating” comedy is simply making the comic themselves the butt of the joke.  They are offending themselves.  And before you shout, “What about Bill Cosby?!?” at me.  Just consider how his kids must feel about his jokes.  Or Noah?

The line between when people feel offended and when they laugh, tends to lie in direct proportion to how actually funny the joke was.  I’ve seen comedians get away with the most incredibly, outrageously, the-ACLU-should-be-alerted, offensive material, because the audience just couldn’t help but laugh!  Because it was super-friggin’ funny!!  Because it was delivered well and the timing was just so.

Now the folks at Saturday Night Live have to turn out a fresh show every seven days.  An hour and a half of material that people are going to reasonably expect to be funny.  But that isn’t always going to be gut-busting.  With that much pressure, some of it will be “merely” clever.  Kinda funny.  Hopefully at least smart.

So, back to the sketch.  It was kinda funny and the more I examined it, kinda smart too.  It works on a number of levels.  Transsexual folks are only one of them.  It’s a very effective skewering of all those commercials offering health products to women.  Menopausal women especially.  On that level, it’s a pretty note for note replication of one of those commercials.  For it to work as satire though, you need an unexpected element.  For that, in this context, transsexual women are perfect.

On deeper reflection, I am forced to believe that this was in no way meant to be a skewering of transwomen.  Though there are women-with-beards presented, it in no way resembles the standard “gender-panic” type joke that you usually see pointed at transpeople in the popular media.  It is nothing like Letterman’s tasteless joke when Amanda Simpson was appointed by President Obama last year.

In fact, given the very specific reference levels of the sketch, I would say that it was written and performed by folks who, while they may not be perfectly sensitive, are at least familiar with and surprisingly informed about transpeople in real life.  There were elements of the sketch that, while easy to miss in the first flush of reaction, were pretty trans-specific.  Like the idea that the initial stages of gender transition are never as quick or as dramatic as some of us would like it to be.  Or showing transwomen as respectable people living our daily lives, in positions of power even!

I also read a number of comments from transpeople around the internets who noted that for once, we were not portrayed as over-sexualized freaks.  Heck, most of the women portrayed in the sketch weren’t even in dresses.  They were mostly in casual pantsuits!  They were probably dressed the closest to how actual (or at least, white, middle-class) transwomen dress that I’ve yet seen on television.

The sketch really could have been quite a positive piece overall.  But then came the facial hair.  And you could almost hear a thousand transsexual and transgender people go “Booooo!!!  Hissssssss!!!!”  And honestly, if it had been me, an actual, honest to Gods, transgender woman, writing the sketch, I would not have gone there.  But it wasn’t me, it was a bunch of (as far as I know) young-ish, cisgender guys.

Folks whose job it is to come up with, write, perform and often produce themselves, fresh funny material in less than six days every week for several months a year.  And hopefully not offend anyone too badly.  A job I would kill for, but by no means an easy one.

I actually thought, upon examination, that the “Estro-Maxx” sketch had a lot in it that was specifically applicable to transpeople, potentially funny to us and not necessarily a lot of other people.  But SNL has a lot of other people watching who also need to be made to laugh.

So, beards on transwomen.  In comedy terms it’s an unexpected juxtaposition of elements.  One of the basic building blocks of comedy, put a couple of disparate things together and build the yucks.  It ain’t always pretty, but it’ll make the Coors Lite buying segment of the viewing public laugh and keep them tuned to an otherwise oddly specific sketch.

But wait!  It goes a little deeper than just that even.  When we first see the bearded transwoman, she’s going through an airport security scanner.  The bored looking guard overseeing this doesn’t even blip at the women with obvious facial hair going through the scanner until he sees the scan and the scene implies he’s seen her genitals, at which point he finally reacts.

I kept thinking about this and it seemed to me, the more I thought about it, that this was actually a pretty astute observation of how genitally obsessed people in our society can be.  I can tell you from personal experience that I encounter this sort of thing all the friggin’ time!!  People will be completely unfazed by the fact of a six foot four woman with a gameshow announcers voice towering over them, but they cannot let go of the idea that my genitals might not be the standard issue for most women!!

But then, the guard does not react with the boring old, standard issue comedy, shock and horror, total disgust face.  The guard actually seems interested and happy!  He even shows up in the final tableau!!

The mustache on the other hand, I can’t defend except to say that for some reason it was a hilarious mustache in and of itself.  Seriously, you could show me 30 seconds of just that ‘stache and I’d be laughing my fool head off.  But probably it wasn’t appropriate for the sketch.

All told, I did not think the “Estro-Maxx” commercial parody was the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages or even close to the funniest thing I’ve seen on SNL.  (“Wake Up And Smile” was.  Trust me, Google it.  It’s friggin’ twisted)  And I can well understand why many of my transsexual/transgender sisters and brothers are so offended.  But I have to say that I found it surprisingly smart and somewhat funny.

It’s never fun to be the butt of the joke, but I can tell you one thing.  When they’re making fun of you on Saturday Night Live, it means people are paying attention.  You are important enough to make reference to.

And transpeople are that!  We are finally beginning to be heard.  The media juggernaught has taken notice and the advertisers will not be far behind.  That is something SNL got dead right.

Now, the question is, what do we do with that spotlight?!?!

As far as SNL is concerned, I know what I’d like to see.  I’d like to see a transsexual/transgender host or even cast member!!  If Lorne Michaels and NBC want to make a gesture to the trans community I have a suggestion.

Let me host!!!

I’m a Second City trained improviser, actor, writer and sketch comic who has been doing comedy one way or another since I could first make words come out of my mouth!!  And I’m also a genuine Bona-Fide transsexual woman!  Heck, I’m even a transgender celebrity.  A columnist, an activist AND a pageant queen.  I was the very first Miss Trans New England!!!

How do you like them apples!??!?!

And if one transgender woman’s not enough for ya, I’ve even got funny friends!!  I’m sure my friend, stand-up comedy veteran and also genuine bona-fide, etc., etc., transwoman, Tammy Twotone could be convinced to join me!  You could get a Comedy Transwoman Two-fer!!

So whaddya say Mr. Michaels???  Will you let me host?

How about you internet friends?  My trans sisters and brothers and everyone else reading this???  Do you want to see a flesh and blood transsexual woman making the funny for you on national TV??  Do you want your voices represented?

Then make it so.  Time for us to grab control of that spotlight ourselves.

Get out there and tell SNL and NBC that you want Lorelei Erisis to deliver that famous line, “Live from New York!  It’s Saturday Night!!!”

"The Tranny Rat Pack"

Lorelei Erisis, Tammy Twotone & LezleeAnne Rios

Tell Lorne Michaels you want Lorelei Erisis to host SNL

Slainte!




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