Posts Tagged ‘rant

09
Sep
13

Let’s all do The Communication!

Hello friends. I have a few things to say on the subject of communication. Some broad thoughts and some specific requests.

 I will no longer respond to messages in my social media that don’t at least attempt proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. It makes me twitch when I open a message from an adult that looks like it could have been written by a toddler.

I’m not going to be a douche about it. I’m fine with slang, also standard netspeak. (Though if you are over 40, please try to have some idea of correct usage for netspeak/slang!! Srsly!) Also, if you genuinely are a terrible writer/speller who somehow has no access to auto-correct or spell check, don’t sweat it. However, if you do have those things, by all means, use them!

It’s actually pretty easy to tell the difference between people who can’t do things and people who simply aren’t trying. If you are trying but simply cannot do it, I’ll be nice I promise.

The only time I find it appropriate to bend these rules are when we are chatting/instant messaging IRL (See how I still used that in a proper sentence?!?). In which case, relaxation of these rules aides in speed and efficiency of communication. Let the flow of the conversation be your guide. But please at least start at the top of your intelligence.

Finally, if you have something to say, then say it! If you have a question, then ask it! Don’t make me dance around with endless rounds of “Hi”, “How r u?” or, “u busy”. This makes me really crazy. Especially since, given my improv training and natural inclinations, I will usually simply reflect whatever you lead with and it will take forever to get anywhere.

I’m an advice columnist, public figure, and if we are connected on a social media platform, I at least nominally think of you as a friend. You can ask me questions in private. It’s okay. I give you permission.

If you are worried, then let me know the nature of the question, so I can decide for myself. In all likelihood I’ll probably still be okay with it and I will definitely let you know either way. I do think politeness is awesome! And proper etiquette rocks!! But I’m not completely hung up on it. Just do your best and you’ll be fine.

Okay? I mean, I don’t want to be a jerk, but I am a writer and performer. Language is clearly kind of important to me. I like to surround myself with people who are relatively well-spoken. And I enjoy intelligent conversation more than most things.

But hey, not everyone I know and like is well-spoken or skilled at writing. I do understand. I am just so tired of opening my inboxes and seeing mangled language and corrupted communication. It wastes my time and yours. Plus, it makes me sad.

Do you remember the crying Indian (Native American) from those anti-littering ads from the late seventies and early eighties? Well, if you do, picture that whenever you start to type a message to me that has no capitalization or punctuation to speak of.

Crying Indian Ad

Let us please remember that the purpose of language is to facilitate effective communication between people.  When it is used properly, it’s even quite beautiful! To quote the linguist Henry Higgins in George Bernard Shaw’s play, ‘Pygmalion’: “Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech, that your native language is the language of Shakespeare and Milton and The Bible.”

Social media also has the positive potential to facilitate new kinds of effective communication between people. In ways we have never seen before! This does nothing to diminish the usefulness of properly used written forms however. If anything, it makes them all the more important!

As always, I love you all! And I look forward to some great communications!

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.

02
Feb
11

Just Lorelei

Looking back at the latest posts on this here blog, I was noticing that things were getting kind of heavily political.  Which is all well and good, but is not the primary focus of this here Transproviser.  This was always meant to be a blog about a little bit of everything.

Some politics sure, and some music and if I ever get around to it, some of my thoughts on improvisation, especially as it applies to being transgender.

At it’s heart though, this is a personal blog.  A way for me to share a little bit of who I am and what I think with the world.

Today is a snow day for me.  The second in a row in fact.  So I am presented with the rare opportunity to take some of the thoughts that roll around in my head in the wee morning hours and get them down in black and white.  Turn those nagging electrical/chemical impulses into words on the page.

So if you don’t mind, I’ll just jump right into it.

You probably have figured out by now that I’m a transgender woman.  I know you’re surprised, but it’s true.  And when it comes right down to it, I’m really more specifically a transsexual woman.  It’s a little embarrassing to my radical sensibilities, but I really don’t consider myself to be genderqueer or any of those other nifty and boundary pushing identities.  I think of myself as a woman.  Simply and entirely.

I am also trans and proud of it.  It’s a valuable part of who I am and my journey in the world.  I ID as transgender to show solidarity with my brothers, sisters and others who fall all along the gender variant spectrum.  Also because I am not overly fond of the phrase “Pre-op” transsexual.

I consider myself transsexual because I am in the process of medically transitioning to my “true” gender.  I have been on HRT for several years and my body and mind have changed dramatically and wonderfully!  However, I have not yet had any surgeries and frankly don’t know if I ever will.

Certainly there are surgeries I would like to have.  I am aiming at a number of them.  I may eventually even choose to get the full “gender confirmation surgery”.

The main reason I have not gotten any of these surgeries is less radical and more pedestrian than I would like to admit.  I am an artist.  An actor and a writer and explorer of places and ideas.  Consequently I am not terribly wealthy.  These are only profitable professions for a small minority.  The rest of us do it because we have to, we are compelled.  And maybe, hopefully, someday, I will make money doing what I do.  Just not now.

So I work day jobs.  I do what I have to do to pay the rent and keep food on my table and live life as fully as I am able.

I made a choice when I decided to transition that I was going to simply let myself be the woman I had always been.  I would live as myself and take what steps I could to conform my body to that reality.

More though, I refused to wait any longer.  I would not wait for some long off day where I could afford to have all the surgeries and such that we are told are the requirement to be a “real transsexual”, “a true woman”.

I AM a woman.  I AM a transsexual.  Surgical status be damned.

So here I am.  This is why I identify as both transgender and transsexual.  I am NOT pre-op thank you very much.  I am not pre-anything.  I try as best I can to live my life in the moment.  To do and be what I can in the now.

Life for me is a journey in which the present is just as important as the destination.

So I take baby steps and make attainable goals.

And I try to pay attention to the details along the way so I can better share them with you.  Because I feel if I can share my own experience, the broad strokes as well as the little details, I can enrich the body of what is known about us.  De-mystify our trans identity a little so that other folks may realize we are not so very different.  We are people, same as anyone else, with similar loves, hates and everyday troubles and triumphs.

The same dichotomy of identities even.

I am both Lorelei Erisis, the larger than life celebrity who loves to stand on the stage and work the energy of the crowd and Lorelei who has to keep kicking her elderly orange cat off the table and trudge out in the snow to go pay the rent.

Often what you see here is Lorelei the celebrity or Lorelei the politician.

It’s Lorelei the woman that I want to talk about today.

And of course the idea of identities.

HRT has brought for me a tremendous number of changes.  It’s essentially a second puberty so that ought to be unsurprising.  But it still manages to be so.

One of the really radical changes for me has been in my sexuality.

When I was a teenager I assumed I was going to be the “gay one” in my circle of friends.  It was a lot of years before I would accept my repressed gender identity, so I took the dressing up and other side-effects of that repression as well as the fact that I was a pretty snappy dresser and a little overly fond of showtunes to mean I must be gay!

Imagine my surprise when it turned out I was really attracted to women and not so much to men!  As it turned out in fact, the only one in my little geeky-nerdy group of friends who always had a girlfriend and went through almost the entire, fairly small circle of available girls in our clique, was the “gay one”.  If only he could have come out earlier, some of the rest of us might have been able to get a date!

Eventually though I settled into an identity as bi-sexual.  But really it was more that I was particularly open-minded than that I was actually attracted to men.

I never had a lot of trouble meeting women and had a bad habit of falling passionately in love pretty easily and regularly.  Even when I began experimenting with gender pretty openly, I never had a lot of trouble.  Despite my childhood fears that my gender variance would mean I was going to end up alone and unwanted, I found quite the opposite to be true.  Quite a number of the women I dated very much liked the fact that I would do “drag” occasionally.  I even met several of them while out “en-femme” as they say.

Flash forward and I have accepted my gender variance and allowed myself to finally be myself.  Realized that the “drag” I was wearing was not the dresses and makeup, but the suits and ties!

And flooded with hormones a funny thing has happened to me.  I have fairly suddenly and a bit unexpectedly gone from theoretically attracted to men in a “yes I find that to be an attractive man” way, to “holy crap that guy is hot!” teenage-girl boy-crazy!!

Additionally, I have had the wonderful occasion in the work I do to meet a great many beautiful people with all sorts of gender identities.  Some extremely hot ones in fact!!  So I adjusted my sexual identity accordingly to consider myself to be pan-sexual.  I am attracted to people simply because I find them attractive, regardless of gender or any other factors.  And I try not to worry about it.

This has meant that socially and personally I identify as Queer.  It is an identity I am comfortable with and proud to proclaim.

But, this is a journey and so I have come to something of a crisis of identity lately.  Though I continue to identify as Queer and find myself attracted somewhat to women and others.  I find that what I want, what truly gets my heart racing, what gets me all hot and bothered, is men!  And yet, despite  my revolutionary pose, or perhaps because of it, this makes me oddly uncomfortable.  I find myself having to adjust to the idea that despite my Queer & Kinky identities, I am much more of a straight-girl than I am completely comfortable with admitting.

And I haven’t the faintest idea what to do about it.

As an Out, kink friendly transwoman, I have I can assure you, any number of men who would like to do all kinds of unmentionable things with me.  But gods forbid I should be able to find a guy who will take me out to dinner or a movie and maybe if we hit it off, go back to his place and fool around a little on the couch over a nightcap.

I haven’t even the faintest idea where to find a nice, cute guy who might be into me too.  Gay bars aren’t really any good.  Mostly they’re filled with gay boys who just want other really hot gay boys!  There simply aren’t any “tranny bars” close enough to justify a night out.  And straight bars are a tease.  I find most guys I might meet there are simply too afraid to approach a 6’4” Out transwoman in public.  Even a damned pageant queen!!  And the ones who are into me are too afraid to admit to it publically.  They’ll fuck me, but they won’t be seen with me.  Fun as that is, I just can’t get into that.

Just Lorelei

Don’t get me wrong, I love hot, dirty sex as much as the next girl.  Heck, given that I spent 5 years in a long-term relationship with a famous and notoriously dirty dominatrix, I’ve had experiences and done things that most people will only ever read or fantasize about.

But I’d really like a little vanilla-ish romance now!  I want it so badly it hurts.  I’d like to let go of being Lorelei Erisis, trans-activist for a few minutes and just fall into the arms of a beautiful, strong man.  Ideally one who is tall enough to not be dwarfed by me.  Who can see me as simply the beautiful woman I am.  Whose self-identity is strong enough to be seen with me.

I have no idea where to find him.  He’s not popped up on any of the dating sites I’ve put profiles on and if I’ve met him in real life, he hasn’t had the cojones to speak up yet.

I hope I meet him soon though because I’m ready and anxious to explore what it means to be a straight girl.  Even if it is an Out, Queer, Trans one.

06
May
10

Raw

I was going to write about some drama, some politics that have been going on in  the trans community recently.  But honestly, I’m a little tired of trans politics right now.  It’s spring and I’m much more interested in human life and love and everyday things like waiting for a boy to call or figuring out what your heart is saying.  What MY heart is saying.

After all, that’s why this blog is called “transproviser”.  It’s about all things trans, but it’s about life and improvising as I go along too.  I want people to see when they read this blog, that as fabulous as I can be, as big as my public image may seem sometimes, I’m a real person.  Just like any of you.  I drive myself crazy hoping the cute boy will call.  I worry about the people I love.  I question myself and cry and sometimes drink too much when I’m alone.

And this is why I even do the things I do anyway.  Why I fight for “trans rights”.  It’s not about semantics to me.  Offensive words and flickering media.  It’s about everyday life.  Having a roof over my head and food in my pantry.  A job that’ll pay the bills so I can take my girl out every so often.  So I can have cab fare home if the cute boy turns out to be a douche.  It’s about taking care of my family and taking care of my self.  And about every single other person on the planet, trans, black, white, Hispanic, muslim, geeky, poor, hungry, being able to do these same things themselves.  Take care of themselves and take care of their families.  However they may define family.

It really and truly bothers me when anyone is hurting.  When I meet a homeless man who asks me “what was the most painful experience of my life?”  I stop and think.  This is honesty.  If I take it seriously, this is a moment of real connection.  So I tell him in order for him to tell me.  I share my pain so he can share his.  At a personal level, while looking into the eyes of another human being.  It’s an intense moment.  Like all moments it passes and we both retreat back to our roles.  But for a second it was there.  That is why I fight.  That is what gets me out of bed in the morning.

I’m scared.  Jumping tracks into what I really mean to say.  Steering away from the abstract.  I’m scared.  I’m just beginning to find who I am.  To find the new me.

I have been afraid to completely step away from the old me though.  I don’t really know how.

The writing flowed like an opened vein until that moment.  Just here.  Now I am at truth and my fingers suddenly are typing through mud.  The past is threatening to revisit my now.  To come from the then to where I am in the moment.  Can I even handle that?  I deal in all these abstracts, what happens when I have to live with the reality of my ideas?  I claim to be sex-positive and kinky and poly and pan and all of these things.  I have legitimately had adventures well beyond the experience of many I meet.  Whether vanilla or kinky.  You would think I’d be free.  But still, when someone touches me I freeze.  My breathing stops.  I talk and talk and talk and you would think by my words and my confidence I was immune from the same insecurities that plague all human hearts.  But I’m here to tell you I am not.

I am just as starved for human touch.  I am just as insecure.  I am just as afraid of rejection and heartache.  I am terrified of hurting someone else.  Of causing another pain.

In sexual terms, I have been looking to find a top to whom I can bottom.  But I have recently discovered a sadistic side in myself.  I think it is a reaction to my fear of causing pain.  It’s a pretty extreme reaction too.  It’s a pretty intense fear.

Again though, I dance around the truth, whirling in the abstract.  Why is it so hard to simply say what I mean?

Or am I?  Can you see beyond my words into the truth of what I’m feeling?  Can you see that these are not abstracts?  That this is not just a dance but an actual example of my fear?  My fear for instance of hurting another human being manifested by my careful avoidance of names and specifics.

Well if that’s what you guessed you win the zero-dollar prize.

And the worst part of it?  The worst part for me the writer and for you the reader?  This is actual life.  Not semantics or politics or polemics.   Or even good fiction.  This is a glance inside of me.  And there is not going to be a tidy ending.  There is not a solution which through this writing will miraculously and stylishly present itself.  It is life, wonderful and painful and messy and now.  There is no summation.  No wrapping up statement that’s going to happen.  My difficulties will still be that real and present as will yours.  But maybe by my opening my wound for you we can share a moment for a second.  A bit of truth a bit of connection before this, doesn’t end so much, as simply stops.

19
Apr
10

Tribeca’s Controversy Kerfuffle

Here we go.  Good morning and good afternoon dear readers, I have a few somethings to say.  It’s possible, if you’re a regular follower of this blog that you read my recent post in support of the boycott of Ticked Off Trannies With Knives.  It’s also likely, if you are a follower of this blog that you are at least passingly familiar with my activism in support of transgender rights.

Now normally, I try to stick to the brass tacks real world, food, shelter and basic human rights kind of activism.  I wade into the contentious fray of language politics and media representation only with trepidation and care.  There are plenty of other folks who make a mission of being the watchdogs of our image as transgender/transsexual folks.

I care a great deal about these things myself, but I lived and worked in Hollywood for too long and know too much about the media machine in general, to often get behind that uphill-bound boulder.  I generally let Sisyphus handle that thankless task hirself.

But my friends, sometimes there are things about which I feel compelled to speak up.  Things that represent too much of a tipping point to ignore.

The whirlwind of controversy that has been surrounding TOTWK is one of those things.  If you’d like to read details of what I’ve had to say about the film itself, please see my previous post “Ticked-Off Trannies With Blogs”.  In summary though, after weighing the positives and negatives of the film and it’s presentation, I found it not to be “transploitation” so much as simply exploitative of trans people and the very real dangers we face.

I realize that I have based this assessment simply on the trailer that is available online and the commentary offered by those who have seen it or who were involved with the production.  That said, c’mon, we all have seen movie trailers that made us exclaim afterwards, “Well, guess I’ve seen the whole movie now!” or “D—n!!  I’m glad I didn’t waste 12 bucks and two hours on that piece of s—t!!”

And don’t tell me all you armchair Eberts out there haven’t said even worse on less info!  The simple fact is, we all do it all the time.  There is such a barrage of information and “entertainment” that we are bombarded with almost every minute of every day, that the only way to survive in this data cloud of a world is to make constant snap judgments about what we like and what we don’t like.

Quite enough is presented in the trailer for and the media representation of TOTWK for me to say with confidence that it is offensive to transfolks and insensitive to the issues we face everyday.  And besides all that, it’s really the media presentation of the film and the image that it is trying to project that are the basic problems for me.

If this movie was called “Dangerous Drag Divas With Daggers”, I’d probably even shell out my 12 bucks to see it!!  I like some cheesy-ass movies y’all!!  John Waters is an idol of mine!  And one of my all time favorite movies is “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka”!!  Not exactly high art.  And heck, I absolutely love Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” movies!  Raging gore fests and great fun!!!

But TOTWK tries to rep itself as a “fun” message movie.  A retro camp, “…homage to the exploitation films of the ’70s and ’80s….Inspired by the devastating increase in brutal hate crimes against people in the transgender community…” – Roya Rastegar in the Program Notes for the Tribeca Filmguide.

An argument could be made for the artistic merit of this movie as the much respected transgender actress Alexandra Billings has done on her blog, and reprinted on the website for TOTWK.  And I’m afraid she has the advantage on me of having actually screened a copy of the film.  Nonetheless, I must respectfully disagree with Ms. Billings.

As I said, I believe this film represents a dangerous tipping point in the public image of transgender people.  Simply by it’s inclusion in the Tribeca festival it has gained a notoriety that virtually guarantees it will be viewed by a great many potential allies who have never previously had any experience of an actual flesh-and-blood transgender person.  The image presented of transgender women in TOTWK will contribute to the shape of their impression of us as a whole.  And it is a false one.

If there were a wealth of positive images of transgender people out there already, this would not be such an issue.  But there is not.  Even now, I still often meet people whose primary knowledge of us comes from Jerry Springer.  Who assume that just because I tell them I am a performer that I must do a killer Judy Garland impression and have a wardrobe filled with rhinestones!  I’m a pretty fabulous woman mind you, but I don’t do Judy (or Streisand or Madonna or Marilyn…) and I have kindly requested that if any of my friends ever spot me in rhinestones that they simply shoot me on sight.

I have seen it asserted that at least 3 of the 5 lead roles in TOTWK are played by actual transgender women.  I have no reason to deny this or attempt to disparage the “authenticity” of these women.  In fact as an actor I congratulate them on getting a paying gig.

Just because they are authentic transgender women however does not mean this is an authentic representation of the transgender experience.  It does not necessarily lend credibility to the filmmaker or the whole cast and crew.  It simply means they got cast in the flick.  Which, okay, is big all on it’s own, but that’s another issue.  Just because an actor gets cast does not mean the film is going to be good or the roles respectfully written.

See, for example, almost every role written for African –American actors in the first half of the Twentieth Century.  Or check out the book “The Celluloid Closet” for a great history of the roles that were available for Gay and Lesbian actors for much of the history of cinema. Also it is worth noting that while these transgender women acted in the film, the words they speak belong to the writer.  A cisgender gay man.

I’m sure the actors had some artistic input, but the overall content sprang from the mind of Mr. Israel Luna.  I cannot fault them for or assign merit to the content based on these women’s presence in the film.  Gods know, I’ve done some stuff myself that I thank my lucky stars everyday has not yet seen an audience larger than would fit in a living room….  Those are the hazards of being an actor.

My impression of this movie is that despite the presence of 3 transgender actors, the parts they play are very much Drag Characters.  Again, no dis-respect to drag artists, it’s a perfectly legitimate art-form.  But it does not represent the actual experience of transgender women.  Drag Queens are fabulous, entertaining and bigger than life.  But they are generally based on caricatures of women.  And more often than not, they identify as men who are playing women.

Which brings me to Willam Belli.

In all the controversy swirling around this movie what I was finding missing was the voices of the actors actually playing these transgender women.  I read the comments from the filmmaker Israel Luna, himself a proud gay man.  But what I wanted to know, as an actor and a transgender woman myself, was what these actors who represented TOTWKs sole claim to community authenticity had to say.

The first comment I came across was a fairly reasonable statement in the New York Times by Krystal Summers who identifies as a transgender woman and is one of the lead actors in the film.  I found her portrayal of GLAAD’s involvement with the film to be somewhat misleading, but sympathized with her point in asking people simply to see the film before passing judgment.

Again, I sympathize, but do not necessarily agree.  Still, it was nice to read her point of view.

After that, my own life went back into high gear and I lost day-to-day track of the controversy.  I do a great deal of outreach and activism in and for the trans community.  I serve on the boards of a couple of non-profit orgs.  I perform whenever I can.  I write a regular column in an honest-to-gods printed on paper LGBT newspaper that distributes throughout New England.  I have a day job to pay the bills.  And I also make appearances as Miss Trans New England.  Plus all the business of friends and family and just life as a transwoman trying to get through the day in an often hostile world.

Basically I keep pretty busy.

So the next time any of this came back into my consciousness, aside from the odd facebook update, was when it was pointed out to me by a regular reader of my blog that I might take a look at this Willam Belli guy and the things he’s been saying all over the interwebs.

Willam Belli it turns out is one of the actors in TOTWK.  You might also know him from his star-raising performance in Nip/Tuck.  He is not a transgender woman, as you may have guessed by the sudden appearance of male pronouns associated with his name.

I was curious, so I started surfing links.  He’s got a pretty solid website and the IMDB page of a hard working actor doing everything he can to break out and up.  Some pretty decent roles in stage and film, a lot of gay male characters and Drag Queens.  I liked his reel.  I remembered his performance on Nip/Tuck as being pretty good.  It certainly f—ked me up when I watched it.

From there he seems to have made a big push to play more transgender characters, continuing to develop a very drag queen-esque persona.

I’ll be honest with you friends, as I poked around his work and personal website, I was kinda starting to like the guy.  This, despite the fact that I had been told he was attacking friends of mine in the community.  I even kind of enjoyed some of his work.  A clip of his cabaret act called “Choose your Own Adventure” was cute and funny.  Additionally, he seems to be well-liked by several transwomen whom I greatly respect.

Then I watched the trailer for a show pilot called “Tranny McGuyver”, that is described on YouTube as being “conceived by Willam Belli … & Patty Wortham.”  On his IMDB page he is listed as Writer (Creator) and Executive Producer.

However in the comments section of the YouTube page, apparently as part of a discussion of the word “tranny”, under the screenname “noextrai” he has this to say: “maybe that’s why it never made it to series. i didn’t write it or come_ up with it. just acted and improved in it. Tranny is derived from the word TRANSVESTITE (which most drag queens are), not Transsexual. it’s not meant to offend anyone”

This flatly contradicts the description below the video, which was also apparently uploaded by “noextrai” so presumably he should fix that if it is indeed false.  But since it also contradicts almost everything else I found about “Tranny McGuyver” I’m guessing his statement was simply “creative reality”.

As for his statement that, “Tranny is derived from the word TRANSVESTITE … not Transsexual.”  Really?!?!!?  I’m kind of a word geek myself, I used to read the dictionary for fun when I was a kid and to this day cannot look up a word without becoming fascinatedly side-tracked.  And just to be safe I did a quick Google search for “tranny etymology” and got not one single definition that agreed with this statement.  In fact few of them completely agreed with the others either.  Most defined the word as coming from transsexual, transgender and/or transvestite.  But I digress.

Getting back to “Tranny McGuyver”.  I’ll let the dialogue from the opening of the trailer speak for itself:

Female uniformed officer speaking to a distraught woman: “Ma’am, can you please describe the assailant?”

Woman: “He was tall.  Athletic…”

Officer Mac (Belli’s character): “He sounds cute!”  (Woman begins to sob)

Officer Mac to Woman: “Pull it together Rapey!” (Then speaking to the female officer) “She’s a girl, you talk to her.”

“Rapey”!!?!?  Really?!?!?!  I’m not exactly the PC Police myself, but in what universe is that okay or even funny?????  I think even Lenny Bruce would have frowned on that.  If a line like that was delivered onstage in a live show, I’m sure the audience would do that quiet look around awkwardly and shuffle in their seats thing I’ve seen happen during uncomfortably offensive moments.

The rest of the trailer left me simply nonplussed.  Even if it had been absolute genius, I doubt I’d have enjoyed it after an opening like that.

From there I went link surfing, looking up all the things Mr. Belli had to say in regards and response to the controversy surrounding TOTWK and the conversations going on around it.  What I found was quite a bit of ugliness.  Belli is quite prolific in his commentary.  He seems to have taken up the torch of Defender of TOTWK and manages to comment on just about every mention of the movie I have found.

As I started pouring through all the rants, discussions and diatribes, I tried to remember to put myself in Belli’s shoes.  This seems to be his highest billed role to date.  In a film that is being featured in Robert friggin’ DeNiro’s much respected and influential Tribeca film festival no less!!  I know I’d be excited!

And now his big break is suddenly being threatened with criticism coming from all directions.  Is it any wonder that he’s a little defensive?  He’s backed into a corner.

To be quite honest, speaking not as activist Lorelei but as Lorelei the actor, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the movie myself if I had had the opportunity.

I felt like he was being a little bit of a bully in his commentary though and the more I read, the more I thought this.  There wasn’t any one instance where I could say he was completely out of line.  He seems savvy enough to avoid that.  But overall, the tone and tactics of his comments did not paint a pretty picture.  More often than not, he shuts down his opponents with sarcasm and bitchiness rather than intelligent argument.  I could quote any number of comments, but nothing I could quote is really specifically damning.  It’s more of an overall tone to his remarks that got under my skin.  I encourage you dear reader to fire up Google and check it out for yourself, his comments are easy to find.

Still, I was having difficulty deciding whether to say anything.  I had begun writing this piece, but was stalled.  I have little desire to find myself in the middle of all the nastiness and name calling flying around.  I also don’t want to appear as if I am attacking anyone myself.  Willam Belli did go after a number of my friends and associates pretty viciously I thought.  But on the other hand, they did put themselves in the line of fire.

Further, I myself have defended the use of the word tranny.  I use it myself and I like it.  I believe in the repurposing of words that have been used against us.  However I also know that many other people find it offensive and I think it’s important to respect that.  I actually got a question during a live Q and A I did last week about whether “tranny” was okay to use or not.  My answer boiled down to, “When in doubt ask.  And then use it accordingly.”

I do not believe that the film TOTWK, the filmmaker Israel Luna, or Willam Belli has followed this guide themselves.  Metaphorically speaking, they have never asked whether “tranny” was okay.  They have dictated terms themselves.  They have said, essentially, we are using this word whether you like it or not.  Rather than respect the experience of transgender people and the realities of our day-to-day existence, they have proclaimed themselves grand arbiters!  They will control the horizontal and the vertical, so get in line or get off the boat!!  At least that’s how it seems to me.

By this evening I had pretty much talked myself out of finishing this blog posting.  There are simply so many variables.  I have supported the boycott, and feel that there is good reason to do so.  But I’m not totally comfortable with having not seen the film myself.  I could be totally wrong about it.  I’ve been wrong about things before and I’m likely to be again.  Maybe it’s actually awesome and empowering or at least too much fun to seriously protest.  I doubt it, but it’s possible.

But then tonight I read a particularly well thought out and insightful negative critique of TOTWK on Advocate.com by transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox, star of “Transform Me” on VH1.  She makes some great points.  And apparently she’s seen the movie too!

Then, low and behold, right down at the bottom in the comments section is a remark from Willam Belli, following just the same pattern as his other comments.  It was time for me to say something.  Thanks for the push Willam!

Finally, I want to encourage you dear friends and loyal readers to check out the available information about this movie yourself.  Watch the recently re-edited trailer (thank you Mr. Luna).  Examine the opinions so dynamically expressed on both sides of this issue.  Most of all, Think for yourselves.

If after doing that, you find this film and the arguments supporting it to be lacking, join the protest.  Write your own blogs.  Tell your friends.  And if you can, go to NYC on April 23rd and join the Opening Night Education Rally being organized by trans-advocacy group MAGNET!!

And then follow the best advice I have seen from people on both sides of this issue.  Get out there and make your own movies about transgender people!  Make art about the trans experience!!  Write or produce TV shows about all things trans!!  Just go do it!

If you need an actor, you know where to find me!!!

Slainte!

22
Mar
10

Ticked-Off Trannies With BLOGS!!!!

Okay, now I tend to be extremely conservative about jumping on Boycott bandwagons, especially in relation to entertainment/pop-culture products or projects.  Before I was an activist of any kind, I was and am an actor, writer and comic performer.  I’ve studied and worked in comedy for most of my life and I know what a fine line it is between what is offensive and what is funny.  How often and easily that line blurs.  I like inappropriate jokes, edgy entertainment and boundary pushing art.

I am also exceptionally leery of censorship of any kind, even and especially of topics that I am personally offended by.  Restriction of free speech and artistic expression of any kind can be a very slippery slope.  We voluntarily allow far too many freedoms to be taken away from us in the name of Political Correctness and Safety.

I also believe in basic decency and politeness though.  I’m not much of a Christian, but the Bible did get it right when it said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  I believe that.  I think if we all treated each other with a bit more respect and open-mindedness the world would be a much better place.

So when I read the various Facebook posts by transgender friends and allies who were crying foul against a movie called “Ticked Off Trannies With Knives”, I was immediately on guard.  I have previously defended the use of the word “tranny” as a popular colloquialism.  I know it’s offensive, but it’s also fairly pervasive.  I feel it’s better to defuse it than allow it to be a weapon.

That said, my immediate reaction, based on my relationship with and respect for the sources of the posts was one of personal offense.  “This horrible film must be stopped!!!”  My reaction was so visceral I felt I could not trust it.  I needed to think before reacting.  So I waded into the source material with an open mind, watched the trailer and read both the blog postings against the movie and the fan support for it.

After all, the film is being featured in the much respected Tribeca Film Festival, which was started by Robert DeNiro.  I’m kind of a movie geek, so even a loosely implied connection to DeNiro is enough tom get my attention and excitement up.

The trailer immediately evoked some very emotional responses for me.  It invoked the brutal death of Angie Zapata and other transgender women.  Like a spell it conjured the horror of violence against my community.  The violence that keeps me from being able to live with the woman I love in San Diego.  Violence that I and many of my brothers, sisters and others live in fear of every day.

It tried to buddy up to me and say, “Hey, this is a movie by trannies, for trannies.”  It painted itself as a movie that felt my pain and was as angry as I am!!  A classic revenge fantasy.  Bloody.  Dangerous.  Funny too.  And maybe just a little inappropriate, but in the fine tradition of classic Blaxsploitation movies.

Blaxsploitation, if you’re not familiar was a genre of film that emerged in the early 1970’s that was often accused of portraying negative racial stereotypes and exploiting sensitive issues.  But for all that, they were some of the first films to be made primarily for black audiences with almost entirely black casts and made by black filmmakers.  For all of their faults, they are pretty amazing and groundbreaking films.

With that in mind, I was totally prepared to suspend my offense and possibly even be prepared to enjoy the trailer for a film that billed itself as “transploitation”. I actually kind of wanted to like it!

Geared up and angry from the invocation of transgender bashing and open minded from my love of movies like “Shaft” and “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song” I found myself immediately disappointed by what appeared to be a cast of Drag Queens being billed as “transgender”.  I found not identification and visceral vindication, but alienation and offense.

Even at that, I tried to remain open-minded.  I all too often have people asking me if “I can do Streisand”  and “What songs do you do?”  When I tell them I’m a performer.  Because I’m trans and an actor, people often assume I must be a female impersonator and it always pisses me off.  So I was prepared to dig deeper.  Maybe the movie was made by transgender filmmakers or had a transgender crew.

Nope and nope.

Turns out the movie was directed by a gay man with nary an actual transgender person* in sight.  Hardly, the Melvin Van Peebles of our community.  After very careful review and much critical thought I came to the conclusion that this movie, “Ticked Off Trannies With Knives” is not “transploitation” so much as simply, exploitation of transgender people.

Please, if you are a transgender person, an ally of transgender people or even just a lover of film, check out the links and the trailer below for yourself.  If you are as offended as I am, let the folks who organize the Tribeca film festival know how you feel about this film.

*Author’s note: I am reliably informed that in addition to the now publicized 3 transgender women in lead roles, there were also a number of trans crew members. So there’s that. Weigh that as you will. -LE 4/19

(And yes, I know the link is broken… I left it as a sign that change is possible if we speak up. Director Luna re-edited the trailer and I’ve posted it below.)

08
Mar
10

Saturday Night At The Club

Really needed a little loud music tonight. Beautiful people sway and sweat. Youth doing what youth do. Blithely unconcerned just dancing, grinding, drinking. I seek solace myself in the overwhelming numbness of the beat, the bass. I am pushed to extremes and my mind races.  I see old solutions in new places.  Try and find myself in who I was.  The writer in the dark. I’m not much for dancing tonight just need to be washed in the energy of the crowd. I want to be recognized and remain anonymous. The writer in the night.  I wonder why I never meet cute boys at the gay bar. They’re not here to meet me they’re here to meet themselves. I’m a woman! But where do I meet a boy who can sweep me off my feet. Accept me, be attracted to me for who I am. It never seems to happen at the nightclub but that’s where I go anyway. Where is the boy who can appreciate me, not be afraid of me?

So I’m talking to a cute boy at the bar. Dangerous hot and teaches Latin!!  I’m maybe making way managing small talk forcing myself to not be shy. Then some girl takes a slow dive to the floor in front of us. Next thing I know hot boy is helping her up and he’s gone.

All I can think is, “bitch”.

I wish I knew some smooth lines or could make myself not be so fucking shy. Maybe have a few less stupid morals. Pain in the ass standards.

I just want to get fucked. Why should that be so hard?

Oh I see, not giving a fuck is apparently the trick!! Just don’t try, don’t care and maybe I’ll hook up.

The cute boy is back “whenare yougonna buy me a drink” in a hot east Boston accent.  Demanding in charge and dangerous.

I buy the drink I don’t hesitate even. Captain and Coke.

Like I said hot boy. Big muscles not short either. He asks what I do. I tell him pageant queen writer. He says he writes poetry. I ask him his favorite Latin poet. Catullus. I’ve heard of him and all the other Latin poets he names. Fave non Latin poet? Elizabeth Browning. Holy shit umm I’m floored. Like I said dangerous hot looking like the kind of Boston guy that might follow me into an alley. Masshole bent Sox cap even. Camo tshirt. But smart and forward as fuck. He asks if I want to come back to his place with the girl who’s been puppydogging him around the club. I decline. I’m feeling a little self-conscious about my body tonight. Didn’t bother with any shaving so I have a fine fuzz on my chest. Plus I’m in no mood to share this one with some little alt girl. I want this boy all to myself if I’m going to fuck him.

Let him think about me for a while. Take out my card occasionally. Think about calling me.

He drifts away into other convos and I dance with some friend’s friends. Two beautiful girls. Mocha and milk chocolate. I joke about being too hot. They encourage me to take off my sweater so I show them my new tits. Little perky and sensitve when mocha beautiful tests their tweak!  I dance and abandon.

Life is good. Apparently the only thing I need to do is simply not give fuck. Simply stop trying. Stop caring.

Huh. Whatever works.




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