Can ANTM's Isis Do For Transgender Americans What Will & Jack Did For Gay Men?

Illustration for article titled Can ANTM's Isis Do For Transgender Americans What Will & Jack Did For Gay Men?

Joshua Alston asks in Newsweek if the inclusion of Isis in this cycle of America's Next Top Model will promote more acceptance and understanding of transgender people. I share Alston's hope that it can — although I wouldn't point to a little on-camera, male-titillating faux-lesbian action as an example that panic over transgender people is diminishing. As Mediaweek reports today, reality TV is filled more and more often with contestants for whom sexuality and/or gender is neither an issue nor a plot point, which is a great step forward. But I sadly doubt that Isis' appearance on ANTM (or Laverne on I Want To Work For Diddy) will usher in a new age of transgender acceptance — certainly if Fox News and its anti-transgender biases are anything to go by..I am not sure that what limited social acceptance the homosexual community has gotten from positive media portrayals — assuming that those portrayals were not a result of a growing acceptance homosexuality in the first place — can be translated into transgender acceptance because I don't think that the philosophy that guides even a basic level of tolerance among conservatives can itself be translated. Partly, I think this is because a significant level of conservative "acceptance" of homosexuals is rooted in the "love the sinner, hate the sin" philosophy. Transgender people, to many, are the actual embodiment of that "sin." Also, I think that the root of a great deal of homophobia that the gay community has had to fight lies in a complete inability on the part of homophobes to not think about the sex that other people are having. But, for the transgender community, it seems that intolerant people don't just obsess over what they're doing with their private parts, they obsess over what they look like. Just ask porn star Buck Angel, who takes shit from both breeders and gays for his genitals. Or Michelle Bruce, who was the mayor of Riverdale, Georgia and faced a lawsuit to disclose her "true" sex. (She won that lawsuit, but not before she lost her bid for reelection). Transgender intolerance comes from some of the same intolerant places as homophobia, but it also draws from people's understanding/ignorance of gender and identity, which makes it much tougher to fight. In addition, while people in America are slowly coming around to the belief that gay men and women deserve the same rights as their hetero sisters and brothers, the same cannot be said for transgender people — even within the gay rights community. When the House was looking at passing a bill last year to eliminate workplace discrimination against homosexuals — a bill, notably, that stood almost no chance of passing the Senate and less of avoiding a veto — Democratic Congressional leaders opted to remove provisions related to discrimination against transgender people. Worse yet, groups like the Human Rights Campaign signed off on it, saying that they'd totally help transgender people get their rights... but later. So, maybe a beautiful young transgender woman like Isis will be able to push the acceptance-ball slightly forward for others — I certainly hope she can. But would I stake anyone's rights on that? No. People shouldn't have to wait for the larger society to accept their sexual identities to achieve the equal rights guaranteed by our Constitution and the freedom from discrimination promised by our (supposed) political philosophy. I think we could try providing all Americans with the rights they ought to be entitled to and simply enjoy Isis' time on ANTM for the great reality TV turn that it is. The New Transgender Reality [Newsweek] Isis [ANTM] Gay Talent on Nonscripted TV Continues to Rise [Media Week] For Some, Fox Apology Not Enough [glaadBLOG] Being a Woman in Politics Is an Unfair… Advantage? [Wonkette] Good News, Crap News [Wonkette] Pelosi/ HRC ENDA 'Bargain' - The Inside Story [Gay City News]

DISCUSSION

mireilleco
Mireille is sensational, like a She-Hulk

This is such a refreshing thread! Whenever I see an article on Salon, HuffPo or other "progressive" sites, you still get a lot of transphobic talk. I myself had the bottom surgery about 3 years ago, and yeah, if they did that for Isis she would not be able to compete. Stuck in bed the first three days, very gentle walking for the rest of the week. And if there was a slight bulge in her swimsuit now, that surgery causes enough swelling that it looked like I was pregnant in my crotch for a while. And the bleeding!

As far as gender binary, yeah, I'm not genderqueer so I'm not necessarily trying to fuck with the system, but I think I'm not performing my gender any more than most women. I rarely wear makeup except for special occasions. I never got implants, even though hormones haven't done wonders for me, I'm happy with what I have. No plastic surgery to change my face or anything like that. I'm lucky enough I guess that I'm 75% passing or whatever. But the more time goes by, the more comfortable I am with myself, the less I care about passing, because ya know what? All of us have people in the world that don't like us for any number of reasons, so if they don't like me cuz they think I'm a freak, well... Their loss. I think I'm a pretty nice person and a good friend.

I've been lucky, though, in that I had the money to get the surgery and looked androgynous enough that I didn't think I needed any facial surgery. Now, my boss when I was transitioning fired me when I was out for my surgery, but I've found a new job I like a lot more but pays less, but money isn't everything. I know it can be much more difficult than it was for me.

Anyway, I really like this thread, y'all are very cool.