Tag Archives: transgender

A Cannibalistic Dissection Of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

28 Oct Rocky Horror Picture Show

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A week before the writing of this, FOX aired a remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, subtitled Let’s Do The Time Warp Again. I’m not averse to the idea of seeing it, but I’m not going to go out of my way either. Not for any particular reason politically, just simply because the original is so clearly and deeply rooted to a particular time period it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to update it. I’ll have more on that in a moment.

The main (and only) thing I need to know about the remake is that it showcased front and center a black trans woman, on the same channel FOX News is broadcast from, during a time when the right wing has dedicated themselves to a war against trans bodies. Regardless of any other merits or flaws in the project, I still find that deliciously subversive in a way the original never dared.

If you were hoping for more talk about the remake, I do apologize. There are plenty of other people talking about it, I swear. I’m not writing yet another thinkpiece about how problematic or transphobic or whatever the movie is. Plenty of other folks covering that ground. I’m not interested in RHPS creator Richard O’Brien’s bizarre and absurd notion that he can decide how much of a woman he is but nobody else can. Just yet another tired old has-been queen desperate for attention and latching onto trendy notions of “edginess” and “anti-political-correctness” as far as I’m concerned. The fact that he hates the remake makes me want to enjoy it out of spite tho.

What will I be talking about then?

Well lets start by talking about the Hays Code (and later rating systems) and the role of pulp sci-fi on queerness. Stories of alternate sexualities and gender explorations were all over the place in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, but due to publisher restrictions had to be formatted in a certain way. It was honestly surprising how far they were capable of going, as long as they didn’t directly show intimacy and all queer characters were punished at the end for their transgression from conservative mores. Here’s a sex-change sci-fi story from a 1953 comic book that covers the bases pretty well, with an exception I will elaborate on in a moment.

Rocky Horror Picture show even opens with the song “Science Fiction/Double Feature” which waxes nostalgic about shiny underwear and phallic Triffids, name-checking classic titles and names from films that would have been staples of a sci-fi obsessed 1975 audience’s childhood. Self-aware nods to these tropes echo throughout the film.

Lets line them up and see how the beats play out, shall we? We have aw shucks traditional protagonist(s), an audience insert for voyeuristic heterosexuals or questioning/curious queer folk:

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The protagonists find themselves stranded from the values and culture they took for granted, in a lawless anything goes environment:

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This leads to an awakening where deep, transgressive desires are brought to light and actualized… but at what cost?

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And at the end all transgressions are punished and the moral is driven home that some doors should never be opened:

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The spectre of conservative Americana glares disapprovingly at the dissolution of traditional values throughout the film. Not just figuratively, but directly and literally symbolized by multiple repeated vignettes evoking the sullen stoic gaze of the iconic Grant Wood painting American Gothic (a now campy and frequently satirized artwork that history forgets incited Rural Iowans to send the painter threats of violence).

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However, you will note that there is something missing from this one-to-one comparison between the sex-change comic book and Rocky Horror Picture Show. This is because in sex-change stories, the antagonist is the clothes or the transformation itself. This is as true in Glen Or Glenda in the 1950s as it was in The Danish Girl in 2015. This story has an antagonist with a distinctly more visceral presence, a hyperqueered fantasy to Brokeback their mountains and tempt them away from their traditional lives.

Enter Frank.

Frank is a transgressive nightmare, a culmination of everything feared about the sexual awakenings of the late 1960s/early 1970s. It goes well beyond the crossdressing and sexualization; Frank was meticulously designed to provoke. He literally hunts down, murders and later cannibalistically devours Eddie, a symbol of naive notions of 1950s “safe rebellion”. Eddie’s entrance, to the song “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul“, reflects an entirely different sort of nostalgia filled with sock hops instead of gruesome horror movies. Frank nonchalantly eulogizes Eddies murder by his hand as “a mercy killing! He had a certain naive charm, but no… muscle.”

Indeed.

When Frank displayed a pink triangle on his labcoat, the symbol was still viscerally shocking and radical. The book The Men With The Pink Triangle, documenting homosexual men’s experience in Nazi concentration camps, had only come out a couple years before. The infamous Paragraph 175 of German Law under which those men had been imprisoned was still on the books.

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Frank also dons a Lewis Leathers Aviakit Plainsman biker jacket adorned with badges from the Hell’s Angels and other recognizable biker gangs (including patches with the distinct Nazi Deaths Head and Eagle iconography of the Angels). This wasn’t the “making toy runs for sick kids” Hell’s Angels, this was the “locked Hunter S Thompson in the trunk of a car for several days” Hells Angels. This also presents contrast to Eddie’s sanitized pompadour-and-motorcycle schtick as the corny posturing it was.

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Frank’s fawning over his Frankenstein Atlas, Rocky, was another uncomfortable tribute/unmasking to the underlying homoeroticism in body-building culture, a subtext simultaneously acknowledged yet dismissed within said subculture. With Rocky as the dense and sweetly naive foil to Frank’s sexual innuendo, it’s presented as yet another affront to the values of yesteryear.

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Enabled through Frank’s brazen transgressions, the protagonists find themselves freed from convention to explore their own desires. This is illustrated in the floor show scene where the players vocalize their inner conflicts onstage. Columbia is full of regret and heartbreak, Rocky and Brad have newfound sexual urges that neither can quite figure out, and Janet feels empowered by the whole experience. Shortly afterwards, Riff-Raff and Magenta stage a mutiny to topple Frank as leader. Riff-Raff’s accusation says it all:

Frank-N-Furter, it’s all over
your mission is a failure
your lifestyle’s too extreme

Ironically, after forty years of cultural advance, a film that sought to deconstruct stifling tropes and liberate expectations has for the most part been relegated to yet another formulaic exploitation. It has a historical place, as a love-letter to the queer-coded villains of Hollywood’s golden age, but at this point Frank has joined them. Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a fun ritual for voyeuristic straights, closeted drama club queers and assorted connoisseurs of camp and kitsch and likely will be for at long as movie theaters continue to exist. However, the cultural critique is a bit toothless and obvious now, the references collecting dust, and subtext lost under performative rote.

And maybe the ritual is the point now, a sort of mystery cult initiation for average folks looking for an excuse to buy a corset. But I believe an occasional reminder of what it all means couldn’t hurt either.

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There Were No “Men Thinking They’re Napoleon” – Debunking Anti-Trans Armchair Psych

26 Dec

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Inevitably, when trans folks existence gets mentioned online, the topic gets bombarded with folks throwing out half-remembered medical/psychological diagnoses about what is “really” going on. Now, armchair philosophy isn’t exclusive to topics related to trans stuff by any means, or is it any less annoying or hostile. I’ve just observed enough that I found common patterns I want to address/de-construct directly.

Also, a reminder that if someone online is claiming to be a professional and throwing around dismissive and pathological implications of your behavior and what medical/psychological measures you “should” be taking to address them, that is very likely a violation of their professional license.

That said, for starters, I actually kind of love when people start throwing this one around: because it proves their knowledge of psychology begins and ends with Bugs Bunny:

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That’s not a thing. “Men who think they were Napoleon” was never a thing. Ever.

It’s a frequently cited example of classic 19th century “schizophrenia” symptoms, but has no actual recorded documentation of such. On page 604 of William James’ 1890 treatise Principles Of Psychology, he describes instances of hypnotizing men to believe they are Napoleon (amongst other things), but only temporarily. It was also used an early-20th century comedy trope misrepresenting the Adlerian concept “Napoleon Complex”. It’s referenced in cartoons, Laurel and Hardy shorts, and even used as a prominent character trait for one of the antagonists in John Steinbeck’s classic story Of Mice And Men. Ironically, Napoleon Complex itself also been proven not to be a thing. Hell, Napoleon wasn’t even particularly short for his time.

But, nine times out of ten, the reason people think it is a thing is because of this:

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The classic 1956 Bugs Bunny cartoon “Napoleon Bunny-Part” more or less established this concept to mainstream audiences. And, hilariously, you see people reference it like they are citing a case study.

This sort of stuff, however, I don’t have quite the sense of humor for:

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Comparisons between gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia are inevitable, and always bunk. They aren’t clasified the same, they aren’t treated the same, and they do not respond to the same treatments. Conflation of the two is also very dangerous, because many trans folks experience dysmorphic disorders (eating disorders, self-harm ideations) that need to be treated separately. Also, reminder that Paul McHugh is a domestic terrorist hack and considered a laughingstock by his peers and pretty much anyone but the anti-trans right wing.

Anyway, the “really not thinking this through” award goes to this sort of crap:

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So, like, how do folks that propose this think this will work? First of all, it’s actually kind of difficult to get committed to a state mental hospital, without police or family escort. Unless you are considered an immediate threat to yourself or someone else, such places are actually reluctant to take folks in, because of costs. For that, these religous right dweebs can thank their idol Ronald Reagan. The idea that politically inconvenient folks can be mass-boarded in mental asylums away from the sight of “decent” people like in a Victorian Novel hasn’t been a thing for decades.

Speaking of cost, who would be paying for this? I thought these sort of dweebs were small government/no-taxation without representation don’t tread on me types?

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Right now, even as underfunded as they are, the average yearly cost per state to run their institutional hospitals is over $188,000. By comparison, even though data is limited, the cost for transgender health care is looking like around $77,000 a year (and this data is from an extremely liberal area). Opponents trot out the expense of surgery, but there’s only a handful of surgeons that even take insurance. Many of the well-known surgeons popular for their pioneering techniques do not. Yes, more surgeons will likely be emerging in the future, but what folks that aren’t trans may not be aware of is that word-of-mouth is a huge influence on doctor choice. Many of us forego insurance covered doctors for others with better recommendations. Coverage costs have always sailed way under predictions every time for this and other reasons.

And yeah, I’m definitely putting more thought into this than any of them are. I’m sure someone is gonna diagnose me with something or other for that. Feel free to do so in the comments I guess.

Alex Jones Joined #GamerGate, The Pope Thinks Trans Folks = Nukes & The Week Isn’t Over Yet.

20 Feb

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alexjonesgamergate3I like how he differentiates “3rd wave”, as if he has no prob w/the first two

I’m really having trouble deciding which of these revelations is more amazing, really. I mean, Alex Jones is pretty much his own punchline at this point. Looking into it further it looks like Jones also appealed to the hashtag shortly after it began, which is unsurprising because the dude has been riding internet trending topics shamelessly for years. Also apparently the dude that maintains his wiki also maintains Gamergate’s as well and was digging up dirt on Wikipedia editors supportive of Zoe and Anita (sound familiar?). What is it with Wikipedia vandals and Alex Jones, anyway?

So yeah, this current video posted to the tag is by one of PrisonPlanet’s staff, Paul Joseph Watson. Watson is a snarling pasty toad that was apparently cursed by leprechauns to speak only in right-wing buzzwords until he can find true love and become a real boy. He also has just the most punchable face in a crew that seems to take great pleasure in being awful.

alexjonesgamergate1seriously look at this toolbag

He sardonically repeats the words “multiculturalism” and “social engineering” and some gibberish obsesssion he has about feminists ignoring rape by non-white people or something like a terrible party magician trying to hypnotize you. He talks about “joyless” feminists, but the only point in his video where I cracked a smile was when he laughably insisted there was such a thing as “organized misandry”. Also, he manages to invoke Godwin’s Law within ten seconds of his smarmy diatribe which has to be a record or some sort of drinking game.

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Speaking of constantly terrible analogies and Nazi comparisons, Pope Francis apparently thinks us trans folk are as dangerous to life on earth as nuclear weapons and people that advocate gender theory are literally Hitler youth. Yeah, the “cool pope” said that. Good times.

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In his recently published report “This Economy Kills”, he talks of how each era has “Herods” that “destroy, that plot designs of death, that disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation.” To give perspective, Herod was the king that killed all the little boys in his kingdom in an attempt to hunt down and murder baby Jesus. This is the level of discourse he opens up with.

alexjonesgamergate7literally gender theory

He continues:

“Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings,” he continues. “Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”

“With this attitude, man commits a new sin, that against God the Creator,” the pope says. “The true custody of creation does not have anything to do with the ideologies that consider man like an accident, like a problem to eliminate.”

“God has placed man and woman and the summit of creation and has entrusted them with the earth,” Francis says. “The design of the Creator is written in nature.”

That’s like the mother lode of terrible loaded analogies. Basically it’s fancy pope-speak for the whole trans-Frankenstein “meddling with God’s creation/what hath science wrought” boogieman, taken to it’s logical extreme.

He also compares literature that includes gender theory as “akin to Hitler Youth propaganda” and “a form of colonization” which is hilarious. Maybe the leader of the Catholic Church, literally the most prominent force in violent genocidal Western colonization in history, should shut the fuck up about throwing around such accusations until he cleans his own damn house. Go fuck yourself, Popebro.

For what it’s worth tho, as far as shitty scaremongering things to say about us, at least this one is so cartoonish it makes us sound badass. I am become trans, the destroyer of worlds.

COGIATI Is The Worst Classic Text Adventure Game #Retrogaming #90snostalgia

19 Jul

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So I know it’s been ages since I’ve done a video game review on here, despite promising I would be more proactive in that regard. So today’s game is a classic from the mid 1990s.  It appears to be some sort of text adventure created by the same designer that made the classic Apogee game BOPPIN.

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The game is called COGIATI (which is probably one of those nonsense magic words like XYZZY or PLUGH). It promises the acquisition of a “transsexual gender inventory” which honestly doesn’t sound very epic, but I’m not too good to grind for unusual and rare items.

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The game opens up with an admonition to “answer truthfully” to some questions that will follow, which I thought was cool because it reminds me of that fortune teller from the Avatar trilogy of Ultima games.

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It’s kinda dated, but I do get a kick out of the non-traditional methods of character generation. Some of the questions seemed to lead to certain classes, even though they were kinda sexist:

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And others that seemed to be pointing towards special super powers your eventual character may possess-

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The thing is tho, the questions never seem to stop coming. No recognizable character development or progress is shown, and some questions seem irrelevant or morbid-

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So then I finally get to the end of the questions, and instead of presenting a well-rounded character and a world to explore, I was presented with an ending screen:

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What a ripoff, right? I go through all that and I get is a psych recommendation. I mean, it’s better than the endings of River City Ransom or Ultima Exodus on the NES, but still. It’s almost as disappointing than the ending of NARC where it tells you to become a cop-

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So seriously, even if you’re somewhat of a completist when it comes to classic text-adventure games, you may want to pass this one up. There’s no plot to be seen, just endless grilling about your identity forever. Real life provides way more than that to spare.

Rayon Is A Punk Rocker: Arcade Fire’s New Video Fucking Sucks.

19 May

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Arcade Fire is one of those bands that everyone used to try to get me into for years and I was like “naaaaaaaaaaaaaaah”. Probably for the best, because it probably would have bothered me more to have a band I actually like churn out yet another piece of what Kat Blaque totally nails as “trans pity porn“. As I have admitted more than once, I’m kind of a guilty-pleasure sucker for the genre. But this campy paint-by-numbers bullshit just hit all the wrong buttons in the wrong order for me. I’m already willing to say this is the second worst music video I’ve seen all year.

So like first of all, as a trans woman born and raised in Texas, I am sick to fucking death already of the whole “gender-non-conforming person in redneck hell” trope. Like there isn’t homophobic and transphobic assholes all over “enlightened” big cities, but no we gotta keep that self-righteous white liberal boner going because you know what those dumb hicks are like. And it’s like, I’ve lived this and women in my community have died this way, so it leaves a bad taste in my mouth to see yet again a watered-down version of what some jackass imagines life is like for someone like me in the south. Just, ew.

But hold on a second, lemme tell you a thing or two about what I actually like about this video. Andrew Garfield manages to make little pouty faces at some interesting points that kind of hit home… invoking sad mirror feels while trying on clothes you have no practice wearing-

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-those awkward first times out in public where you have to unlearn male social posture defense mechanisms to fight off your own uneasiness and sense of vulnerability, convinced everyone is looking at you disapprovingly-

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-and just invoking this sort of wordless sorrow and desire to fit in somehow to a world where it feels impossible to do so-

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But like, when it comes down to it, this video is ultimately more an exploration of gender performativity/expression than identity. None of the characters, including the protagonist, is given exposition past the flimsiest of stereotypes. Even this fucked up Thai love song manages to give some (kinda creepy and busted) backstory to it’s trans character, but then it’s also like three times as long.

Basically what happens in the video is that the protagonist makes a bunch of sad faces into the mirror while deciding what to wear until she decides to go with what appears to be a Leg Avenue costume of Jessica Simpson in Dukes Of Hazard-

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She walks to the nearest bar, where she pouts a bit and then she’s (probably) beaten to death.

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Seriously, that’s her entire story. She’s sad and she’s dead. Also, jazz hands.

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Then, everything gets stupid. She finds herself alone in the bar, doing an interpretive Flashdance, because why not. And then this bullshit happens:

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YOU

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FUCKING

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KIDDING ME

So like I have to imagine that the thought process that went behind the scenes of this video went like this:

VIDEO DIRECTOR: “Transgender stuff is trendy right? Let’s make a sensitive portrayal of their lifestyle to look like hip LGBT allies!”

*awkward homerotic dance number intensifies*

VIDEO DIRECTOR: “NAILED IT”

So like then the gay cowboys lead the protagonist THROUGH AN ACTUAL RAINBOW DOORWAY OH MY FUCK.

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Where she comes out at an Arcade Fire concert lo0king like a pallette swapped Twiggy Ramirez and oh christ I’m so fucking bored and done with this.

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Sheila Jeffries’ Book #GenderHurts, Re-Imagined As A Chick Tract.

7 May

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No Homo: On Jared Leto And Destroying A Beautiful Creature.

16 Jan

A lesson I’m learning over and over in life is that pretty boys can’t be trusted. They’ll break your heart as soon as they open their big stupid mouths.

So remember that part in Fight Club where Edward Norton sees Brad Pitt and Jared Leto embrace tenderly and gives them both this look of utter jealousy and betrayal? Remember how the scene immediately shifts to Norton cheap-shotting Leto and pounding him into hamburger meat and later admitting to Pitt that he did so simply because he was beautiful? Remember how technically (spoiler) Edward Norton and Brad Pitt are the same person?

Have you ever *really* thought about that scene? No homo.

nohomo1In case you forgot this part, I’m totally not joking here.

Anyway…

I haven’t seen Dallas Buyer’s Club, but I intend to. I have a soft spot in my heart for what Julia Serano would call “sad trans” movies. So let’s get that out of the way.

And I’m not gonna get into the “should cis actors play trans women” argument in this article because that conversation has been done to death. Smarter people than I have tackled the subject better than I ever will. I am, however, eternally frustrated by how said actors spend their interviews screwing up and misrepresenting our lives even as they try to broadcast us into mainstream visibility out of the supposed goodness of their cis ally hearts. I mused about this frustration on my Facebook page while on the train a couple days ago:

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This post inspired my friend Diana Tourjee to do an expanded write-up for Original Plumbing magazine on the subject. She says it with far more nuance than I am willing to.

Cause really, it’s not even the terrible sexualized jokes which are honestly more boring and sadly predictable than offensive. What gets under my skin is Leto not only rhetorically separating himself from the character of Rayon, but also divorcing this character he brought to life from having any sypmathetic reality or social consequence. Referring to her as a “creature” and an “impossible person” at a time when the lives and experiences of actual trans  women are still considered up for debate, for instance.

I think we really get to the root of the problem, however, by noting how neither him or costar McConaughey mention AIDS once regarding their roles in a movie whose entire plot focuses on the AIDS crisis.

See, male privilege is a funny thing, and a lot more nuanced than people allow by simply equating penises with institutional social power. I swear, to hear some people talk you’d think you could post a dick pic on your resume or whatever. So much of it is conditional and hinged on gearing not only your presentation but your narrative towards patriarchal heteronormativity. And it’s not only among cishet dudebros like Leto and McConaughey. See also: LGBT assimilation movements, “straight acting” gay people (whatever the fuck those are), and femmephobia.

Considering how even certain feminists present the idea of masculine presentation as a social default and femininity as this socially constructed demeaning performance, it’s amazing how society treats masculinity as this fragile, breakable thing. Seriously, how many times are people gonna spout that tired idea that allowing boys to enjoy feminine things will “ruin” them with no irony? Yet the idea persists. Think back again to that scene in Fight Club, that paean to toxic masculinity, where the only time a man can tell another man (or really anyone) that they are beautiful is after they’ve destroyed them. Remember that whole story was written by a hypermasculine heavily-closeted gym bunny that frequently looked like he could grace the cover of a 50s gay muscle magazine before he finally got over it and was ok with being out.

nohomo3Totally wasn’t joking about that either.

Tell me again how masculinity isn’t performative.

So really,  it’s transparently obvious why a guylinered prissy metrosexual like Jared Leto would be so prone to blatant overcompensation after playing one of us Super Saiyan transfairy gaymosexuals on the big screen. He’s trying to bounce back, prove he wasn’t ruined by the experience. While Dustin Hoffman could realize women were people, realizing trans women are people is apparently way too much to ask for Leto.

I get it.

So why don’t you just shut the fuck up pretty boy and just admit you’re using us for Oscar bait. No homo.

I’ll go on living my beautiful impossible life and making better music then you ever will. *hair flip*