The Joke IS Me

This little tidbit has been making the rounds on Facebook today: a bit of advice, from Pat Robertson, posted on Raw Story. The funny thing is, Pat really was not being an asshole here (I know, I was surprised too.) He only tells the caller that his ENTIRE sexual past is just that, the past and does not need to be paraded out. Raw Story fails to quote any particular transphobic langauge on Robertson’s part. There is plenty to hang on his sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, and Christian privilege defending neck, but not this particular crime, at least not in this instance.

No, what was really interesting about all this was the responses I saw from so-called progressives on this. From people who fancied themselves the better of Tea Party Republicans when it comes to LGBT issues I saw comments along the line of “well I wouldn’t admit to having sex with a transsexual either.” Because, of course, that would just be too humiliating, right? Why then the boys might think you are queer and you are liberal but not THAT liberal.

Why do so-called allies think it is OK to make us the butt of their jokes, which is exactly what they are doing when they do this kind of thing. We are not even talking about borderline stuff making light of trans issues that they do not understand, this is outright making us the punchline. Then when we point this out we are being touchy, or trying to force political correctness on them (and really, the twisting of that term the last twenty-five years is nothing short of disgusting.)

For the life of me I do not understand why this is such a hard concept to get. Slowly but surely we are teaching young people that calling things “gay” to express displeasure is hurtful to gay folks, but it is still OK to make us a sexual bogey man. How can you not see how harmful this is, not just to my feelings, but to my safety? How can you not understand that continuing this meme undermines my basic humanity and is part of what leads to far too many of my trans sisters being dead?

Is my very being so frightening to you that you have to defend yourself from that fear by making a joke of me? Don’t answer that, it was rhetorical. I know we are hard to get. Centuries of gender policing, sexual dogmatism, and needless xenophobia has made you absolutely terrified of us. You find it perfectly acceptable to make us not just the butt of your jokes, but the objects of your sexual anxieties. You make us your punch lines and leave us punch drunk. Battered by our own anxieties, created from the very real prospect of violence against us, violence encouraged by your behavior, too many of us take our own lives before someone else gets the chance.

But please, make it all about you and your “right” to say what you want. Don’t make it about a responsibility to think through  what you have to say. Don’t admit that right comes with the need to accept the consequences of your actions. No, it is alright, because it ultimately does not hurt  you . The joke is on us, and what do you care if the laughter drowns out the very real tears we are crying over very real consequences of the narrative you write with your cruel humor? Make yourself feel better about our existence, because you definitely do not have the time to think about what that existence is like.

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4 thoughts on “The Joke IS Me

  1. Perhaps part of this comes from popular culture. Most people’s first exposure (that they know of!) to TG folks comes from comedy films. You know the scenario: The goofy male character who never gets laid is trying to hook up with a “chick,” the punchline coming when it is revealed that the “chick” is actually a TG person with male sexual organs. First, it equates drag with TG, and it also frames the TG person as a Deceiver, and that becomes the identity of TG people in the viewer’s mind… that the primary intent of TG lifestyle is to deceive straight men. Hostility and narcissism go hand in hand.

    A friend of mine (a white male previously married to a straight white female) began dating a TG woman (born with male parts but identifying as female). When he told me about the relationship, he prefaced the whole thing with an angry rant telling me I had no right to judge him and that I should open my mind and so on, and THEN he told me about the woman he was dating. I said, ‘Why were you angry with me before I even knew what you were going to say?” He said, “You mean you’re not going to unfriend me and tell me to f*** off and call me a sick pervert?” I said, “Um…. no? Why would I?” It turns out that’s how pretty much everyone else reacted, including people with gay family members. They couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that he was in love with a TG woman and that it was not some kind of “sick joke.”

    So, yeah. People are judgmental, even those you wouldn’t expect to be. Fortunately, cultural perceptions change faster these days than they used to. I know it’s easy for me to say, but western society is moving in the right direction, even if it’s not immediately apparent on a daily basis.

  2. Great piece, Christine!
    We need new rules. The Golden Rule just isn’t cutting it anymore, so I think we need to add the “Swap the Demographic Rule.” It’s easy, just 2 steps! 1. Change whatever demographic you are speaking about (ex, transsexuals) to a demographic that you know you can’t bash without being called racist/sexist/classist/abelist/ect (ex. poor, black, handicapped woman). 2. Imagine them in the room with you, listening to what you say, or looking over your shoulder as you type.
    If you still feel comfortable with what you’re saying (ex. “Well I wouldn’t admit to having sex with a poor, black, handicapped woman either.”), go ahead. If not, you’ve just found out that you, like all of us, still have plenty to learn about treating your fellow human beings with respect.

    I particularly like the part about the ‘right to say what you want.’
    I encounter this a lot when it comes to gender identity, rape, and domestic violence jokes, and every time I have to go through this dance:

    Yes. You have the right say what you want. 1st amendment. Got it.
    Here’s the thing, though. Just because you are ALLOWED to say something, doesn’t mean you SHOULD say it.
    Me being pissed at you you is in no way stopping you from speaking. It’s me exercising MY right to free speech. Freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee the right to say whatever you want without anyone every calling you out when it’s AWEFUL. You’ve said your piece, now I’m saying mine. (Also, if you can’t handle backlash from me, an individual, just imagine how it feels to be told by your ENTIRE CULTURE that your pain is meaningless and that you should just keep quiet.)
    Why is your need to casually make a joke more important than the needs of my friends (who’ve been assaulted or ostracized) to be able to make it through the day without being triggered, forced to re-experience the most horrifying and traumatic moments of their lives? What about every person’s need to feel like their identity won’t make them the target of ridicule, and even violence? Was that joke really so important to you that you don’t care about who it hurt?
    I get that you didn’t think about your joke that way, but I am telling you that it’s the kind of joke that HURTS PEOPLE. I know you don’t WANT to hurt people. You’re generally a decent person. So please, PLEASE stop being defensive long enough to just apologize.

    People just don’t understand that joking about serious issues belittle those issues, making the people who have to deal with them feel weak, crazy, and/or unimportant.

    Wow. That turned into a bit of a rant.,,,, I miss lunches with you, Christine. : )

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