By Matthew Reuben
Published 17 January 2013
Historically, there have always been trans people, and in the past hundred and twenty years it is easy to notice them blasting their way through popular culture – from Billy Tipton, a jazz musician from the 1930s-1970s, through Calpernia Addams, a transgender author, actress and musician from the 1990s onwards, to cultural icons such as Eddie Izzard. Even now, we know about plenty of trans people making their way onto the big stage of popular culture, with the awareness that there are probably several more remaining stealth.
If you’re not involved in the trans community you might not have heard of these people, or you might not have heard of all of them, but they’re a collection of just a few of the trans people from all ages, cultures and backgrounds, who are part of the “media glitterati” – people who are living their lives in the public eye, and using their history of transition to help others. Sometimes this is done through visibility, being open about their trans status alongside their media career. Other times, activism comes into it as well – whether this is through working with television companies to improve their trans coverage (like Paris Lees), or designing the trans program at a high school for LGBT students (like Janet Mock).
Last year, for the second time, a trans person won Big Brother in the UK – this time a trans man called Luke Anderson, last time a trans woman called Nadia Almada, who won in 2004. When Luke went into the house he didn’t mention that he had transitioned to male, and over time he chose to share his history. The courage that this took him won him many friends both inside and outside the house, and when he won Big Brother, in a nationwide vote, the viewers were saying “we stand behind him, we want him to have the prize money” – a statement of support for a trans man from a significant swathe of the population.
Janet Mock, the former staff editor of People magazine’s website, came out as trans in 2011, disclosing her history in an article in Marie Claire. This set her up as an inspirational figure for a whole new generation of younger trans people. Her career had always been relatively prominent, and as a result, seeing a beautiful, accomplished woman in a position of relative power who had a history similar to theirs was a seminal moment for many younger trans women of my acquaintance. Last year, she also began the Twitter hashtag #GirlsLikeUs, designed to empower trans women of colour, a group of people living at the challenging intersection of transphobia, misogyny, and racism.
Thursday, 17 January 2013
Like Paris Lees, I am a long-term admirer of you and your writing. Your articles have always been a breath of fresh air and often helped me understand that it is the world that is mad not me. So everything Paris wrote in her open letter to you, goes for me too.
Getting to the point, I would like to ask you to reconsider you tweet about suing Pinknews. Not only is there nothing you could possibly sue them for but you might help silence one of the few places where the murders of trans people around the world get reported in this country.
I have to declare an interest here; I am one of the team that organises the London International Transgender Day of Remembrance. I have volunteered to do it, despite heavy work committmemnts pulling me in other directions, because it is the only way we can bring people’s attention to the obscene numbers of trans people being murdered around the world, and especially in Latin America. The Transgender Day of Remembrance this year saw such an increase in numbers that, for the first time we had to stop lighting real candles and use battery-powered ones because the smoke pollution they were causing in the room.
We also worked hard to find Spanish and Portuguese speakers who are trans, so that we can get right the pronuncuation of the names of the dead people. Finding trans people who can speak Portuguese proved difficult even in cosmopolitan London, but we found two who soldiered bravely through the 124 names until they were both overcome with emotion. I know it doesn’t seem a difficult thing to do; read out a list of names, but I was one of the readers two years ago when there were “only”180 names altogether (there were 265 worldwide this time), I managed to get through without crying but wept almost uncontrolably afterwards. Believe it or not it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. Every name could have been me or my friends.
The reason why we keep this tradition going, and it has been going since 1998, is to keep alive the memories of our sisters and brothers who have been killed for being just like us. The world needs to know about this, we are a small and relatively powerless minority, even more so in global terms, so all we can uselfully do is bring it to people’s attention, which is what TDoR is about.
by Joseph Patrick McCormick
17 January 2013
Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore has launched an outspoken attack on PinkNews after it published a story about the killing of a trans woman in Brazil.
Read this piece of shit and Pink News will hear from my lawyers in the morning
I am back to sort this out and to play some music and cos I miss many good laughs and people that are here btw.”
@mjrharris no libel threats. I will just turn their balls into Tesco Value Burgers.
Thanks for support. I am trouble again already about Pink News joke – I don’t have lawyers FFS but they are c*ntards
In response, PinkNews editor Scott Roberts, who wrote the story said: “I referred to Suzanne Moore in yesterday’s article about the killing of Cecilia Marahouse because her death should be viewed in the context of the media row, which Ms Moore found herself engulfed in last week, and continues to burn at this very moment due to the remarks of some of her colleagues at the Guardian and Observer. It all stemmed from Ms Moore’s use of the word ‘Brazilian transsexual’.
“As has been stated several times, her use of the term was deemed offensive by many because of the appalling fact that so many trans people in Brazil are murdered each year. In 2012, the reported number of deaths was over 100 – and the true figure is likely to be much higher.
“At the very point of referring to Ms Moore in my article I instantly mentioned her apology – which was reported fully at the time by PinkNews last week, and welcomed by Trans Media Watch.
A decade ago I was an anarchist. I worked for Dyke TV, a guerrilla media nonprofit that produced highly politicized television “by lesbians, for lesbians.” We were loud. We were proud. We had armpit hair. We took to the streets to record real life as it unfolded, and to highlight the colorful and honest lives under the queer umbrella that no one else was paying attention to. It wasn’t that long ago, but it was a very different landscape. Ellen was still hiding in the shadows, following the blowback of a cancelled show after coming out of the closet. Logo wasn’t yet in existence, and there really wasn’t much, if any, positive LGBT representation on TV.
Dyke TV made people angry. Some days we came to work to find dog shit at our storefront entrance (in Park Slope!), and we received hate mail — yes, actual written letters — from homophobes all over the country for our “perverted programming.” One network threatened to take us off the air for a segment featuring lesbians playing badminton. OK, so the lesbians were playing badminton naked, but since when did bare bottoms harm anyone?
We also received letters from grateful lesbians from Missoula to Miami who secretly watched our show at 3 a.m. and were happy to see on TV the first lesbians they’d ever seen other than themselves. The fire to represent the underrepresented, bring equal rights to my fellow sisters and celebrate diversity was my driving force. My voice was loud, and I would not go silently into the night.
Fast-forward a couple of handfuls of years and I’ve traded in the shoestring-budget, bleeding-heart, minority-rights-centered organization for a Fortune 500 company (albeit one that has a pretty good track record on LGBT rights, thankfully). My activism has become a side dish rather than the main course. I do “my part” through volunteering at a gay youth organization, journalism and donating to related causes. I sign petitions on Change.org and share articles via Facebook and Twitter that highlight social injustices. I still am passionate about issues of equality, but I no longer work fulltime fighting for equal rights, and I haven’t attended a rally or a march.
I’ve traded in the Dyke March for Dyke Sitting on the Couch, and I now shave my armpits regularly. Have I allowed myself to lose my edge, or did it happen naturally? Have the shifting political tides and subsequent progress in favor of equality quieted activist voices, or has activism itself shifted to a different, digital presence?