Yesterday Kieth Olbermann, in an attempt to insult Ann Coulter, (whom I admit is generally a loathsome woman), said she looked like a transsexual, mostly because being aggressive and not wearing dresses but instead pantsuits apparently are solely male traits and thus suggest Ann is less than a "real" woman.
Now, not surprisingly, all my under-30 trans friends are justifiably angry and blogging angry rants about this asinine stunt on Obermann's behalf, protesting not only the hateful innacuracy of using trans women as a bogeyman to insult a challenging woman for not being femme enough, but because no one BUT trans women seem to care that he did so.
Now maybe it's just proof that I've gotten old and jaded but I am at worst, mildly annoyed by Olbermann's doucheyness. I am however not the least bit shocked or surprised that a priveleged white male Sportscaster/MSNBC host like Olbermann would say something so nasty and use a highly marginalized people as a basis to insult a woman for a perceived lack of femininity.
After all we live in a world where society at large still sees Trans women as a big bad wolf of sorts. For example the wingnut right-wing outrage over a trans woman getting a government job under President Obama, and the so-called comedy that resulted from her appointment that clearly suggests the widely believe grossness of "men dressing as chicks" that so many both think is hilarious even as it is frequently used as a murder defense. Although in the case in that last link, we actually got justice for a change, so there IS hope for the rest of us.
So many people really don't understand Trans women, or what our lives are really like. Some men for example who watch porn see titles that refer to us as "Shemales" or "trannies", terms which a lot of trans women find offensive, and, not knowing any trans women in their own lives, think that such terms are the correct ones. other people will see a movie like "Mrs. Doubtfire", or "To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmarr", both movies about men who identify AS men dressing up as women, and, again, not knowing anyone in real life to correct them, mistakenly believe that it represents what trans women are.
This is why when the religious right brings up the "Men dress as women to get into women's washrooms" defense as the bogeyman to get people to vote against measures that would grant Trans women equality and safe protection under the law, a lot of people are stupid enough to buy into that fear mongering because they don't know enough about us to know any different.
There are so very few examples of trans women in the media, which is where the average person learns about such things. The more positive portrayals there were, for example, of gay men and lesbian women on TV, the more widespread the general acceptance of gay and lesbian people became. Offhand in the last 15 years, I can think of exactly 6 positive portrayals of trans women that painted the character as a real human being. Any other trans character on TV or in movies was a derogatory charicature that relegated us to the stereotypical confused man in women's clothing, usually played BY a man who couldn't come close to looking even like a bad Drag Queen, let alone a feminine woman. Even this casting itself is done out of ignorance of real trans lives. And of the positive portrayals, only one is played by an actual Trans woman.
Another problem IS how vitriolic and angry some trans women get. While anger is COMPLETELY justified when being marginalized, especially considering that somewhere in the world a Trans woman is murdered every three days because of attitudes like these, becoming verbally abusive in reaction to trans-ignorance does more harm than good. I sadly know more than a few of my sisters who in their anger spewing invective have made trans haters out of people who just didn't know any better and were willing to learn until they were attacked for making a mistake.
I prefer to make allies out of such people. Change is never acheived by attacking the active haters. For example, no one is ever going to eliminate homophobia by pointing at the nutjobs of the Westboro Baptist Church, (You know, the funeral picketing "God Hates Fags" people), and screaming "You're an ignorant fuckwad!".
But if you talk, and educate, those who look at nutcases like those and say "I don't get what he means? Why do they say that?" and teach them about the people being attacked by the haters, and help them understand where the hate really comes from and why it's misguided, then you've changed the world just a little bit for the better.
The more people I talk to and teach about the lives my sisters and I lead, and the struggles we go through just to live, (a lot ofd us got into porn to pay the bills, and I myself was a prostitute for four years to just keep food in the house), the LESS people there are to be fooled and swayed by the haters.
Hatemongers count on people who are ignorant of the facts to spread their hate. There is nothing a hatemonger fears more than an educated person, because an educated person will always see through their bullshit.
I know some of my friends in porn hates the porn example but I've experienced it personally so many times. A guy will call me a tranny or a shemale because that's what girls like me are called in the porn he watches, and will be legitimately surprised when he's told it's offensive. Hell it happened to me just yesterday. And their excuse is always "But that's the name they used in porno?"
Now when I was younger and still jumping before looking, I'd scream and cuss at these guys, insulting them, telling them to go fuck themselves, yadda yadda. The result was always a resounding "Well fuck you too you tranny cunt!". These days, I take breath, stay calm, and politely explain to them why tranny and shemale are incorrect terms, why they offend most trans women, why porn uses them, (market recognition. As Danielle can attest to, if you Google Tranny or Shemale you'll get a LOT more porn results than googling Trans woman will net), and then I educate them about the proper terms, pronouns, and about respecting us as women.
You know what happens now? They apologize. They admit they honestly didn't know any better, tell me they're honestly sorry if they offended me, and thank me for being so understanding and for teaching them. the more men I can reach and get through to, the less men there are out there who could potentially suffer from a sudden "Did I just fuck a man" guilt and murder one of us. The more people I can teach about who we really are, the less people there are who will vote against our equality and basic human rights.
Here in Vancouver BC Canada last year, a Women Only pharmacy called Lu's opened up in the Downtown East Side, (Vancouver's version of a Skid Row), with a "Women Born Women" policy. Through peaceful protesting and talking openly with the charity who runs the place about our lives, me and other local transwomen and our cis allies got through to them, and three weeks ago Lu's dropped the trans-phobic policy. We're now as welcome there as any other woman.
But if we had verbally attacked them, screaming about what ignorant hateful bigots they were being, it would have just been Kimberly Nixon all over again.
So, yeah, Kieth Olbermann was a douchebag. No I'm not going to piss and moan and send him long angry e-mails over it. I AM however going to tell as many confused cis folks as I can, calmly and intelligently, exactly WHY what he said was wrong and damaging.
Make the uneducated your enemy, and the enemy grows strong enough to kill you.
Make them your friend, and you castrate your enemy's power.
So don't worry about Olbermann. Get through to the people who don't understand yet why he was an idiot.