Second Class Citizens

Yep, I’m going on about trans rights again. And I’m a few days late on most of this story to boot. For those of you who are terminally bored with such things, I am putting it all under the fold.

Last week President Obama made a new appointment of a Senior Technical Advisor in the Bureau of Industry and Security. Her name is Amanda Simpson and she has degrees in physics, engineering and business administration, along with 20 years experience as a test pilot. She has also run for political office. Clearly this is a lady with a lot of drive and talent. Just what the US government needs, you might think.

Except that Ms. Simpson is also a post-operative transsexual, and therefore all hell broke loose.

Ms. Simpson is not the first trans person to join the Obama Administration, but she is the first trans woman to do so, and it is trans women who generally bear the brunt of society’s hatred of trans people. Unsurprisingly it was “religious” people who were in the forefront of the queue to condemn the appointment. Here, for example, is the Catholic News Agency suggesting that Simpson only got the job because she is trans, and deliberately insulting her by referring to her as “he” throughout the article. Other “Christian” groups have been equally offensive.

The prize for gut-wrenching stupidity, however, goes to David Letterman. Like many media people, Letterman’s first reaction on hearing of a trans woman in the news was to make fun of her. These days comedians are discouraged from poking fun at ethnic minorities, the disabled, mothers-in-law and all of their other traditional victims, but trans people, particularly trans women, are still regarded as prime targets to be pilloried and laughed at. You can see Letterman’s “joke” here. I won’t have it on my blog.

What makes Letterman’s behavior uniquely offensive is the substance of the “joke” he made. He has one of his staff pretend to have dated Ms. Simpson, not knowing that she was trans. First of all, of course, Ms. Simpson is a well known trans activist who does not make a secret of her past. In addition, and I cannot believe that Letterman did not know this, the supposed discovery that a trans woman is “really” a man is the standard defense used by people accused of murdering them. Up until this year, that defense has proved extremely successful, and many people who committed violent and pre-meditated murders got off lightly as a result. Letterman’s “joke”, therefore, is not just making fun of trans women, it is deliberately encouraging attitudes that lead to their murder, and suggesting that people who do murder them are somehow justified in doing so.

Thankfully there are people like GLAAD who are prepared to make a stand against this sort of thing, but if CBS are anything like the media in the UK then they will just ignore any complaints. After all, with so few disadvantaged people that they are allowed to bully and insult in pursuit of “humor” these days, why should they let trans people off the hook?

Slowly but surely, of course, things are getting better. No US President before Obama would have dared to appoint a trans person to his staff. Brave people like Amanda Simpson are blazing a trail and taking the insults so that others may come after them in relative safely. But it will still be a long time before the bulk of Western society, let alone society in other countries where “religious” bigots hold a tighter grip on the public consciousness, is prepared to treat trans people with any degree of respect or dignity.

And if you think I’m exaggerating here, try this horrific story about a transwoman who, sick and helpless in hospital after being hit by a car, is having her identity erased and gender reassignment treatment reversed, on the instructions of her “caring” family.

9 thoughts on “Second Class Citizens

  1. *If CBS are anything like the media in the UK then they will just ignore any complaints*

    Yep. In fact, I heard just today that OfCom has once again (on second appeal) failed to uphold complaints against ITV for its horrendously transphobic portrayal of a trans woman in Moving Wallpaper last year. (I blogged about it back in June:

    1. I have a certain amount of sympathy with Ofcom because what they believe they are doing is enforcing social norms. If a TV program were to mercilessly pillory a disabled person there would be outrage from the general public and Ofcom would act. But if a TV program mercilessly pillories a trans then there is outrage from the trans community and a great deal of laughter from the general public. If Ofcom were to uphold such a complaint they would be seen as trying to change attitudes rather than uphold them.

      Now of course you can argue that Ofcom should be proactive in that way, but they may not agree, especially when the current government is pushing through an “equality” bill that specifically legitimizes discrimination against trans people.

      1. Ofcom certainly were reinforcing societal norms, but this isn’t their job, at least as defined in their code, which states (amongst other thins):

        “Broadcasters should take particular care in their portrayal of culturally diverse matters and should avoid stereotyping unless editorially justified. When considering such matters, broadcasters should take into account the possible effects programmes may have on particular sections of the community…. If there is an underrepresentation [of a minority group] the use of stereotypes and caricatures or the discussion of difficult or controversial issues involving that community may be seen as offensive in that it is viewed as creating a false impression of that minority.”

        But it’s not even simply a question of reinforcing norms. In this case their judgement tried to deny that there is significant evidence of discrimination, bullying or prejudice against trans people. This, in spite of copious evidence to the contrary from Home Office amongst other sources.

  2. Ofcom is pretty useless for a lot of things. We used to have quite strong and powerful media regulation, but it was relentlessly de-clawed and neutered by successive Government changes. There is very little of real worth it can actually act upon. It’s pretty useless as an organisation, and that’s down to Government, and that’s down to us, the electorate.

    As for Melissa’s soul destroying story… reminds me very much of how it used to be for homosexual people in similar situations. One very famous case, which I’ve forgotten the details of, sadly, in the 80s. One partner was in a coma, and the family not only prevented her partner from access to the hospital, but moved her 3000 miles away. Lesbian mothers denied the opportunity to see their children, as the birth mother was the one in a coma and the grandparents had taken them away. Or kids unable to visit their other mother in hospital, as the birth mother was the one still functioning, and the family had denied all access to the coma partner, even to the kids. I imagine it’s still the same in many places. *shudder*

    Unfortunately, the entire medical aspect of care of coma patients, is still a nightmare for so many people. This one is particularly horrific. I have a friend who is currently fighting to have her daughter not treated or resuscitated in the UK. Her grown up daughter was hit by a car in March last year, and is in a persistent vegetative state. The family can’t even get the hospital staff to call her by her ‘real’ name – as her family nickname is not what’s on the paperwork. And they’re now in court to try and get them to stop treating.

    But you’d think they’d take on board that their patient didn’t like the name on the birth certificate. *sigh* Inhumanity barely covers it. 🙁

    1. This is, of course, what happens when you have a group of people who spend their lives doing things to others in order to “make them better”.

      1. Quite.

        Although my adoptive father is at home now, dying in his own bed. The doctor finally suggested they stop everything, and within 24 hours he’d made it clear he didn’t even want to swallow water. So his wife of 55 years is lying in bed holding him, as he slips slowly away, with his birth children holding vigil with them.

        So it is better, some places, some times. Enough times to make you hope that as a race, we humans just might make it.

  3. Cheryl, while I was reading your post, my mind kept flashing to what happened to Gwen Araujo and the bile rose in my throat. Such a high-profile case and yet people have not gotten any wiser…

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