Yesterday, the Huffington Post Gay Voices (HuffPostGay) approvingly posted a video “critiquing” the “language policing” of some transgender activists—particularly Parker Marie Molloy—in reference to us, you know, not wanting to be called slurs by the drag community, in particular RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The video in question, by drag “artist” Alaska Thunderfuck, “humorously” depicts trans women as men in bad wigs with mustaches. But the “parody” of the video consists in showing a drag queen shooting a trans woman. As “parody”. The trans woman in question is a really blatantly obvious parody of Parker (and denied to be so, which is laughable).
HuffPostGay did eventually take it down and issue a pretty standard nonpology. But the damage had been done—and exacerbated.
When HuffPostGay approvingly posted this video yesterday, a number of trans women and our allies, myself included, called out the editor, Noah Michelson, for not just allowing but celebrating this shit on the website. And he doubled down: “I stand by my convictions,” he said. “You can’t shame me with your Twitter games … we both know I’m not the enemy.”
No, Noah, you are the enemy. When trans women ask cis gay men to respect us and afford us just a little human fucking decency by not using slurs or portraying us as men in bad wigs, that’s “homophobic”. When you approvingly link to a video depicting a trans woman getting shot simply for the lulz, you are the enemy. When your convictions include being offended that trans women are daring to ask for a little respect, you’re the enemy. And when you double down and attack trans women for standing up to you, rather than listening and learning, you are the enemy.
Let’s be clear: the damage was done only partly by the video itself, and only partly by the initial refusal of HuffPostGay to do anything about it, and only partly by the flippancy with which Noah Michelson replied to the people who were actually hurt by it. The root of this damage isn’t even really in “drag culture” particularly and it can’t really be laid specifically at RuPaul’s feet. The root of this damage is transmisogyny: it is the assumption that trans women are deceptive, that we are subhuman, that we deserve to be treated with disrespect and harmed and killed. Transmisogyny means that when cis gay men punch down at us, we deserve what we get. Transmisogyny means that when trans women speak up and ask for a little consideration as human beings, it’s “edgy” and “funny” to show us getting shot. All this other shit is smoke. It’s a symptom of the place trans women are told we ought to be occupying in the “queer community”—how much the more so when being a trans woman intersects with other marginalized identities. We are targets, and being a target is funny.
Cis gays, this is why we mistrust you. It’s time for y’all to pick a side. Your silence, your complacency, is hurting us. It’s killing us. Wake the fuck up to your self-appointed leadership and actually be our allies. Speak up about this. Educate yourselves and learn. Spend some time listening to us and think before you use the t-word slur or link to a video like this. Silence is complicity. Don’t be like that. Please. We’re dying here. Really.