Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Gendercator

I got this today indirectly from Jules Rosskam, the director of TransParent, the documentary about trans parents. I'm going to hold off on my own opinion for now, but I will say that for me, censorship - or any community's willingness or ability to shut down artists' commentaries - scares me. I'm a writer after all & I've often had things to say that others don't want to hear & that people might even want to block.

Would Frameline’s LGBT Film Festival show a film that characterized gay people as the product of a “strange” world and “distorted cultural norms”? Where being gay was the “scary” choice of “straight people altering themselves?” Where homosexuality could be cured if only gay people “worked to change the world?” A film whose goal was actually to question the ethics of being gay and create division and foster animosity against gays and lesbians? We don’t think so.


Showing at the SF International LGBT Film Festival on June 15th at 10:30 p.m. is “The Gendercator,” an ignorant, transphobic film by midwest lesbian director Catherine Crouch that depicts a 1970s “feminist” tomboy who awakens in the 21st Century to find that some of her friends have become men. “They made me do it. They’ll make you too,” a transman (referred to by Crouch as an “altered lesbian”) tells his friend. Transsexuality is portrayed as the evil that has taken over the world, and as a way to enforce heteronormativity. A “butch rescue squad” helps the lesbian escape the horror.

This film is labeled “sci fi” to mask the personal threat Crouch feels from transsexuals and other trans people, but the film itself has no such “sci-fi” content--just actual “transsexual” characters, who tell of their journey with surgery and hormones and are portrayed as the “scary” villains.

Crouch is expected to travel to attend the film and be treated to all the benefits (free tickets, parties, souvenirs) that Frameline bestows to filmmakers.

Catherine Crouch’s Director’s Note:
Things are getting very strange for women these days. More and more often we see young heterosexual women carving their bodies into porno Barbie dolls and lesbian women altering themselves into transmen. Our distorted cultural norms are making women feel compelled to use medical advances to change themselves, instead of working to change the world. This is one story, showing one possible scary future. I am hopeful that this story will foster discussion about female body modification and medical ethics.


Director Crouch has reportedly touted the film as a way to “spark dialogue,” but she has also refused to engage in conversation with members of the concerned queer community. True dialogue requires the absence of malice.

Last week, Frameline issued a preliminary statement that promised to address community concerns, but it as of now the film remains in the lineup. Frameline said it was unaware of the director’s hateful note when it selected “The Gendercator” for programming.

But even without the director’s note, the transphobia in the film should have been clear to the selection committee. In the world of transphobia, IT IS NOTHING NEW to refer to trans bodies as freakish experiments, as “frankendicks,” as sci-fi horrors.

Please CALL OR WRITE FRAMELINE and demand that “the Gendercator” be pulled from the lineup. Tell Frameline that films designed to antagonize, belittle, or demonize whole populations of (trans) people should not be permitted in film festivals whose aim is to support and nurture those populations. Tell Crouch there are ways to celebrate female masculinity without demonizing trans people. Tell Frameline you will not support a festival that does not support its community.
Tel: 415-703-8650 Fax: 415-861-1404 Email:


Would pulling the film be censorship?

It is not censorship to refuse to make a space for bigotry in a space that claims to be against it.

Frameline has never claimed to be a free-for-all exchange of ideas; all films are subject to censorship when they go through the selection process. This fight is not about whether the film in question may be enjoyed or have some value--this is about refusing to allow a double standard around material that specifically targets and attacks a population in a forum that claims to empower that population.

Frameline’s mission is “to strengthen the diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.” We are asking that trans-related films be held to those standards.

Crouch claims that her film challenges the gender binary and promotes feminism. I agree with these values. What if I actually want to see the film?

Many transgender people also challenge the gender binary and identify as feminists. Many feminists also identify as pro-trans. True feminism does not require hatred. But even for those trans people who do identify as with the binary, we must remember that gender oppression is not the fault of transgender people. It is not the responsibility of trans people alone to challenge society. There are plenty of binary-identified women and men in the LGBT community. Additionally, Crouch’s film creates a new—and false—binary of her very own creation that assumes trans people choose between transitioning and being ‘pro-female.’

If you are still interested in the film you can see it elsewhere or request it from the director; our community dollars from Frameline ticket sales and advertising should NOT be required to support this work.

What about having a dialogue about gender? Isn’t that a good thing?

A dialogue requires an actual exchange of ideas. Crouch has repeatedly refused to engage in dialogue with concerned community members across the country. Before SF residents began protesting the film, the conversation was framed completely in hateful, one-sided terms. There is no discussion in Crouch’s film, there are prescribed values – many of them not just hateful, but inaccurate--upon a huge, diverse population.

Films designed to antagonize, belittle, or demonize whole populations of (trans) people in the name of "fostering debate" should not be permitted in film festivals whose aim is to support and nurture those populations. Tell Crouch there are ways to celebrate female masculinity without demonizing trans people. Tell Frameline you will not support a festival that does not support its community.

The film actually sounds kind of funny/stupid. Is it really worth this attention? Can it really hurt anyone?

As an artistic piece, no, the film is not worth much attention. But the alternative—to ignore it—ensures that it will continue to get play in LGBT film festivals without some REAL dialogue around ensuring trans community respect in our institutions.

Trans people are continuously marginalized in their own LGBT communities. Here is one example where the right thing to do is actually clear, where refusing to broadcast hate does not actually hurt anyone, but where showing it sends a clear message to our multigendered SF queer community: the trans identity is still up for criticism in the LGBT community, and a bigoted out-of-towner has more of a voice than we do in our own community institutions.

Imagine being a queer or trans-questioning youth attending the sci-fi series, watching as the audience cheers the rejection of transgender people. Gay people who grew up surrounded by anti-gay jokes and images should know better how much damage can be done by such portrayals.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Week of Direct Advocacy

If nothing else, last week was historic in that the three major transgender advocacy organizations (National Transgender Advocacy Coalition, National Center for Transgender Equality, and the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition) brought in citizen lobbyists to Washington D.C. from across the United States for a week of direct congressional advocacy.lobbyweek.jpgRolling in to DC on Tuesday, I had the chance to see the lobbyists for the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition (NTAC) in action. Tuesday night NTAC sponsored a plenary session or "lobbying 101," instructing those new to lobbying on the importance of presentation and lobbying "do's and dont's."

On Wednesday morning I set out to visit my representative, Julia Carson. I had other business to attend to while in DC, but at the very least I wanted to make sure that I'd talked to my own senators and representative. I've headed many a protest in my day, but this was actually the first time I lobbied a public office holder. For me, anger is much easier to emotion to project publicly than one on one interaction. But like the Byrds song says

"To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time for every purpose, under heaven"
This was the time to lobby.

One thing I was shocked by was how friendly even the most conservative offices were. Actually, I got more time to explain why we were there in Richard Lugar's office than I did in Evan Bayh's office.

NTAC uses the buddy system, pairing up veteran lobbyists with the newbies (me, for example). I was amazed at the professionalism and polish of those who went along with me. As I learned later, NTAC and GPAC (who lobbied on Friday) have been lobbying Congress for many years (I did contact NCTE for this post, but they did not return my call).

It was a powerful experience, to see the wheels of power turning. To connect with the people in power that make critical life effecting legislative decisions is very important. It's empowered me to lobby on a local level and I'll be returning to Washington D.C. on a routine basis. If you ever get the chance to go, do it.

crossposted from

Sunday, May 20, 2007

So... how controversial can we be?

Can we throw bricks through the windows of transdogma? Do we have to all agree about what what others say or can a modicum of "agree to disagree" exist?

I'm not prolific by any measurement, but I do like to say things that, um, might piss other trans people off. I think that's a good thing, actually. Not me pissing others off, but I think questioning some of the assumptions of trans life is essential.

Will that make y'all uncomfortable?

For example, I think there's some value in saying the following:

Even though we all thought transgender was going to be this umbrella term that covered everybody, it's terribly obvious that transgender these days means transsexuals. It's a done deal. The media is the media and they like simple story lines and for the most part, they're only interested in us if we've gone and done shit to our genitals. Which, of course, means transsexuals to the vast unwashed masses.

Try explaining yourself as a transperson without the whole, "So... you did cut something off, right?" Surgery equals trans equals transgender equals transsexual. Every one else need not apply. You are less than... somehow.

Which of course, is utter bullshit.

But if you tell a reporter they're fucked up for writing that... well, they don't write about you any more do they?
That kind of stuff.

Would that be okay with, ya'll?

BTW, I'm not terribly interested in fighting that fight because I think it's a fait accompli and I'd rather they know something about us rather than, well, nothing.

But I do think this has the potential to be something kind of groovy, cool and every once in a while, incendiary.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Group Blog?

I've had a new idea: a trans group blog. I'll see who I can convince to