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.


CobraFangs said...

Please excuse my frankness but that really sucks. Not only is Catherine Crouch making transsexuals seem like "altered lesbians" but she's also nearly separating the LGBT community. Everyone should be viewed as equal, what is so hard about accepting the fact there are no 'freaks', or anything like that, but there are simply people who choose different life styles than your own? With all this indecision about whether some people are 'lower status' than others the world will become segregated... again.

Thanks for posting this, my friends will certainly want to get involved and will probably end up calling in to get the movie banned. I know I will.

Olin1984 said...

Gotta say that while i was angry with Crouch initially, i don't agree with censorship by Frameline or anybody in this case.

Though Crouch might be dishonest in how she represents the film, it is a movie that clearly reveals the type of paranoid thinking amongst some lesbian circles. That is EXACTLY why it makes a great opportunity for trans people to demand a facilitated (let me emphasize that word) discussion on the film that includes transgender filmmaker(s).

Lesbians don't control the police or the army. This film is aimed at lesbians and does not appeal to a straight audience. So why is it dangerous?

Max Wolf Valerio said...

Lesbians don't control the police or the army. This film is aimed at lesbians and does not appeal to a straight audience. So why is it dangerous?

While lesbians may not control the police or army, they most certainly are important and empowered members of the Queer community and have quite a lot of say in things that affect many transpeople, who may or may not belong to the lesbian community as well or, be related to it. Although, as a long-transitioned trans man, I do not belong to the lesbian community as a lesbian, my girlfriend still identifies as a lesbian (mostly) and has many friends in that community. The hateful and inaccurate views of Crouch might have an effect on her if more lesbians around her felt that way. Then, those same views could impact our relationship in a negative way.

I know that many trans women who are identified as lesbian or bi want to go to the Michigan Women's Festival, and views like Crouches, certainly don't help their interest any.

In any case, I also am against censorship on principal, but I am not sure how to handle this one. I think that possibly, the film should have been shown, protested, and a rebuttal by trans activists and artists should have been made after the movie. No "dialogue" as such, but a counter-commentary to offset the film's perspective.

I agree with Zak Symanski that a similar anti-gay film would never have made it into Frameline to begin with. So, the fact that Gendercator did make it just shows how far trans people have to go with the LGB world. Our lives are still viewed with immense suspicion as to our motives for transition, and we are still misunderstood and demonized.

That said, I would like to see the film to see for myself, and while I do think I will get angry, I will also get a good laugh. These people (Crouch and her ilk) are just clueless and so off-the-wall as to be camp. I mean, the film is like, "Reefer Madness" or "The Hippie Temptation". I hope that someday, everyone will laugh at this movie's ridiculous premise as those films are laughed at today.

helen_boyd said...

just wanted to mention that we've also been discussing this here