Sunday, February 22, 2009

Gay Media, RuPaul Isn't A Transgender 'Expert', So Stop Trying To Pass Him Off As One

One of the things that's an irritant to many African descended transpeople is not only the lack of media attention we get vis a vis our white brothers and sisters, but the frequent use of people who aren't African-American transpeople as representatives to speak for us.

The gay media has a bad habit of referring to RuPaul as a transgender person when he's not. The fact that he's (allegedly) Black on the outside and has a penchant for dressing up in feminine attire doesn't make him transgender. He's also not highly regarded by many people in the SGL and transgender community for his unwavering support of a certain obese white gay man who does a blackface minstrel show.

I was insulted along with the Dallas transgender community when their local gay newspaper, the Dallas Voice ran to him to defend their use of the word 'tranny' in news stories they write.

The Dallas transgender community has been calling out the Voice recently about their penchant for repeatedly using the word in their news stories, but they aren't the only gay media outlets that are guilty of this.

Once again it's a simple principle. You don't get to make the call about what does or doesn't offend me or my community, we do. Common sense would dictate that if you don't belong to the transgender community and we tell you that 'tranny' is an offensive term, then don't use it.

By the way, if you need to find actual transgender women of African descent to comment on an issue, how about calling the National Black Justice Coalition, GLAAD, your local transgender organizations for references or shoot me an e-mail?

So please stop calling on him as an 'expert' on what the Black transgender community or our community in general is thinking because there are others who are far more qualified to do so than this serial apologist for Chuck Knipp.


Polar said...

Wasn't RuPaul's 15 minutes spent back about 1996 or so? What does he do, exactly? He's no musician, nor a singer. He's never impressed me. At least Dennis Rodman ended up on Celebrity Apprentice!

planet trans said...

Monica thank you for weighing in on this. The Dallas Voice and it's blog "Instant Tea" have used the "T" word over 100,000 according to a google search. Nearly each time it was unattributed and defamatory. Every time I emailed and called the DV editorial staff I was sent a curt invite to write a letter to the editor.
I had first heard of Israel Luna who does segments for the DV's DVTV, when he attempted to organize a protest at the premier of "MILK" at the CinaMark, who's CEO had contributed to the passage of prop 8. I was reading the DV article and all set to go until I read the last line which Luna said that "I hope all the drag queens and trannys show up". I was floored and contacted DV news editor John Wright. I was told I could contact Luna or write a letter to the editor if I wanted to but the DV had correctly attributed the quote to Luna. I let it slid, disappointed I would miss the protest.
Very few people showed up for that blotched protest anyways. I have gay friends who did not go because they said "something just wasn't right".
I met Luna at a queerliberaction rally and he proudly told me all about his next feature "Ticked Off Tranny with Knifes"
From then on this situation became a media feeding frenzy by the DV and other former allied media outlets as they published article after article baiting transgender people to visit and complain.

Most transgender people maintained the moral high ground as you do and we have ended up making some very important allies within and outside of the GLB community.

Thank you Monica, I was tempted to write to you about this situation brfore but honestly, as wonderful as you are I did not want to.

Dennis R. Upkins said...

I'm sorry but I always thought RuPaul was a gay man in drag, when did he become a trans?

I initially respected RuPaul when he came in the 90s as being one of the first LGBTs (and a POC on top of that) to bring exposure to the community in mainstream media.

However after co-signing on that Shirley Q. Liquour nonsense, I don't think he gets to represent any community: trans, POC, LGBT, or human.

Anonymous said...

I also don't think that RuPaul actually self-identifies as a transgendered person. I guess I can understand why the media goes to such a mainstream figure, however I don't think s/he intends to speak for the transgender community (or any community really) so much as just for himself as an individual. I think it's unfortunate that the media can't recognize the difference.

It's not my place to have an opinion on the reclaiming of words like "tranny" or "drag queen" or "queer" (as they aren't my words to reclaim) but I'll say that I am all for "taking back" language in general (our website is called, heh).

Gina said...

I totally agree RuPaul is a gay man who makes a higher than average income wearing a costume he removes when he's not geting a payday with it. But... herein lies the entire issue with the good old "transgender umbrella"... drag queens (aka gay men with a hobby) do fall under the LGBT-created nomenclature of "transgender community" as do effeminate men, butches, bois, vaguely genderqueer people, Dennis Rodman, people who go to gender conferences once a year, yadda, yadda.

Therefore, we can expect many more such instances where people who someone are deemed to fall under the umbrella, to make sweeping statements about the rest of their community members (such as calling us trannies) and we will continue to be tagged as reactionaries because we have no wish to put up with that cr*p by someone who ain't walked the walk nor 'been there-done that." And unless we make it painfully clear about how distinct our experiences are from "situational gender expression," that's just how it will be, like it or not.

Renee said...

Ru Paul has got to go. I find it disgusting that the gay community has repeatedly referenced him to support their racism and transphobia. Why is there always an uncle tom waiting in the wings?

Carrie said...

While I applaud this and the point you're trying to make (which I agree with, RuPaul is no more a spokesperson for the gender community than I am), was it really necessary to use "(allegedly) Black"? Must we stoop so low to racial insults, when the very thing we're arguing against is discrimination or perceived inequality?

Monica Roberts said...

As far as many peeps are concerned in the AA GLBT community, when he chose Chuck over his people, he became the gay version of Clarence Thomas.

Gina said...

I can't comment on RuPaul and the AA community (out of the loop), but Carrie, he IS considered a spokesperson for the transgender community. Not only have I seen him frequently questioned (in a serious manner?!) in discussions of trans people (and not only him, but DQs like Lady Bunny as well) but I've often seen him referenced as an example of a transgender person. Yes, a lot of that is an ignorant media that imagines he somehow lives life dressed on femme (as they wrongly did too with Divine) but neither have I ever heard him correct them. The problem ultimately isn't really RuPaul, it's the unrepentant laziness of the straight/cis media.

Gina said...

Um, GiorginaGlory, I don't know if this is a serious request (God, I hope not, but let's treat it as though it is...). Chuck Knipp is a white, gay, male comic who does black, female characters as part of his act. He's not transgender, a woman, nor a person of color. His act has been roundly criticized by both the transgender and AA communities. His bud, fellow gay man Andre Charles, who performs professionally under the name RuPaul, has been one of the few performers to excuse Knipp's often transphobic and racist act.

Anonymous said...

I think there are too many labels in our society. We feel such a need to describe someone perfectly, are they transgendered or are they biologically female or are they just a cross-dresser, etc... Are they gay or straight or bi...? I wish we could all just be referred to as people, period, and not be defined by gender or orientation, which are both so often ambiguous.

(I'm not saying I don't recognize the need for these kinds of labels. I just think sometimes this necessity to "define" someone does more to keep us apart).

And this isn't relevant to the issue, but... for the record, RuPaul's legal first name is RuPaul (from birth). Andre is his middle name.

Gina said...

Lilith, I had understood RuPaul uses the name Andre Charles when he is 'en homme'. If that's wrong, then I apologize. Transwomen tend to be particular about labels perhaps because we've been mislabeled for much of our lives (and continue to be). While I understand the distrust and limitations of labels, I feel the impulse to do away with them is largely a luxury by those who don't have don't have to deal with the same issues. More often than not, I've found when I'm described by someone as "a person" it's often masking their uneasiness concerning my female identity. But I get it your experience may differ.

Anonymous said...

No, I definitely see the need for labels at this point, I just think that when we're categorized into little boxes it can be limiting. Gender as a biological concept is one thing, but "gender" as a societal concept too often serves to force people to confirm to strict roles that well, kinda suck. It would just be nice if (someday) we didn't all need to be classified by the genitalia we may or may not have been born with.

Obviously my experiences with gender are different, but I wasn't trying to speak from my experience but just from an optimistic point of view for the future. I meant no disrespect.