Monday, December 13, 2010

The Pain Brought By Joy Behar

TransGriot Note:  Guest Post from MAGNET"s Ashley Love from the Trans Forming Media blog. 


Pain Brought By Joy: The Joy Behar Show’s Pattern of Transphobia & Ignorance Perpetuates Harm on Transsexual, Transgender & Intersex Americans. 
by Ashley Love- Founder of MAGNET- Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Transsexual & Transgender

Some of the problems Americans with a transsexual medical condition or a gender non-conforming (transgender) identity face are the defamatory media stereotypes and inaccurate education about them or their issues. Although trans issues have become more visible in recent years, many journalists and television and radio hosts continue to exclude experts from the transsexual and transgender communities in their coverage. Instead, they often rely on non-trans people (in this case, gay male pundits who are not transsexual) with little knowledge or insight of their issues. These pundits misrepresent transsexual and transgender people and perpetuate intolerant views of gender and biological diversity.

Last month The Joy Behar Show had two highly problematic shows concerning transsexuality and gender identity. Previously, Joy Behar also expressed transphobic sentiments on The View.

The first incident aired in late 2006. The hosts of The View (one of my favorite talk shows) were having a conversation concerning terminology used in the transsexual and transgender communities in which Joy Behar offensively blurted out "ewww...that's weird.” :

Then on The Joy Behar Show's November 10th, 2010 episode, the topic of discussion was the pejorative "tra**y" (an anti-transsexual woman slur). Shockingly, instead of inviting transsexual women on the show to express their feelings about this hate speech, invited instead were two unqualified and insensitive gay men (who are not trans). Radio host Michelangelo Signorile and author Greg Fitzsimmons discussed the misogynistic word with a condescending and non-affirming tone. For what reason would Behar’s producers have two gay men serve as “experts” about a slur associated with sexism and violence towards women, not men? Women can speak for themselves, thank you very much.

If the “N word” was used on TV to dehumanize a Black person, would Behar have Asian people on her show to discuss it? Or if someone in the media was using the pejorative “dyke” to dehumanize lesbian women, would Behar solely ask straight men their opinions? Trans leaders and the history of the LGB”T” movement testify that some in the gay and lesbian community are just as guilty of transphobia as non-trans straight people are, which is why it’s imperative that trans Americans be able to represent themselves.

This appropriation and lack of trans representation has stigmatizing results on the public’s perception of Americans with transsexualism. Transsexualism is a birth condition and medical challenge, and has absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation. “Transgender” is a term used to describe a person's gender identity. Gender is a person's identity, the core essence of who that person is. Sexual orientation describes who a person is attracted to. They are totally different concepts.

When Behar asked if the “T word” was ever used as a "compliment", Signorile remarked "there's a club in San Francisco called 'Tra**y Shack’”. The Tra**y Shack is a sensationalist male drag queen show, with gay men performing a stage act. Comparing transsexualism to male drag queen camp is not only wrong, but it exists as stigmatizing propaganda that transsexual women are "extensions of gay men" and "female impersonators". This is called "trans face", where gay men imitate trans women in a mocking, over the top and degrading fashion. Signorile undermined trans women’s dignity in their affirmed gender realities.

In Behar’s defense, at least she disagreed with Signorile's shallow defense of the “T word”. She compared the use of the “T word” to racial slurs, arguing that it’s not for people who are not a part of the community a pejorative is aimed at to reclaim it. Well done Joy.

Days later, on the November 21 episode, Behar discussed Chaz Bono's transition as a transman in a segment called “Transgender In America.” He is the son of celebrities Sonny and Cher Bono. Although Chaz identifies and presents as male, Behar kept referring to him as “her” and “she.” This maligning language was extremely disrespectful to Chaz and to all transsexual and transgender people. Behar should, and does, know better.

This episode was compounded by yet another transphobic gay male pundit, Ken Corbett, who not only used improper pronouns, but expressed his unscientific opinion that Chaz is unauthentic in his gender. Behar should have had a medical doctor or affirming psychologist trained in the facts pertaining to the transsexual birth challenge or gender identity issues, not a self-loathing gay man who resents the trans community because they bring up his insecurity of diverse gender expression.

Some discriminated against people feel the need to mimic their oppressors by oppressing others who have less social acceptance then they do. That’s clearly the behavior that Corbett was displaying in his invalid comments about trans people.

There are apologists who believe criticizing Behar’s irresponsibility and offensive content is unwarranted. Certain people in marginalized minority groups are so accustomed to the abuse and belittlement cast on them by mainstream society that they begin to be grateful for insults candy coated in advocacy. Some gay people accused trans activists who expressed their disappointment with Behar’s behavior of “unfairly crucifying Behar”.

Isn’t that something? Trans people speak out against the dehumanizing media that is hurting them and in return they get attacked and called “crucifiers”. This is a protection tactic in which those being legitimately criticized decline to take responsibility for their actions and instead attack those justly seeking accountability.

No, we will not say thank you for crumbs or the backs of your hand!

One gay man I interviewed protested the trans community’s uproar, saying: “…but Behar is a great LGBT ally”. Wrong. Behar is a great “LGB” ally. Adding the “T” in the acronym in this instance is inaccurate. Just because someone supports gay and lesbian people authentically and consistently does not necessarily mean they are equally enthused about assisting the trans community. Trans people are more misunderstood, feared and oppressed in society than gay and lesbian people, which is why some gay advocates do not always choose to be trans advocates.

What is hypocritical is that Behar consistently discusses feminist issues, yet participates in alienating oppressed women born with a birth challenge. If feminism is for liberation and equality for all women, then by invalidating trans women’s gender, she is not authentically being a feminist. To frame it in an Orwellian “Animal Farm” context, some women should not be treated “more equal” than other women.

Behar used to be a teacher- yet an ethical, professional approach to presenting such misunderstood content is to conduct unbiased, balanced research. As a news presenter, one would assume she or her staffers would do basic Trans 101 research before presenting such misleading ideas on the air. Even the Associated Press Association opposes Behar’s improper use of pronouns. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, so I’m sure she has learned that the oppressed understand their oppressors far better than the other way around.

I don’t feel Joy Behar is an enemy to the trans community, but she obviously has some phobia issues concerning gender and biological diversity. Also, the producers of The Joy Behar show are just as guilty of irresponsibility because they should have had actual trans people on the November 11th episode to discuss the "T word” slur, not have their issues be colonized by the gay and lesbian community. There are numerous trans specific organizations the producers could have gone to for trans spokespeople, such as the Media Advocates Giving National Equality to Transsexual & Transgender People (MAGNET), Gender Identity Reform, Transgender Law Center, International Foundation for Gender Education (IFGE), etc.

Universal joy in this world will occur when the human race ceases to fear diversity, and instead, celebrates it.

The many trans activists and allies speaking out against the transphobic and dehumanizing messages expressed on The Joy Behar Show last November are challenging a belief system stemmed from fear and ignorance, drawing a line in the sand, calling on others to join in the trans community’s outrage and letting the mainstream and gay and lesbian community know that the silent resignation of the trans community is over!

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