From Cis Person To Cis Person: Why Trans People Are Pissed About Jared Leto’s Golden Globe/Oscar

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So, I am woman.

I was born this way.

I also have a vagina.

Some people aren’t so lucky. Those people are called transsexuals. This is not the same as being gay. They have the brain of a woman or man in the opposite gender’s body.

A couple of my friends are trans women and I can thoroughly attest to the fact that they are not, in fact, gay men.

Now, the rest of us, who feel reasonably comfortable with the genitals they were born with, are called “cis” by the trans community, which is a little organic chemistry joke that I’ve always appreciated.

Last night for our 8 year date-a-versary, PH and I took ours cis-selves to watch the Dallas Buyer’s Club. We had heard grumblings about the movie on Facebook after Jared Leto was awarded an Oscar for his portrayal of a trans woman in the film.

The two complaints we had heard bandied about most often online was that

1) The trans community was upset that a straight man was asked to play the role instead an actual transsexual, even thought there are plenty in Hollywood.

and

2) Leto thanks everyone BUT trans people in his Oscar acceptance speech, and didn’t even mention AIDS victims in his Golden Globe acceptance.

Now, since I’m not an actual member of the trans community, just a friend of it, I didn’t expect to be particularly upset by either of these points.

If anything, I was hoping to be able to champion Jared Leto, and remind people that it doesn’t matter if you’re actually gay or straight, trans or not, as long as you can really walk in the other person’s shoes.

Then we watched the movie. 

First of all, I was BLOWN AWAY by Matthew McConaughey (or, as PH calls him, Matthew McConahonnahonnahonney because he says he’s “never sure when to stop saying the name”).

It is a tribute to McConaughey that PH didn’t even recognize him, and PH recognizes EVERYONE. He even immediately identified the voice of the actor who played Q on Star Trek… while watching a My Little Ponies episode.

So I was prepared to be just as blown away by Leto, trans community grumblings or no.

But we were both shocked at the portrayal of “Rayon”, Leto’s supposedly trans character.

Here are a couple of real trans women.

Sophie Wilson, British scientist

Sophie Wilson, British scientist

Trish Salah, Canadian poet

Trish Salah, Canadian poet

Now, meet “Rayon” (which sounds like a drag name, doesn’t it?)

rayon

Imagine that when people thought of you, they thought of that picture up there. And try to understand why everyone represented by “Rayon” is upset.

Rayon walks, talks and behaves with the exaggerated femininity which you are accustomed to seeing in movies like To Wong Fu and The Bird Cage.

Movies about drag queens.

to wong fu

These are female impersonators. That is totally different from a trans woman. You can’t impersonate something you ARE.

Now, I love To Wong Fu, and The Bird Cage. Love love love. They are light hearted, kind-spirited and funny.

But they aren’t about trans women.

If Leto were supposed to be playing a gay guy who loved to dress in drag, I would have cut the movie a lot of slack. Sure, it’s yet another stereotype – no mould broken, no new thoughts for the straight public. But whatever.

I see the point of Rayon in the movie. Invented by the writer, Rayon is supposed to form a foil to the homophobic main character, Ron Woodruff and help him see the humanity in people of all sexualities.

Rayon is meant to be the worse-case-scenario – the thing that most horrifies homophobes – the dreaded feminine man. With AIDS, no less.

Fine.

But don’t call this person a transsexual.

The director of the movie, Jean-Marc Vallee, clearly doesn’t even understand what a transsexual IS.

In an interview with CBC, Vallee is asked if he ever thought of hiring a real transsexual. He replies, “Never” and follows it up with asking if there even are any trans actresses out there.

Uh… yeah? LOTS?

Hasn’t he even heard of Orange Is The New Black?

The weird thing is that one of those actresses, Calpurnia Addams, apparently spoke with Leto when he was preparing for the role.

Did the director not know this?

Through the interview, Vallee keeps calling Rayon a “guy”. The most confusing moment is when he calls him a “transgender guy”. This parallels the film, where Rayon is consistently called “he”.

So… wait. Leto actually played a woman transitioning to a man who still dressed like a woman?? That would take some good acting.

Look.

I’m not saying Leto can’t act.

But if someone is supposed to be playing Napoleon, but they put on a thick German accent and a moustache that looks like it shrunk in the wash, I don’t think you should be given an award for playing Napoleon.

I don’t care how passionately you played it. You got the wrong character. 

And it just helps continue to confuse people about the difference between a transsexual and a drag queen.

Look at this Wikipedia article, which Wikipedia won’t let me edit because of something to do with my IP address. It talks about an openly transvestite mayor, but keeps calling him “transgendered”.

transvestite fail

I followed the links to articles about the guy. He is a cross-dresser. He is a STRAIGHT man who likes to put on women’s clothing and dress like a woman. That is a cross-dresser.

But these articles use the words interchangeably, not noting the degrees of difference between cross-dressing and the more generic term, “transgender”. And that represents the general attitude of the general public. Man in woman’s clothing – all the same.

Can you blame transwomen for being frustrated? They aren’t gay. They don’t get sexual thrills from dressing like women. They’re just… women. In blue jeans, and T-shirts. Sipping coffee. Checking facebook.

They aren’t flamboyant over-the-top drag queens.

Not most of them, anyway. I suppose there could be a trans MAN out there who is a GAY MAN and acts flamboyantly gay accordingly. Why not?

But I don’t think that’s what Leto won the Oscar for.

feel like Leto was given the award for putting on a dress.

And that’s probably wrong because just like Matthew McConaughey, Leto had to starve himself for his role. He threw his heart and soul (misguidedly) into it. He probably put up with a certain amount of guff for it.

But the thing is that practically any straight actor who plays someone gay in a drama gets an Academy Award, or at least a nomination.

Tom Hanks, for Philadelphia (which was a GREAT portrayal of a gay man since he didn’t say “fabulous” even ONCE). Sean Penn, for Milk. Philip Seymour Hoffman, for Capote (boy I’m sad he died). Charlize Theron, Hilary Swank, Nicole Kidman, William Hurt… even Christopher Plummer had to play it gay in order to finally get an Oscar.

Meanwhile, let’s talk about all the gay people who have played straight people and won Oscars.

*crickets*

Okay, let’s talk about all the gay people who won Academy Awards for ANY role.

*tumbleweeds*

Nominees?

…..Sir Ian McKellen.

That’s IT.

But all you have to do is play a transsexual, act like a drag queen, offend the people you’re supposed to be representing with your inaccurate portrayal, and boom, you’re in.

Because you put on a dress.

People who have argued with me about the award are people who were genuinely moved by Rayon in the (otherwise excellent) film. They think Leto did a great job, because he seemed like a believable character to them.

Well, sure he was believable… as a drag queen.

The problem is that most people don’t understand the difference. They don’t understand what it must be like to have everyone think of Rayon when they think of YOU.

They don’t understand why the trans community is upset at once again being misunderstood, misrepresented, and having stereotypes that they have worked hard to abolish being perpetuated.

To those who argue, let me say this:

As far as I can tell, almost NO trans people are happy about the way Rayon was portrayed.

No, if the Black community thinks that Mammy in Gone With The Wind is racist, and you are white, I don’t care how much you love that character. You should accept that Mammy is a racist portrayal.

You can argue she did a great job at playing a stereotype, but if you're white, don't try and argue that it ISN'T a stereotype.

You can argue she did a great job at playing a stereotype, but if you’re white, don’t try and argue  to Black people that it ISN’T a stereotype.

Similarly, if you are cis, and you loved Rayon, well, go ahead. 

You can still love the character. But remember that trans people probably know what represents them better than you do.

Don’t delude yourself into thinking that she isn’t perpetuating a stereotype that makes life harder for real trans people.

And don’t delude yourself into thinking that this is a good thing, which deserved awards in front of millions.

[EDIT: With the Oregon mayor listed above, I originally had mentioned that "transvestite" is not the same as "transgendered". However, according to the Wikipedia definition, "transgendered" is an umbrella term that includes both transgenderism and cross-dressing. So the wording in the article is correct, but nowhere near specific enough - definitely enough to cause confusion among cis folk. Also, since the term "cross-dressing" is considered more appropriate than "transvestite," I have replaced the term appropriately. The more you know!]

Sucking It Up Starts Now. Right After I Whine For A Bit.

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So, PH has been worrying lately about my mental health, probably understandably.

I’m not particularly depressed PER SE. My self esteem is okay right now – could be better, but I’m not suffering the crippling shame that I had back in the crash of ’09.

I’m just… beat.

Part of this is because I’m a spoiled Princess. PH has known from day one (hell, from day -730, because he knew me when I was in another relationship and he could tell even then) that I am what you might call “high maintenance”. I like to be cared for. I don’t like too many responsibilities. I love to have things to care for – pets and children – but I need someone doing the same for me.

But now I have all the responsibility.

From the moment I get up almost until the moment I go to bed, I am needed by someone for something. Owl needs me in the morning to dress him and get him breakfast and then force him into the car to go to daycare.

Then work needs me for 8 hours straight with no lunch break – chatting with clients, getting patient histories, wrestling dogs, cleaning up poop, and trying to squeeze in 10 hours of extra job responsiblities in between appointments. If someone schedules appointments poorly, I get in trouble for it. If someone’s estimate is higher than was quoted, then I have to deal with that. If we have fewer new clients this week than last week, then that is SOMETHING I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR.

Then Owl needs me again  - bring him home from daycare, play with him, put him to bed.

“Play with me? Play with me, Mommy!” is a constant refrain whenever I try to sit down, from the moment I get in the car with him until his second trip to the potty at night.

Except on the nights when I train dogs, when I bring him home from daycare, play with him, and then go and talk and yell things like “YAAAAY PUPPEEEE!” for an hour and a half straight.

Once Owl is asleep, I get some time to collapse. But this is basically my only chance to interact with PH who seems to, you know, want to interact with his wife occasionally.

I avoid going to bed, because the time when PH is asleep and so is Owl is basically the only time I can get true solitude – something that I desperately need to recharge.

It’s not enough. I’m not recharging.

I’m in constant energy-saving mode. I’m not washing dishes any more. I’m not cleaning the bathroom, or sweeping the floors.

I’m not really even interacting with poor PH any more, who clearly misses his wife. I’m having trouble keeping from snapping at people at work. I AM snapping at poor Owl, who is the most innocent party in all of this.

I find myself obsessively fantasizing about being locked alone in a white room with a window.

And PH sees it, and it makes him feel bad. He blames himself for putting such a load on me. He feels guilty, which he shouldn’t, because he’s not well.

But the problem is, he’s better than he was.

When he was in crisis, it was obvious to both of us that I needed to take on as much of the load as possible. I was wage earner – working two jobs – primary child caregiver, dish washer and garbage emptier.

But now he’s a bit better – not well, but not in as much crisis – and he feels like he should be able to do more. He IS doing more, in fact, but that gives us both the illusion that he actually is better. So he takes on more, and I expect him to continue taking on more. But he isn’t all better, so when I forget and lean on him, half the time he falls over, which does neither of us much good.

He told me today that basically, my own exhaustion/near-tears aura of defeat is probably one of the most significant contributions to his current level of depression.

He told me this not in a way to induce guilt, but simply to be honest about his level of concern for me.

His wife is falling apart, and that makes him feel terrible. 

The problem is, I’m falling apart because he can’t reliably take on more of the load. He can’t commit to putting Owl to bed every night, so that I can rest on the evenings when I’m not training dogs.

He can’t even commit to HELPING put Owl down on the days when I’m not out training dogs. He can manage Owl the couple of nights a week that I’m out training. Anything more is asking too much.

I know, because I asked.

So, this puts us at what Terry Pratchett would call a Klatchian Standoff.

His depression is made worse by his awareness that I’m sinking. He can’t stop me from sinking because his depression prevents him from taking on as much of the load as I need him to take on.

So. Three options exist.

Either I push him to do more than either of us feel he can really do, and take the risk of him going back to crisis mode… or we stand there and hug each other while we sink like Atryu and Artax in the Swamp of Sadness….

artax-2

…Or I suck it up.

I’m not depressed. Not really.

I’m just really, really, really tired. Tired of being the responsible one. Tired of having everything be my job by default. Tired of knowing that there’s no one to help if I sink.

swampofsadness

But my life is not THAT bad.

There are tons of single mothers out there who work two jobs and have to do everything. I’m better off than they are because really, PH still does a decent amount. He handles laundry, and he can cook most days, and he plays with Owl when he can.

Hell, he took Owl for most of this morning, just so I could get a good sleep in.

I don’t do everything. I just do a lot more than he does. Because he’s sick.

So it’s not THAT bad. I’m just being a wuss. I just got tired of being brave. I just started to feel like PH should be able to help again, because he’s clearly doing better.

But when I asked him about committing to helping put Owl to bed every night, I saw the look on his face.

And I knew that he is not as much better as we pretend he is.

I really want him to be better. I’m afraid to push him, afraid he’ll go into crisis mode, afraid that if he pushes himself, he’ll go off the edge entirely and Owl will grow up without a father.

And then I’d REALLY have no one to help  - I would really learn what being on my own would mean then.

I won’t let that happen.

So I need to stop thinking that he’s better. I need to stop waiting for someone to step in and save us.

I need to find a whole new battery pack.

And I’m going to do it.

Because I don’t want to see that look on his face again. I don’t want to feel disappointed like that again. I want to shut up the voice in my head that keeps waiting for things to be “fair”. Because life isn’t fair. My husband is sick. I need to work more than him, carry more load than him.

This is PH we’re talking about. That man wouldn’t ask me to work harder than him. That man wouldn’t expect me to work a full day and then pull the second shift unless he physically had no choice.

When he’s well enough, he won’t be asking me what he can do, only to tell me that I’ve asked too much.

When he’s well again, he’ll just do it.

And until then, I can do this.

self-motivation-cat-meme

Airplane – By Owl

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One time, there was an airplane and a little boy.

And I was on the airplane.

And you weren’t on the airplane.

And Mommy wasn’t on the airplane.

It was just me.

I was all by myself.

And you had to get the airplane.

And you didn’t have a car.

And I went to a lot of airports.

And I sat down all by myself.

And then I came home.

And then you saw me.

And then we had breakfast.

The end.

20140225-213306.jpg

Every Mispronunciation Has A Serval Lining

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While playing Labyrinth…

labyrinthbrios

Owl: “This is a serval ball, right?”

Me: “A what, now?”

Owl: “A SERVAL ball.”

Me: “Oh, you mean a silver ball. Yes, it’s a silver ball.”

Owl: “Serval.”

Me: “Silver.”

Owl: “I can’t say that word.”

Me: “Can you say ‘sil’?”

Owl: “Sil.”

Me: “Can you say ‘ver’?”

Owl: “Ver.”

Me: “Sil-ver.”

Owl: “Serval.”

Me: “Okay.”

Serval ball credit goes to: http://pikdit.com/i/savannah-cat-playing-ball/

Furbittiter – by Owl

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This is a Furbittiter:

20140225-211829.jpg

We jump on it.

We go weeeeee and go up up and then we go aaaaaaaah down down.

And I come out here

and you come out there.

It’s VERY hard to get there.

You have to put on shoes.

And you have to go on a plane.

And drive for a very long time.

It’s VERY fun.

No one can get hurt on it!

But NOT Daddy.

If Daddy goes on it… then there will be BLOOD.

And he’ll need a BAND AID.

Where’s the Cornmeal??

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It happened again.

At least, it seems like it.

The other day, we went to the store to buy cornmeal because I wanted to make funchi (the Caribbean version of polenta). I didn’t like the brand they had (store brand, bigger bag than I needed, no ingredient list) and spent some time hunting for alternatives, but without any luck. Finally I gave up and grabbed a bag of the store brand. I put it into our cart with the few other things that we had picked up.

On our way to the cash, PH asked “weren’t you going to grab the cornmeal?”

I gave him a strange look. “I already got it. It’s under the pita bread.”

“Oh, okay, I didn’t see it,” said PH.

Today I went to make the funchi, but I couldn’t find the cornmeal. I didn’t remember unpacking it, now that I thought back, either.

“I can’t remember where I put the cornmeal,” I said to PH.

“Are you sure you got the cornmeal? I never saw it.”

“Of course I did,” I said. “I went to get it right before we headed for the bakery section.”

“I’m just saying, love, that I never saw it in the cart, and I never saw it on the conveyor belt. If you don’t remember putting it away, I think it’s because you didn’t buy it.”

“But I REMEMBER putting it in our cart!”

“Sometimes we think we’ve done things, but we only THINK it.”

“But this isn’t like that,” I said. “That happens to me sometimes, but this isn’t something I THINK I did. It’s something I KNOW I did because I have a very clear memory of it. I remember the weight of the bag, and exactly how it looked sitting in the cart. I remember what part of the bag I grabbed it by. I remember what I did before and after I picked it up.”

“I don’t know what to tell you, love, there’s no cornmeal.”

Am I going crazy?

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