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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Update: Saturday Night Live's Trans-Bashing Still Not Funny

By Tom Basgil Jr. -

As of this post, over 3,500 of you have signed the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s petition demanding that NBC issue an apology for Saturday Night Live’s transphobic skit and remove the piece from web and television sources. However, a representative from SNL told FOX411, “We’re not going to comment on that.
For those who don’t know, Saturday Night Live recently aired a mock commercial for Estro-Maxx, a fake estrogen therapy medication. In the sketch, scruffy men wearing wigs and fake breasts talked about how the once-daily pill has made their transition from male to female easier and more convenient. Although the audience found the commercial hilarious, the object of their amusement wasn’t a joke: male-to-female transgender people. The transgender community already has enough hatred to deal with. Did SNL really need to poke more fun at their struggle on national television?
Not all laughter is good laughter. The GLAAD blog gives a very convincing argument for why the skit is harmful to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals. Aaron McQuade’s blog post contains a full transcript of the video, complete with stage directions. It’s an interesting read for those of us who have seen the video.
McQuade explains how SNL’s skit is nearly devoid of jokes. The laughter is directed at transgender people, not at witty one-liners. People found the sketch funny because they don’t understand, and may even fear, transgender and gender non-conforming people. SNL is allowing the audience to feel justified in its fear of the unknown. Transgender people are all merely bearded men in skirts. They are successful. Yeah, transitioning is hard, but there is always wine, friendship, and a great paying job to make up for it.
The sketch turns a blind eye to the struggles of male-to-female transgender people. Why do we need laws to protect MtF transgender folks when the only problem they have is swallowing five pills each day?
Anyone who has not been able to have a doll as a child, or couldn’t ride bikes in the mud, or wasn’t allowed to sing or dance understands that we are all bound tightly to what “real” men and “real” women are expected to be. Magnify that by a billion, and every one of us should be able to catch a glimpse of what it must be like to be transgender or gender non-conforming.
Now, I know that some of you are going to disagree with me -- vehemently even. I ask only that you think about the implications of a world where we find transgender and gender non-conforming people funny just because they are who they are. Try to envision what this could mean for the future of transgender rights, even of the entire LGBT equality movement. Think about what it would feel like to have people laugh in your face. Not because of a joke, but because of who you are.
I know what it’s like to be ridiculed for being myself. I understand what being bullied and laughed at because I’m me is really all about. If you came to the same conclusion that I did, that transphobia has no place on our televisions, please sign GLAAD’s petition asking for an apology from NBC and for the removal of the offending sketch. Because words can be just as damaging as blows.

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