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April 19, 2012 10:32 PM   Subscribe

MSNBC Talks To And About Trans People For An Hour, Doesn't F*ck It Up
posted by sendai sleep master (34 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
No, MSNBC is not a leftist mirror image of Fox News. It is objectively better in many ways, this is one of them.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:58 PM on April 19, 2012 [12 favorites]


I think a big piece of evidence as to why a piece like this makes MSNBC something other than alt-verse Fox is the fact that the conversation was largely about building a coalition and having a conversation about issues that need to be overcome. Sure, part of this conversation was about obstacles but a mirror-Fox would have called the piece

"The Rights War on the Transgendered" or "Trans Citizens Under Fire!" a la "The War on Christmas."

To be mirror-Fox would require liberal/progressive stances along with a defensive us vs. them mentality that frames many topics as conflicts regardless of the reality of the situation.
posted by sendai sleep master at 11:04 PM on April 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


OK, so I've always been a political junkie, but for a long time now the cable news outlets seemed to be aiming for the lowest common denominator in a race to the bottom. I'm very impressed with Melissa Harris-Perry and her new show. Like Rachel Maddow she's very smart, and although a she's a political junkie she focuses on substance rather than bombast. The two-hour format early on weekend mornings is perfect for long-form discussion, which presents an opportunity to discuss this kind of issue without the typical cable news outrage machine poisoning the conversation. Chris Hayes has a new show in a similar format in the timeslot before MHP and is also pretty good, but trying to watch four hours a day of in-depth political discussion on the weekends is often not possible (nor desirable), even with time shifting. And I think MHP is better, although Chris Hayes had a great segment with pink slime and Mark Bittman last week ... like I said, I'm a political junkie ...

I remember years ago when MSNBC was young and trying to be taken seriously, and attempted to establish itself as mostly liberally-aligned as far as commentary, but still not quite a polar opposite of Fox - this was before Olbermann made his name there, when their polarized political conversations mostly came from the radio duo Ron Kuby and Curtis Sliwa, a civil rights attorney in tweed and a ponytail who worked for William Kunstler, and a high strung Guardian Angel in a sateen jacket. Soon after 9/11 hit the news, and they purged the head of their news dept. and most of his people in favor of bringing in more conservative voices. They even gave Michael Savage a show, briefly ... and fired him not long after for predictably offensive and toxic commentary.

Something happened since the Bush years came to a close, they've made the shift again to liberal commentary, but this time I think they're finally getting it right. It is possible to play the cable news game with intelligent liberal commentary, without wallowing in the mud (Ed Schultz is probably the most partisan host they have these days, but he's good when he's covering labor issues). Although they're undoubtedly liberal as far as commentary, they seem to be favoring the geek/nerd liberal crowd most of all and are giving them plenty of room to produce quality instead of sensationalism and bullshit "objective" framing of two (purportedly) equally valid sides to every argument - instead they seem to be aiming for telling it like it is and have tons of data and analysis to back it up.

I admit to having a soft spot for Olbermann while he was on MSNBC, since he was like a lone voice of sanity on cable during the darkest period of the Bush years, but I'm very happy they ditched him and moved more in the direction of people like Rachel Maddow, Melissa Harris-Perry and Chris Hayes, all self-proclaimed liberal nerds and proud of it. Besides, even though it was fun and had its moments, you really couldn't have had a good conversation about trans issues on Countdown.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:35 PM on April 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


At a certain point in the conversation [TRT 15:56 on], my focus zoned out and I had that sensation of stepping back and noticing a very important moment in time: of a level of conversation that made me feel a little bit hopeful.
[How] do we begin to push past that respectability politics? [TRT: 19:26]
Why is Melissa Harris-Perry always so on-point? Yes.

Do these conversations translate into empowering and helping transgender young people, transgender people of color, young genderqueer youth without housing? In other words, the people about whom the conversation talks.

I also appreciated how the discussion touched on different models of family beyond the gay/lesbian marriage equality model. Nancy Polikoff eloquently speaks to this point.

And Kate Bornstein is always there. I remember seeing her in the documentary, The Brandon Teena Story (1998), standing at the steps of the court house where the murder trial took place. I remember her presence, her words, the look in her eyes. And, among her other books, in 2006 she published Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks and Other Outlaws.

What kind of world do we want to live in? I like living in a world where these conversations take place.

Great link.
posted by simulacra at 12:04 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


...is there a link to video of this anywhere?
posted by Dysk at 2:10 AM on April 20, 2012


MSNBC link.
posted by simulacra at 2:18 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, wow. That was amazing. I'm actually in tears.
posted by Dysk at 2:46 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Only had time to watch the intro, but it exceeded my expectations. Actually, it shattered them. Wonderful.

Will watch in full soon.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:54 AM on April 20, 2012


I mean, not that I necessarily agree with everything that was said (though I agree with a lot of it) but there were some incredibly important conversations and points raised that I just wouldn't have expected to come across on a major TV network. They're discussions and points I'm used to seeing marginalised in a lot of progressive, activisty circles, dismissed by many of the people that call themselves allies. To see it taken seriously like this, in as mainstream a venue as this, is fantastic.
posted by Dysk at 3:05 AM on April 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Soon after 9/11 hit the news, and they purged the head of their news dept. and most of his people in favor of bringing in more conservative voices. They even gave Michael Savage a show, briefly ... and fired him not long after for predictably offensive and toxic commentary.
The real difference between MSNBC and FOX is that FOX is ideologically driven, to push Rodger Ailes agenda even if it's bad for ratings. The suits at MSNBC eventually realized there was a vaccum in the market for liberal commentary when Olberman's ratings started to go on and eventually shifted over.

Fox's ratings have been dropping lately because they are steadfastly sticking with hard-core conservative rhetoric even though it's becoming less popular. When "liberalism" (or at least anti-war-ism) became unpopular, MSNBC dropped it like it was hot, only to pick it back up again once it started to grow in popularity again (which I guess would be when it 'cooled off', to extend the metaphor unnecessarily)
posted by delmoi at 3:23 AM on April 20, 2012


I saw most of it and was really pleasantly surprised. Harris-Perry did a great job, and kudos to her for stating that trans issues are something she will continue to cover.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:14 AM on April 20, 2012


"cis?"

Permit me a *sigh.*

What's the term for somebody who's annoyed by/bored with the proliferation of new terms we're supposed to be learning for every little nuance of sexual non-standardness?

I'm going to start calling myself a "noin"--there's nothing very interesting about me in this respect, so if you're given to obsessing about these matters, you probably want to move along. Or maybe I'm a "nobiz"--it's really none of yer business, now is it? Or a "doca"--I don't care.

I can guess at the rhetorical strategy here--if we don't have a word for the typical type of human--sex matches gender throughout life--then that highlights the unusual nature of other folks. But the left just seems to have an inability to detect when its penchant for silly and irritating terminology pegs the needle. (Recall 'co', 'cos' and related failed efforts in that direction.)

And just for the record: gender isn't "assigned" at birth. It's probably a characteristic with a natural component that unfolds/develops like other such characteristics. Of course, if there's a God who's up there handing them out, then I guess it might be assigned. Otherwise no. Gender is no more *assigned* than sense of humor is assigned.

Sorry. It's not so much that I really disagree with what I take to be the important points buried here. I'm largely liberal, and leftier than liberal in a couple of ways, and I just don't care about other people's sexuality or gender. It's all good as far as I'm concerned. But (where as the right usually just plain scares me) the left seems to have a unique ability to annoy me. I actually don't think that this is an unusual reaction. Folks in this sector of the left seem to fall pretty readily into what seems like self-parody...and I'm not the only one who notices.

Of course, one could respond: oh, basically straight white male...see, you have the luxury of not caring about this stuff. People who are non-standard in these respects have this aspect of their being forced to the forefront of their minds by everybody else treating them like freaks all the time.

That's a fair point.

OTOH, it really doesn't seem criminal to me that beauty contests are confined to folks born female. I simply can't work up any outrage about that.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:17 AM on April 20, 2012


Same ol' roundabout again...

And just for the record: gender isn't "assigned" at birth. It's probably a characteristic with a natural component that unfolds/develops like other such characteristics. Of course, if there's a God who's up there handing them out, then I guess it might be assigned. Otherwise no. Gender is no more *assigned* than sense of humor is assigned.

It was decided for me, by others, when I was born that I was, and was to be male. Now, as it happens, I don't feel that I am. So somebody, enacting some collection of ideas and social norms, assigned me a gender at birth. It sure wasn't me. I got to decide what sense of humour I have, though - it was never assumed that I would or wouldn't find certain things amusing in anything like the same way, and it was not seen as incontrovertibly incorrect, in opposition to fact, if I defied the expectations people had in that regard, in anything like the same way.

Regarding cis, there was a fucking huge meta a little while back. I recommend you go read the argument there, rather than rehashing it here as a derail.
posted by Dysk at 5:26 AM on April 20, 2012 [27 favorites]


This post actually made my shrunken, shriveled, beaten-down-by-the-last-decade-of-lowest-common-denominator-news-media heart warm up and start beating again for a second.

What really surprised me as I watched it is that it made me realize that this is the level of conversation I remember having, maybe not on mainstream television, but definitely in media that reached me as a teenager, in the 90s. IN THE 90s. But that was back when there were only like, 50 channels and really no content on the internet. Now there are so many more platforms for different perspectives to have a voice and they fucking don't. See? Now that my shrunken, shriveled heart has perked up, I am UNBELIEVABLY PISSED that we have been set so far back. SO PISSED!

Fists O' Fury... your post seems a little flame-baity, and I'm basically giving all of it a wide berth, except to say - it's ok if you can't work any outrage up about anything on this subject, and if you find it silly - well, not much that can be done about that. Just because it doesn't affect you doesn't mean that many lives are affected - actually, devastated by living in a world where they are terribly misunderstood and shut out from absolutely everything - so, perhaps you can simply hope the best for the people who are trying to build a better world for themselves?
posted by pazazygeek at 5:30 AM on April 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Fists O'Fury... for the love of god, take it to Meta and don't derail this post the same way every single post about trans issues has been derailed.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:31 AM on April 20, 2012 [17 favorites]


Is there a transcript? I can't watch the video itself but I'd like to.

"cis?"

Permit me a *sigh.*

What's the term for somebody who's annoyed by/bored with the proliferation of new terms we're supposed to be learning for every little nuance of sexual non-standardness?


That conversation is happening now in the utility closet. If you feel inclined to join, please do! In brief, though, yes it's a funny word, but no nobody is hoisting an oppressive label on you. It's just a specialized term for distinguishing "not trans" in conversations about trans issues, because that's actually useful. Please let's not exhume the corpse of the same derail that pops up in every trans thread. I know that--as a term--it just doesn't quite gel, but there's already lots of reading available about the etymology, why it's used and how it's used.
posted by byanyothername at 5:32 AM on April 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


At a certain point in the conversation [TRT 15:56 on], my focus zoned out and I had that sensation of stepping back and noticing a very important moment in time: of a level of conversation that made me feel a little bit hopeful.

Yeah! I also really liked the point that the guest made (forgetting his name now) - about how transgendered people actually have a really unique and potentially helpful perspective on gender politics, having, you know, lived as both genders.

Can it be the future now? The one that I was promised growing up? You know, the one where people respect eachother's experiences and learn and evolve from them, rather than attack them for being different? Pleeeeeease?
posted by pazazygeek at 5:39 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


[We won't be derailing this thread to talk about how each of us personally feel about "cis"; here's an earlier Metatalk discussion. If it really needs more discussing, go ahead and bring it up there again.]
posted by taz at 5:55 AM on April 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


Also, to note, Melissa Harris-Perry is a Unitarian Universalist, a denomination with a large trans community. It would make sense she would know how to approach this topic with the respect that it deserves, imho.
posted by pelican at 6:21 AM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


In other trans news, at IPL 4 pro Starcraft tournament in Vegas, the story of the weekend was Scarlett, a 19 year old trans player from Canada who destroyed a bunch of top Korean pros in the open bracket -- she got signed to a pro team immediately after the tournament and already has a pretty big fan club.
posted by empath at 6:44 AM on April 20, 2012


Starcraft brings the future!
posted by Theta States at 7:42 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The reaction in the starcraft 'community' has been interesting, because once it came out that she was male to female trans, the community pretty much decided everyone would refer to her as a female because that's what she wants, and they've respected the fact that she doesn't want to make it a big deal -- people who insist on bringing it up on reddit tend to get downvoted into oblivion, and you get banned on Team Liquid for bringing up that she's trans too often.

To be honest, I expected a shitstorm, and they've all been relatively cool about it. They treat her better than a lot of biologically female players that have gotten the spotlight, actually.
posted by empath at 7:55 AM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, to note, Melissa Harris-Perry is a Unitarian Universalist, a denomination with a large trans community. It would make sense she would know how to approach this topic with the respect that it deserves, imho.

Apparently she attends the congregation in New Orleans that my mom attends (and I was raised going to).

/brag
posted by brundlefly at 8:14 AM on April 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm an open-minded, accepting person, but honestly the etiquette and vocabulary that applies to transgender people is pretty much a mystery to me. I'm not aware of knowing any transgender people. That doesn't mean I don't actually know any, but it definitely means that I don't have anybody close enough to acculturate me into the accepted and polite ways of speaking and acting. I have a feeling that a lot of people are in the same boat - not wanting to offend, but not knowing what's appropriate, either.

After poking around on the linked site for a while, I somewhere came across a link to the GLAAD Media Reference Guide, and found it to be really helpful. I feel like I have a lot better chance now of avoiding offense, and I even feel like I could help explain the polite terms to other people if transgender issues come up in conversation. For a long time I've known that certain terms were considered offensive, but didn't know how to correct people when I heard those terms used. It'll be a lot easier to say, "The preferred term is..." instead of simply, "That thing you just said is offensive."
posted by vytae at 9:45 AM on April 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


In the last few years, the critical mass of transgender media exposure I've been waiting for my entire life finally started happening. Yeah, there's been some backlash, with a lot of people mouthing off about us in public and trying to enact horrible laws, and a lot of the exposure has come from crimes against trans people getting national and international attention outside the trans and gay communities, but hell... It's going better than I expected.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:21 AM on April 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Kate Bornstein occasionally bugs me; she still seems, sometimes, to argue that only genderqueer people are transgressive enough. But she's done a lot of great things, and other than that small problem, it was a great segment. Good, especially, to see more coverage and support being given to CeCe McDonald.
posted by jiawen at 11:38 AM on April 20, 2012


What's the term for somebody who's annoyed by/bored with the proliferation of new terms we're supposed to be learning for every little nuance of sexual non-standardness?

Privileged.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:39 AM on April 20, 2012 [39 favorites]


Yeah, there's been some backlash,

Let's not forget the radical separatist feminist backlash, as witnessed at Ms. Magazine:
The ridiculous "men our invading our spaces" blast from the 2nd-wave past of Future of Feminism: Transfeminism and Its Conundrums
and the amazing reply by Julia Serano: Trans Feminism: There’s No Conundrum About It

Don't read the comments without a stiff drink in hand. You've been warned.
posted by Theta States at 12:17 PM on April 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


The whole conundrum, what with the radfems stalking Canadian trans educators at their employers, attacking Planned Parenthood for allowing the term "Cotton Ceiling" and other ridiculous would make a decent FPP if someone wants to put it together...
posted by Theta States at 12:21 PM on April 20, 2012


I had no idea how hateful some of the backlash actually is until I went down a rabbit hole while reading about the trans couple associated with the ruckus at Pitt. I've known trans persons who have been harassed/mocked at Pride, but while reading around, I discovered a whole online community of radical feminist lesbians calling trans persons self-loathing misogynists - and worse. egads.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 1:11 PM on April 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the people who hold on to gender as a social construct and nothing more can sometimes have serious issues with trans. It just so happens that many of the people who hold on to this view are also feminists who like to discuss feminist theory.

The general idea is that since gender is a social construct, if a trans person had been raised in a genderless culture, there would be no 'trans' - they would just be whomever they are without labels. (At lest - that's what I distill from the argument)
posted by jopreacher at 1:45 PM on April 21, 2012


The counter to that is fairly simple: so what if gender is a social construct? Even if we accept that, gender is still real, just a real social construct. Hypotheticals about being raised in a genderless society are all well and good, but they're merely that - hypothetical. We live in the world that exists, not the world we wish we lived in.
posted by Dysk at 2:02 PM on April 21, 2012


This is incredible. I especially love the bit in the middle when Melissa mentions that the video of a savage beating in a McDonalds spurred her to want to be a better cis ally for trans issues. That hits me especially because of how hard it was to watch that video - and how it mirrors my own desire to want to be a resource, a bridge, for cis-trans conversations.
posted by odinsdream at 12:15 PM on April 22, 2012


I love Melissa Harris-Perry, and I agree that she has done a much better job here of addressing trans issues with dignity, decency, and respect than most other media outlets, but I was surprised -- and disappointed -- to see no trans people of color on the panel. As Monica Roberts at Transgriot points out, this is not the first time that a panel of experts purporting to represent the trans community has been "whitewashed," but considering Harris-Perry's sensitivity to issues of race and representation, it was certainly surprising, at least to me.

It's not as if there were a shortage of trans PoC activists from which to choose. There's Roberts herself, as well as Miss Major, Kylar Broadus, and Sandy Rawls, just to name four. I hope that they weren't omitted because the producers of Harris-Perry's show were a bit skittish about the topic, and chose the panel based on how comfortable they would make all of the nervous cis white people in the audience feel.
posted by bakerina at 9:12 AM on April 24, 2012


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