Trans 101
June 29, 2015 7:16 AM   Subscribe

 
It's a good start. It's phrased in a way people won't be able to pretend not to understand, and it shames the sort of bullshit behaviors that need to stop.

Probably the most important thing though is that he chose to cover this when he did.
posted by Foosnark at 7:32 AM on June 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


I was legitimately shocked at the "what's in your pants, tho?" questions. What the what.
posted by emjaybee at 8:17 AM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


So Mike Huckabee's favorite movie is apparently "Porky's". Good to know.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 8:20 AM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I had read but not heard Huckabee's statement, and it's even worse put in context.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:00 AM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Maybe we should let trans people write trans 101?
posted by hoyland at 9:21 AM on June 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Or, I suppose more precisely, acknowledge that they already did and don't need John Oliver getting the credit.
posted by hoyland at 9:23 AM on June 29, 2015


I'd try to be helpful and dig one up, but I'm on my phone in an airport.
posted by hoyland at 9:25 AM on June 29, 2015


Yes, because it's all about getting the credit, not about getting more exposure about transgender rights.
posted by Pendragon at 9:27 AM on June 29, 2015 [21 favorites]


My parents love this show, and this kind of thing is super important in terms of reaching a broad group of people who, while well-intentioned, wouldn't necessarily have thought to google "Trans 101."
posted by alycoop at 9:28 AM on June 29, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yeah totally fuck this guy with a giant mainstream audience breaking down why transgender rights are important
posted by windbox at 9:29 AM on June 29, 2015 [52 favorites]


Yes, because it's all about getting the credit, not about getting more exposure about transgender rights.

Are you happier if I say maybe we should listen to trans people and leave it at that?
posted by hoyland at 9:29 AM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think Oliver was claiming credit; I don't think he himself titled it trans 101. On the other hand, I think your point is a good one, in that Oliver did a lot of the talking in this one (albeit, to his credit, not exclusively), when much of what he said has been said by trans individuals elsewhere, and there were opportunities to let them speak rather than Oliver.
posted by maxsparber at 9:30 AM on June 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm complaining about how people have presented the clip in this post and elsewhere. No, John Oliver is not my go to trans 101. Depending on audience, I might use the SRLP one, but I can't figure out how to link from their mobile site. Likewise, he does not set the agenda for queer rights.
posted by hoyland at 9:33 AM on June 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think it's similar to the “I have a dream that one day white peoples will care about black people dying without Jon Stewart telling them they should” tweet from Clint Smith III. Allies should be helping make the voices of marginalized people louder, not speaking for them or turning up the volume on other allies speaking for them.
posted by jaguar at 9:39 AM on June 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


Yes, it is similar.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:51 AM on June 29, 2015


John Oliver definitely does not set the agenda for queer rights, but his show has a demonstrable impact and has spurred on further activism. I think it's pretty damn important that such a prominent media figure chose, so soon after a historic victory for LGBT rights, to immediately put the spotlight on transgender rights while LGBT issues are still so much in the news. In all likelihood, his team has probably been working on this piece since Caitlyn Jenner's public transition rendered it especially topical. But I think Oliver is to be commended for his timing here, and for bringing his apparently not inconsiderable influence to bear in favor of transgender rights.

I thought the tone of the piece was very much "look at this fuckery! shit is fucked up!" in a way that was designed to elicit sympathy and support from allies and potential allies. And I mean, I'll take it. It's not ideal, but holy shit, it's about 5000x better than those appallingly rude and insensitive interviews that immediately go to the "so what are your genitals like?" place. I know that's the first thought for a lot of people who are uninformed about trans issues, but it's always nice to see people call that out for the unspeakably rude bullshit that it is. John Oliver has the privilege and ability to be confrontational and appalled about that in a funny way that won't immediately have people tone argumenting it up all over the place.
posted by yasaman at 9:55 AM on June 29, 2015 [34 favorites]


To add to that, there are plenty of people who have no interest whatsoever in finding Trans 101 posts online or seeking out this information for themselves, but who watch John Oliver and will be exposed to this that way. Sure, we shouldn't decide that a non-trans person's viewpoint is the end-all be-all of the discussion, but there are lots of folks who don't care at all who might care a little after seeing this.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:59 AM on June 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think stories from actual trans people is really important. However, getting in someone's ear is MORE important.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:01 AM on June 29, 2015 [14 favorites]


Allies should be helping make the voices of marginalized people louder, not speaking for them

I agree in spirit, but there's a certain amount of in-group persuasion that allies are uniquely positioned to do, and I think that still has a lot of value. With respect to your example of that Jon Stewart quote, I still think white people have an obligation to talk to other white people about these issues even though it would be better, all other things being equal, if a person of color could deliver the same messages with the same impact. At the very least, allies speaking about these issues with their fellow white/cis people helps to normalize talking about this stuff in social justice terms. I've already found that to be very important in talking about the Black Lives Matter movement with my friends - and it sure beats the hell out of uncomfortable silence & pointedly ignoring the whole issue.

Since many people won't listen to the marginalized people themselves but are much more likely to listen to other people from their same "demographic" - much as I might wish it were otherwise - that in-group persuasion can be very powerful even as it's still problematic in many ways.
posted by dialetheia at 10:04 AM on June 29, 2015 [28 favorites]


The TV people with their 'what's your junk like' made Huckabee look mature. What a feat!
posted by savitarka at 10:05 AM on June 29, 2015


Part of me feels that he should have at least mentioned that it's not just the obvious "conservative" political types that shit on transgender people, though they do tend to be obvious about it. It would have added a nice touch to call out just how often the more "liberal" side does it too, including gays & lesbians and supposed GLBT organizations.
posted by evilangela at 10:06 AM on June 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


I really appreciate that Oliver covered the marriage ruling news at the top of the show, then spent the whole rest of the show on transgender rights. The fight does not stop with marriage rights, and he followed through appropriately.
posted by dialetheia at 10:08 AM on June 29, 2015 [17 favorites]


I'll readily admit that hearing hoyland's points gave me pause. After watching the full episode though it does look like the 101-framing of this post is a bit misleading, and I'd agree with yasaman about the tone John Oliver used. We were talking about seizing Friday's momentum and making sure that T in LGBT is no longer silent, so I'm pretty excited this show jumped on the chance to discuss what remains to be done.

(In other news I have a lot of friends switching their rainbow-colored profile pictures on facebook to ones using the transgender flag, and I'm really happy that people I haven't considered interested in any sort of activism are starting to be more vocal. Not that switching a profile pic is activism in and of itself, but I like the rather unexpected show of support.)
posted by erratic meatsack at 10:08 AM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


I agree in spirit, but there's a certain amount of in-group persuasion that allies are uniquely positioned to do, and I think that still has a lot of value.

Definitely! But I think it's important how it's framed and what voices are considered the "authorities."
posted by jaguar at 10:09 AM on June 29, 2015


It tells you something about how important Oliver's commentary has quickly become that there's basically a post on the blue every week about his feature segment. Of course he didn't discover trans rights or any of the other critical issues he's addressed, but he brings mainstream attention to them in a way you really don't see anywhere else.
posted by dry white toast at 10:10 AM on June 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


("Authoritative" would probably have been a better word choice than "the authorities.")
posted by jaguar at 10:10 AM on June 29, 2015


Sorry if I framed the post in a misleading way. I just thought it was a really great "here's how to introduce your friends to trans issues" video.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:11 AM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow, that weather guy. That right there, that guy who has obviously heard the term before but has apparently been walking around so blithe and incurious that he never, say, clicked through an article or anything to find out what the word even means.

He's wearing clothes and walking and using language, and is clearly nourished and bathed. He's out there mingling and existing in society, and he somehow missed that the existence of transgendered people. *

Obviously, John Oliver shouldn't be anyone's go to for explaining Trans 101, but maybe it's not a bad idea for the mainstream media to inform their audiences that it exists. I mean, look at that guy. He's not about to go seek out information and explanations from transgendered people. He can't. Someone has to tell him that transgendered people exist first.

The good and the perfect don't have to be enemies.

* In his very weak defense, I will say that I think cisgenderedness is the most invisible privilege I can think of. As a cisgendered person, I have barely ever had to think about my gender at all, and I suppose I can imagine a very very sheltered cisgendered person being legitimately baffled by the very concept of gender and what it means to them and others simply because it has never been an issue for them.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:12 AM on June 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


So I feel a need to ask something out of sincerity.

I want to support many marginalized people and causes, but I do not always know how anymore. In particular, LGBT causes as well as #blacklivesmatter -- but as a straight white dude, I get stuck on how to best do this. It's one thing to argue with people in person, as I often do with some of my peers - I can bring voice in a way that they won't hear, and often there's nobody else to speak up in defense. This is something I am comfortable doing.

However, I feel that the dynamic changes when I am on social media, forums, or other public venues where I may be at risk of speaking for others in ways that I didn't even know were problematic. I've seen many other straight white peers that have been shut down for speaking for others - sometimes it's simply for being in the voice of someone who is straight and white, whereas other times there are more specific reasons... some that aren't always immediately apparent, or require a particular perspective that doesn't always come immediately. I've found myself remaining quiet in many of these venues because I feel that I don't really have the right to contribute, but I'm really conflicted over that.

Seeing the criticism of John Oliver for bringing this up really drives this home - I don't really see the problem here, but I also acknowledge that I may not be capable of seeing it, and that it isn't really for me to see - I'm not directly affected by it. But just because I don't see it doesn't mean that it is isn't there for others, and doesn't make it any less of a problem.

So speaking from a point of privilege but one that wants to support - how can I best do so? Is it better to direct to pieces online that have been written by the group in question as opposed to using my own words? I ask from a place of sensitivity, and a desire to support, and wanting to increase awareness in general - and certainly not from a standpoint of wanting to promote myself. Many of the people I know aren't likely to come across this on their own, and I want to amplify the voices - not change or replace them. Any advice on how to best do so is sincerely appreciated.

If the overall feeling is that this fight is not for me, then I will respectfully maintain my distance.
posted by MysticMCJ at 10:13 AM on June 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


(FWIW, transgender and cisgender should never be followed with -ed.)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:13 AM on June 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've found the information in Dysk's profile to be really helpful (hope that's okay to link to). hoyland, I'd also love any material you'd recommend once you're free of the airport.
posted by erratic meatsack at 10:15 AM on June 29, 2015


Unless you're part of the LGBTQ community, you're probably going to be unaware of issues affecting people identifying as transgender. You may be unaware of what "transgender" actually means. As a society we're just at the very beginning of understanding and acceptance, so for a while there are going to be people like John Oliver, whose job after all is to talk loudly on television, helping spread the word. But for a mainstream audience who may be unaware there even is an acronym like LGBTQ, John Oliver is going to be the conduit. If we're on the same side we need to be kinder to each other.
posted by Nevin at 10:18 AM on June 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Is it better to direct to pieces online that have been written by the group in question as opposed to using my own words?

This is mostly what I try to do when I'm being an ally, often with a quick intro "What you said doesn't take into account X; here's a great piece on it." (And it's what I most appreciate when I see men doing so on feminist/women's rights issues.) It's pretty much the same type of writing being used by elementary-school kids through professional academics, right? "Here's my opinion, and here's evidence to back it up."

What I actually think is most helpful about this approach is that it strongly encourages me to make articles, websites, Facebook groups, etc. written by people in marginalized groups a regular part of my reading list, which helps me learn about the issues facing these groups from the people most affected by them, and it helps me practice de-centering my own experiences as a white/cishet/able-bodied/etc. person.
posted by jaguar at 10:24 AM on June 29, 2015 [12 favorites]


Good points on the 101. I will change my blog post on his monologue when I get back to my desk.

But I do think that news comics should take transphobia (and homophobia and sexism) as seriously a target as military actions, the ACA, and other forms of governmental fuckery
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:26 AM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think a lot of us on Metafilter really underestimate just how uninformed people are about a lot of queer issues. I was watching Last Week Tonight with a friend who's just not up on LGBT issues. They don't affect her life much, so she's just sort of benignly, theoretically accepting of queer folks and their rights, but it's not really an issue that has any urgency for her. She had no idea about, for example, the ridiculous proposed "papers please" bathroom laws or the DMV nonsense. But as soon as she saw it on Oliver's show, she was outraged and immediately identified the horrible catch-22 of, for example, the bathroom issue. If going in the "legal" bathroom is potentially actively dangerous for you and going in the bathroom for the gender you actually present as is illegal, then what are you supposed to do?

How many people were in a similar position before they watched Oliver's show? A lot more than you'd think, probably. And, now instead of the first thing they're hearing or seeing about this issue being some bullshit news coverage with "look at these freaks" or otherwise transphobic subtext, it's Oliver's righteous rage and humor. That's pretty fucking important.
posted by yasaman at 10:26 AM on June 29, 2015 [50 favorites]


MysticMJ, all I can tell you is that I have trans friends who can't, for many reasons, be that vocal under their real names on places like Facebook. So when I repost something, I am using my straight privilege to say something because I won't suffer any consequences. But they might.

If a trans person is present in a conversation, then just defer to them and let them explain and don't talk over them. If it's someone asking about a part of trans experience that you don't know the answer to (which for us straights is going to be a lot) then providing a link is probably best so you don't accidentally say something erroneous.

I don't think anyone's criticizing Oliver, just the fact that privilege exists. It would be better if it didn't. But since it does, it's good that he is using it in the best possible way.

He is providing entry-level lessons for a lot of straight kids, and he is using humor to get past their defenses. Not the same as Trans 101, in that it includes no primary sources, but it's a door into a more equitable way of thinking.

And as a person raised conservative, it was sometimes just such offhand, humorous, quick-hit type things that got to me and made me start to think as a youngster. I didn't become fully informed, but my biases were questioned. That is really valuable.
posted by emjaybee at 10:33 AM on June 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


The prejudices expressed by Huckabee, Walters, King, and the other broadcasters and politicians lampooned in the monologue are patently ridiculous. It doesn't require much more than a basic sense of fairness to mock them, and habitually refusing to address them either tacitly says those views are trivial, or that they're reasonable.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:56 AM on June 29, 2015


Maybe we should let trans people write trans 101?

ARGH. By this logic, no one who isn't trans can say anything at all about anything trans-related. If you extend that reasoning as far as it goes to other minorities, and legislatures, it means no one who isn't already a majority can pass legislation extending rights to minorities. Take it to extremes, and no person can talk about any other person.

It's okay to have allies. John Oliver (or more accurately, he and his writers) is(are) not trying to usurp moral authority over this issue. Once you get to saying which people are allowed to say things about other things, I'm afraid I part ways with you. It's best when people speak for themselves, of course, and their voices should be spread far and wide, for reasons of fidelity, but that's not always possible, and it is possible to speak with empathy in support of groups to which one doesn't belong. Just because the media generally doesn't contain very much of it doesn't mean it can't happen.
posted by JHarris at 1:24 PM on June 29, 2015 [35 favorites]


It seems to me that while John Oliver is certainly performing the interstitial bits and framing the story, large parts of the segment are in fact transgender people speaking for themselves, and most of the monologue boils down to "Here is someone you should listen to" and "Here is someone you should definitely not listen to". It seems like that is what a good ally should be doing, pointing people to the subaltern story and exposing the oppressive one.
posted by Errant at 2:04 PM on June 29, 2015 [18 favorites]


I don't want allies.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:06 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, then what do you want? And is it immediately attainable?
posted by Nevin at 2:17 PM on June 29, 2015


i'm not sure she owes you any answers.
posted by twist my arm at 2:26 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


She definitely doesn't, but as part of a wider discussion it seems like an odd statement to throw out without any further commentary? I feel like for the most part everyone participating in this thread is trying their best to find ways to work together towards what we all feel is a very important goal. (Trying their best and achieving their best is not the same thing, definitely, but... this suddenly feels more hostile.)
posted by erratic meatsack at 2:33 PM on June 29, 2015 [10 favorites]


I was happy about the piece, but I can see what hoyland is saying and I agree with hoyland as well.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:39 PM on June 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Beginning comments with ARGH then dropping a reductio ad absurdum argument is not us trying our best.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:44 PM on June 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


No, you're absolutely right. But I did say for the most part. Maybe I was being too optimistic and not reading the room right.
posted by erratic meatsack at 2:47 PM on June 29, 2015


I think errant makes a really good point.
posted by Annika Cicada at 2:51 PM on June 29, 2015


This is fantastic.
posted by odinsdream at 3:41 PM on June 29, 2015


The term "Trans 101" has been around for awhile now. So much so that PFLAG speakers explicitly state that their talks do not have a Trans (or gay/lesbian) 101 theme, in an effort to shut down inappropriate questions during Q&A. In fact, most Trans themed events will tell you the same thing.

The actual Trans 101 meetings hosted by Pride and LGBT centers are very informative. The first one I went to in Long Beach was great. It was hosted by two kids; one fresh out of college and one still in high school. It's a great starting point, especially for parents of Trans youth. Also, go to a PFLAG talk if you have the opportunity. They don't do a lot during the summer (many are given at schools), but definitely check it out.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:11 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


If only a small group is allowed to speak about that group, then that group will find it harder to affect change the smaller they are. In a democracy, empathy is essential.

But ordinarily I wouldn't argue about the matter, either here to respond or in the first place, except I think John Oliver and his writers really tried their best to make a good, factual presentation of the matters involved. I write the show up every week on FanFare and have seen the progress they've made, taking up causes ranging from sweatshop laborers, to women on the internet, to chicken farmers, to, many times, poor people.

This infighting among the Left is the source of so much friction, and it has greatly slowed progress, as a practical matter. LWT's take is certainly better than what The Daily Show would have produced. In the absence of an HBO news show hosted and/or primarily written by transgendered people, it is still something positive to have maybe? A lesser good but still above zero?

I am sorry to put it bluntly like this, but I can't think of a more succinct, accurate way to put it: I can understand if you don't want allies. But then you may have to resign yourself to being discriminated against. Because there are plenty of people who have declared themselves to be your enemies, and more than a single show they have entire news networks on their side. I wish I was wrong about this.

I'm out.
posted by JHarris at 5:30 PM on June 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


I am sorry to put it bluntly like this, but I can't think of a more succinct, accurate way to put it: I can understand if you don't want allies. But then you may have to resign yourself to being discriminated against.

Dude, chill out and read the thread again.
posted by atoxyl at 5:36 PM on June 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Like, the person who made that snarky remark very shortly went on to express a favorable opinion of Oliver's production.
posted by atoxyl at 5:40 PM on June 29, 2015


atoxyl: "Like, the person who made that snarky remark very shortly went on to express a favorable opinion of Oliver's production."

That just kinda made the "I don't want allies" comment more confusing, not less confusing.
posted by Bugbread at 6:00 PM on June 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Maybe we should let trans people write trans 101?

And they did, right? --then the LWT writing team took the course, and produced this television show. Trans people educated a major media personality, who is now spreading the word to millions. Soon, with luck, time, and toil, the hard work done by trans people in the shadow of people like John Oliver will be replaced by hard work done by trans people in positions like John Oliver's. I too get the feeling that when something good happens like this, people immediately say "well, it could be better." It's true, and the people imagining that better place are the people who take us there. But it feels very minimizing of the progress that we have already made and the hard work it took to get from the last, much worse, place.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 6:02 PM on June 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


I can like people saying nice things about me and others like me while also seeing how they can say it better and while furthermore desiring to live in a world where I don't need people having to say nice things about me in place of me because I don't fit in.

You all (some of you, not all) are a bit like that weatherman from where I'm sitting. (Sorry)
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:46 PM on June 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm out everyone. I enjoyed the video. I understand the criticism of it. I don't want allies, I want to be the on the show explaining it to Juan Oliver. Hugs everyone.
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:53 PM on June 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


That just kinda made the "I don't want allies" comment more confusing, not less confusing.

Because they are prone to saying huffy condescending shit like this probably

I am sorry to put it bluntly like this, but I can't think of a more succinct, accurate way to put it: I can understand if you don't want allies. But then you may have to resign yourself to being discriminated against. Because there are plenty of people who have declared themselves to be your enemies, and more than a single show they have entire news networks on their side. I wish I was wrong about this.

(just to be clear I claim neither a trans person nor even personally connected to any trans person that I know of - I'm just an internet person reading this thread and going dude think for a second)
posted by atoxyl at 7:02 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm a transwoman.

I liked this piece. It was, indeed, a pretty good Trans 101.

I do not feel that my rundown of Trans 101 is at all superior to this solely because the gender on my driver's license now does not match the one they put on my birth certificate forty-something years ago.

I am delighted to see cisgender people who can sit down and concisely explain Trans 101 to cisgender people. It gives me more time to get on with the things I consider important. Like "dancing" and "making comics". Allies are great things to have.
posted by egypturnash at 7:10 PM on June 29, 2015 [25 favorites]


atoxyl: "dude think for a second"

I thought for many seconds, and I didn't understand. Sorry I'm not as smart as you.
posted by Bugbread at 7:14 PM on June 29, 2015


I am delighted to see cisgender people who can sit down and concisely explain Trans 101 to cisgender people. It gives me more time to get on with the things I consider important. Like "dancing" and "making comics". Allies are great things to have.

Seconded.
posted by odinsdream at 7:16 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I thought this was one of the best episodes of the show so far. I hope he does more on this topic, because there is a lot more to say. And, like with Snowden, this is a topic where it would be valuable to bring an interview into the equation to give transgender people a more direct voice.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:45 PM on June 29, 2015


I thought for many seconds, and I didn't understand. Sorry I'm not as smart as you.

I mean JHarris - who I like - should think about why what he said was really obnoxious. I couldn't tell you exactly what Annika Cicada's comment was about it's just my guess that it was a snarky response to people coming off as smug about the value of their status as allies.
posted by atoxyl at 7:58 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I made a comment that was loaded and terse, I regret it. I've attempted to clarify. I hope I have.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:20 PM on June 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


I also wish John Oliver and other pundits had nothing to poke at because people are simply decent to each other and that doesn't give you any material to work with. For sure.

In the meantime I think I repeat "People... what a bunch of bastards" several times a day.
posted by erratic meatsack at 8:30 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Juan Oliver?
posted by item at 9:23 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I couldn't tell you exactly what Annika Cicada's comment was about it's just my guess that it was a snarky response to people coming off as smug about the value of their status as allies.

I'm not sure anyone has deliberately been smug about their value as allies and, re-reading, I don't see anything I could misconstrue as being smug. I think JHarris nailed it:

This infighting among the Left is the source of so much friction, and it has greatly slowed progress, as a practical matter.

We have people who support this issue wholeheartedly -- some of whom may not understand it fully; some may think they do and don't; some may do but don't articulate it well. (I'm sure I don't qualify for the last camp.)

This thread could have been a great discussion on this important topic but was instead derailed at its inception by a 'holier than thou' attitude e.g. Maybe we should let trans people write trans 101? by a non TG mefite (apologies if I am wrong). This seems to be following an increasingly common derail trend of self righteousness.

Annika Cicada very decently expressed regret and clarified. Please could we follow that lead and parse others' comments in the most positive way, which is typically as they are intended. I find this infighting so depressing to read. oh god am i now being holier than thou....
posted by NailsTheCat at 9:29 PM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


For me, I think John Oliver is great to speak up on this issue, but the issue was the framing of this post, and roomthreeseventeen has said she'd frame it differently if she were doing it again. John Oliver using his platform to speak out against transphobia seems great. Holding up John Oliver's comments as the best anti-transphobia comments available is a problem.

And I see the same thing with Jon Stewart, a lot. He himself seems aware of the issues; the applause in that piece when the clueless white dude starts yelling "Jon Stewart for president!" kind of exemplifies how his audience isn't so aware. (I'm not trying to say that John Oliver = Jon Stewart, just that they have similar audiences and platforms.)

I think it's good to advance to Allyship 201 and ask yourself, "Why am I praising/posting/defending this ally-written/performed piece over work created by people in the marginalized group I'm allying with?" Sometimes there may be awesome reasons -- for example, your transphobic cousin would only listen to a cishet white dude making these points. Other times, you may need to look at who you think is "relatable" or "mainstream."
posted by jaguar at 9:34 PM on June 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


The Allyship 201 point is something I need to work on, I know that much. It's a good reminder to try to be more conscious of what we promote among our peers.

With that said, I think it's very possible to both applaud people who use their wider platform for more basic information (like John Oliver here) and point to better, more in-depth sources by trans* writers at the same time. I don't think anyone here has put Oliver's work on a pedestal, aside from praising him and his writing team for promoting transgender rights so quickly after the marriage equality decision.
posted by erratic meatsack at 10:03 PM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm not putting this "over" work by trans people. I'm putting it with work by trans people (and lgbt people).
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:11 PM on June 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


ask yourself, "Why am I praising/posting/defending this ally-written/performed piece over work created by people in the marginalized group I'm allying with?"

My takeaway was that no one was praising/posting/etc. this over anything else. (Or did I miss it? Not snark -- honestly, I could have overlooked it.) I thought it was being praised on its own merits.

it's very possible to both applaud people who use their wider platform for more basic information (like John Oliver here) and point to better, more in-depth sources by trans* writers at the same time

This. roomthreeseventeen's framing wasn't terrible. '101' just means an introduction, no? It could definitely have been better -- as rts conceded; it could certainly have been improved with pieces from the marginalized group as you note. But I don't think we should start demanding that posts must provide links to more substantial content for certain topics.
posted by NailsTheCat at 10:15 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not just about links here, but about whose voices are being shared most widely in various social media (of which I count MetaFilter as one), and about the respect being shown to those voices. Jennicet Gutiérrez got slammed for being "rude." John Oliver is being praised for being "important." It's useful to look at why that's happening, and what that means for the advancement of trans people.
posted by jaguar at 10:20 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


If John Oliver had tried to shout his opinion during a Presidential speech he would have been called rude too. Instead, he did it on his own show. That gives him +1 polite points but Jennicet Gutiérrez definitely wins with +100 courage points in this comparison.

So, the issue is, the people in our country who get shows to do late night news comedy mixed with commentary are still pretty much all cisgender men. It's not like Gutiérrez could just call up HBO and ask for some airtime. Larry Wilmore is a black man who got a shot and that is pretty cool but diversity in this genre is still not where it needs to be. Cisgender women can't seem to get a foot in the door as hosts (despite apparently some serious effort in the search to replace Stewart) and transgender men and women are even more on the outside looking in. I don't think anybody should at all be surprised that transgender folks do not see that as a satisfactory situation and are pretty anxious for more opportunities to have their voice heard.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:36 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Someone asked how to be an ally. I'm cis, and gay-ish, and am going to speak from that perspective. Not because I an erasing trans voices! Because there is a commonality in allyship, and because I am emphatically not speaking for trans people.

The major thing you can do as an ally, for me, is to be a signal booster when I'm not present. When your friend makes a homophobic joke, call them out. Explain why what they said was wrong. When someone says something clueless, educate. Allies get a bit of extra credibility, unfortunately: you don't get someone saying you're being too sensitive and you need to toughen up and take their abuse.

So use that power. Same way that the responsibility for ending racism rests on white people ceasing to be assbags, ending transphobia is the responsibility of us cis people to change our behaviour, and influence the behaviour of those around us. And shut the hell up when trans voices start talking.

Accordingly, I'm shutting up.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:00 PM on June 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


'101' just means an introduction, no?

Sure, but it's a college level intro class. English 101 is an intro class but you still need to know how to read and write going into it. This video is more like "Trans Pre-K" and I think it does a fine job at that. It doesn't really dig into true 101 concepts like examining gender and oppression in an academic or theoretical sense because those are discussions that I agree are better left to works by trans folks. Instead the message is one even little kids should be able to grasp—don't say hurtful things, if someone needs to go poop you get outta their way, keep your private parts to yourself and don't bother other people about theirs, call people how they like to be called. This is Kindergarden stuff, not even 101, but lots of clueless cis people need to hear it so it's good that the message is getting taught. If you want to graduate to a real 101 level of discourse you should do so by seeking out trans/queer/non-binary/intersex voices but IMO the basic message of the FPP is OK for everyone to advocate because "don't be an asshole" is solid advice no matter who you are or who you are talking about. It's just important that us allies don't confuse this baseline knowledge of how not to be a jerk to trans people with the more complicated knowledge and understanding that comes from reading about the ideas and experiences of trans folks and engaging with the larger academic and social discourse surrounding these issues (with the understanding that we may never 100% "get it" because of how cis privilege).
posted by metaphorever at 11:56 PM on June 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


That's a good insight on what Oliver did, metaphorever. Breaking it down to the simplest most inarguable terms seems to be something he aims for, for instance with the Snowden thing breaking it down into, "Nobody wants the government looking at our dick pics."

He might be the greatest media voice ever for the general concept of, "Leave all of our private areas private, please."
posted by Drinky Die at 12:00 AM on June 30, 2015


I've found the information in Dysk's profile to be really helpful (hope that's okay to link to).

Link away! As noted on said page, it's a simple copy-paste job on ArmyOfKitten's old profile.




non TG

Please, never ever ever ever use this phrasing again. Ever. Wow.

The term is 'cisgender' or 'cis', and it does not apply to hoyland.
posted by Dysk at 1:23 AM on June 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think they were referring to me, though, and I am cisgender.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:45 AM on June 30, 2015


Nope, definitely me who was being called "holier than thou".
posted by hoyland at 4:59 AM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm not on a plane any more, but I do need to shower and go to work. I've been collecting links to the websites of the usual suspects this morning (Sylvia Rivera Law Project, NCLR, National Center for Transgender Equality). A few of them actually link to this video, which I'm sure a number of you will want to use as a 'gotcha'. It's not a bad video. That's not the point. The point is that someone who is not involved in the trans community (and there are cis people who are deeply entrenched in trans communities) linking to this video on its own is tacitly saying "Look, here's everything you need to know about trans issues." That's very different than saying "Here's a quick [albeit 20 minute] summary, now maybe you want to check out X, Y and Z for what work is actually being done and to hear trans people speak on these issues." We seem to be hurtling towards reducing trans rights to bathrooms and birth certificates, much like we reduced gay rights to marriage. No one's going to object to people suddenly decided to care about trans stuff, but you've got to actually care about things that aren't easily reduced to viral videos or Buzzfeed articles.
posted by hoyland at 5:16 AM on June 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


hoyland: "someone who is not involved in the trans community...linking to this video on its own is tacitly saying "Look, here's everything you need to know about trans issues." "

I certainly didn't take it that way. And roomthreeseventeen called it "transgender 101", which is literally the opposite of "everything you need to know". Did anyone else here take it as "here's all you need to know"?
posted by Bugbread at 5:21 AM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thing is, a 101 is all you need to know about any given thing unless you want to study that thing specifically.
posted by Dysk at 5:44 AM on June 30, 2015


Yeah, another way Oliver is different from Stewart or Colbert is that Oliver hasn't made tons of transphobic jokes on his show.
posted by ShawnStruck at 6:30 AM on June 30, 2015


Okay. I'm nonbinary, maybe demi-enby on some days. I don't have dysphoria in the "classic" sense. I don't care about pronouns (I am "they" on Facebook and my wife uses it without my having asked). I have the privilege of passing as a cis man in everyday life (even if that's not exactly a thrill ride for me).

In some peoples' eyes that makes me Not Trans Enough (tm), and not qualified to speak for trans people. But then, Caitlyn Jenner doesn't know much about being a poor trans woman of color. My brother -- who doesn't consider himself trans anymore, just a regular guy with an interesting medical history -- doesn't get what it's like to be an 8 year old nonbinary kid dealing with school, social pressures, bureacracy and concern trolling. A survivor of suicide and self-harm with severe dysphoria doesn't have a lot in common with a trans woman I know for whom choice was everything and "born this way" falls completely flat.

So maybe John Oliver, who is articulate, sympathetic, has an audience, and is known for calling out bullshit with humor, is just as qualified as anyone to say the things he did. This isn't really Trans 101, and isn't presented as such (except here). It's "Here are a few of the stupid things trans people have to deal with because of unthinking assholes. Don't be an unthinking asshole."
posted by Foosnark at 6:39 AM on June 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


The point is that someone who is not involved in the trans community (and there are cis people who are deeply entrenched in trans communities) linking to this video on its own is tacitly saying "Look, here's everything you need to know about trans issues."

Um, I work in trans rights.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:11 AM on June 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


(And I post about trans issues here all the time.)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:14 AM on June 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Please, never ever ever ever use this phrasing again.

Thanks for the correction, Dysk. That was stupid of me.
posted by NailsTheCat at 7:18 AM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


On being an ally, I'm cis but I can empathize with hoyland and Annika Cicada's comments; I feel annoyance and resignation when I hear a dude explaining something about how the patriarchy affects women, for example, and maybe that's similar. But simultaneously, I am very glad that this dude has these thoughts and, more importantly, has the power to bring them to spaces where women are not listened to. Sometimes I want to be invited by feminist dudes to fight these battles, but honestly, sometimes it's nice to let someone else do it.

Of course, "feminism 101" is not "trans 101" and I do not wish to imply that what works for one system will always work for another, or that the difficulty of explaining cis female experience in a cis male dominated world is in any way equal to the difficulty of being trans in a cis dominated world. But letting other people fight some battles - or, heck, start some conversations - might be a good thing.

There have definitely been some heated or transphobic social media conversations in which I actively choose to use my own words to reflect trans voices instead of bringing a trans friend in to the conversation so that he or she can explain their experience to a bigot. (The trans people I happen to know have validated this general policy, but that's merely anecdotal to the larger question of what allies should do.) On Facebook there's a real concern about doxxing. I post articles too by trans people, but sometimes people start from a pre-K level instead of a college 101 level and literally only listen to the words of cis people. It's shitty but that has been my experience in numerous interweb fights.

I dunno. For me, as someone with multiple axes of privilege, I feel that it is on me to wield that privilege in spaces that aren't ready to hear trans voices without drowning them out. If I should act otherwise or haven't thought of something please let me know.
posted by nicodine at 9:55 AM on June 30, 2015


I am looking back at this thread and had a realization. Nobody is in this thread arguing that trans people are weird, unnatural, etc, or fundamentally misunderstanding what the hell "being trans" entails. This used to be par for the course on any MeFi post about trans stuff.

Now, the argument is over whether it is suitable for a cisgender person to present a "Trans 101", and what exactly "101" means in this context. Hooray for progress! The basics are accepted enough around here that MeFi can get on with what it does best: beanplating!

(And Nicodine, I am a trans woman who is perfectly happy with cis people explaining this stuff to other cis people. I am delighted to be able to get on with the things that I actually enjoy doing, rather than explaining how and why transgender and running the risk of internalizing some hate in the process. DELEGATING TO ALLIES, HELL YEAH.)
posted by egypturnash at 10:43 AM on June 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


hoyland: "We seem to be hurtling towards reducing trans rights to bathrooms and birth certificates, much like we reduced gay rights to marriage. No one's going to object to people suddenly decided to care about trans stuff, but you've got to actually care about things that aren't easily reduced to viral videos or Buzzfeed articles."

Is it possible that this reduction is happening because these examples are actionable things? I think when it comes to 1) teaching people the nuances of trans* experiences in a broader "don't be an asshole" conversation, and 2) discussing bills they can vote on to enshrine more civil rights, the second one is going to make people go "Okay yes I can do this let me do this thing to help." And thus it gets wide traction.

When it comes to us regular people though (the non-John-Olivers), who have more than 20 minutes to discuss an issue, I agree that directing others to trans* voices speaking out about their experiences and struggles is the approach we all need to take.

(It is very satisfying though to link to this segment and go "Your favorite funny man thinks this is important and that should tell you something" to a demographic that hasn't approached transgender rights very much.)
posted by erratic meatsack at 10:50 AM on June 30, 2015


I guess I'm still in the transition phase of being gobsmacked that a television show made the transphobe the punchline rather than the protagonist.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:08 PM on June 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


And I guess from my generational bias, media doing their job without gratuitous transphobia is uncommon enough to still be worthy of comment.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:20 PM on June 30, 2015


Um, I work in trans rights.

And that experience didn't suggest proclaiming John Oliver "your new go-to on transgender 101" maybe wasn't the wisest choice? If nothing else, Metafilter is a very different target audience than people on, say, your Facebook feed.

I don't know how to write that sentence in a non-snarky way. I think the way this post was presented was an ally fumble, which isn't the end of the world (and others may well disagree with me) and surely not the worst one of the week at that. I'm sure I haven't been the clearest in many of my comments, which hasn't helped things, but I can't help but feel like I'm being told that trans people can't speak for themselves and that the work people have done somehow didn't exist until John Oliver or whoever decides to talk about it. It feels like being patted on the head and told that everyone now wants to help out the poor little trans people. That's not to say that allies aren't needed. Just about everyone needs allies. But allies need to stand and work in solidarity, not help, if that makes any sense.
posted by hoyland at 5:24 PM on June 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Allies should be helping make the voices of marginalized people louder, not speaking for them

I struggle with this, because the flipside of this coin, as others have said, is "no one listens until a older white man says it".

Which means that if you're an older white man with an audience, you should absolutely be saying this shit.

There's room for both messages to exist concurrently, but i think this is a great example of using your privilege for good. He flexed it to get this message in front of the maximum number of eyeballs that will actually watch, take note, and listen because he's a well liked Old White Guy.

Even moreso than Colbert, he seems to imminently know this and play with it in a positive way.

I think there's also room for the conversation of "This is good, but...". You can like this and agree with the objection. This isn't, and shouldn't be, an either-or thing that renders it bad or something you're not allowed to like as a Good Ally and Progressive or whatever the hell.
posted by emptythought at 6:58 PM on June 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


(DELEGATING TO ALLIES, HELL YEAH.)

Much better way to say what I was saying, thank you. When it comes to straight allies, I want delegates, not representatives or speakers. Is that a reasonable way to approach being an ally for trans (and non binary) people?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:36 PM on June 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Much better way to say what I was saying, thank you. When it comes to straight allies, I want delegates, not representatives or speakers. Is that a reasonable way to approach being an ally for trans (and non binary) people?

Isn't that basically always the way to approach being an ally? It seems like helping marginalised people get stuff they want/need doing done and amplifying their voices broadly describes being a 'good ally', with the key point being that a good ally is delegated to by the marginalised people, not deciding what is needed.

(Also, would be allies should go read about intersectonality. There's a reason trans activism isn't all about birth certificates.)
posted by hoyland at 4:45 AM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


This argument is one of the reasons I don't like the "social justice 101" analogy, because I think it probably gets taken too far. Does anyone want to argue that John Oliver shouldn't have said what he said in this piece? Does anyone want to argue that he should have said something in a different way? So far, I haven't seen any of that. But someone unconnected to the piece describes it as "trans 101", and all of a sudden John Oliver isn't giving transgender voices enough credit or is trying to present himself as a professor of transgender issues.

Look, if you really want to run with the "trans 101" nomenclature, or even if you want to describe this piece as "trans 101", let's remember then that 101-level discussions are very often led by TAs and Ph.D. candidates, not by subject matter experts who have far more important things to do than explain to a bunch of freshmen how comma clauses work. Literally the entire segment is about the work that transgender people have already done, often by themselves, and some issues that transgender people are still fighting for with which the rest of us should start helping. The most poignant moment of the piece, in my opinion anyway, is a transgender person speaking so eloquently that they move a room full of Republican politicians to emotion, followed by Oliver's angry coda that every one of those politicians then proceeded to vote against. I think that is a useful coda to insert which only highlights the presented speech and doesn't usurp it. Previously, Oliver has had Pepe Julian Onziema, a transgender man from Uganda, on his program to talk about repressive laws being passed in that country. I don't see how he can be construed as trying to speak for transgender people or telling them that they can't speak for themselves, when he's passing over his airtime (whether or not you think he should have airtime as opposed to someone else) to those people to hear them speak. What should he be doing that he isn't doing, and what is he doing that he shouldn't be? Isn't airing video and interviews with transgender people indicating that transgender people can and are speaking for themselves without any necessary help from him, or is that something he has to say explicitly?
posted by Errant at 10:47 AM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Confused Weather Guy: What is a transgender woman? What does that even mean now?
News Anchor 1: She used to be a guy.
News Anchor 2: But now is a woman.
CWG: Okay. Aren't you just saying a woman then?

I know I'm being generous to his thought process, but I wish everyone would get to that conclusion so quickly.
posted by valeries at 11:58 AM on July 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


all of a sudden John Oliver isn't giving transgender voices enough credit or is trying to present himself as a professor of transgender issues.

I think you've misunderstood my point, which was about people's presentation of the clip, not the clip itself.
posted by hoyland at 5:02 PM on July 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


In other words, there's a difference between "let me tell you about some stuff trans people did" and "let me tell you about a cis person talking about stuff trans people did while implying they've done it better than the trans people could have".

But you can instead choose to tell me I should be happy when the latter happens for like the fifth time in this thread.
posted by hoyland at 5:08 PM on July 1, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think "101" is being used in a couple different ways here. One is the way it's commonly used on MeFi, meaning "basic tutorial to help you understand an issue enough to discuss it in a reasonable and non-offensive way" (trans 101 in this sense obviously ought to be/has to be written by trans people).

The second is "You know NOTHING, GET A CLUE!" Seems like this kind of 101 can and should be provided by those who already have a voice (people like John Oliver) in order to reach a wide audience and perhaps persuade some clueless people to seek out the voices of trans people in order to get educated.

I'm not sure calling Oliver's piece "trans 101" has to mean he's doing 101 better than trans people have done. It's just a more elementary kind of introduction, one meant to reach people who haven't even begun to think about the issues, who might never seek out trans voices at all if not pushed to recognize the problems exist.

I'm probably just repeating what metaphorever said up above. It just seems to me there isn't a lot of disagreement here about what John Oliver said, but only about a colloquialism used to describe it.

I know I'm being generous to his thought process, but I wish everyone would get to that conclusion so quickly.

I had the same reaction to that clip btw, valeries. Like--wait, did that guy just go from absolute pig-ignorance to a simple decent conclusion in like five seconds?
posted by torticat at 10:09 PM on July 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


God the response just makes me wish this post had been canned and this had been posted with another title. Almost all the grief seems to be about the phrasing of the actual link, not the video itself or even the video itself conceptually.
posted by emptythought at 11:12 PM on July 1, 2015 [8 favorites]


all of a sudden John Oliver isn't giving transgender voices enough credit or is trying to present himself as a professor of transgender issues.

I think you've misunderstood my point, which was about people's presentation of the clip, not the clip itself.


No, I do get that. Let me quote the entire sentence, because you seem to have elided the first clause which indicates that I understand your point:

But someone unconnected to the piece describes it as "trans 101", and all of a sudden John Oliver isn't giving transgender voices enough credit or is trying to present himself as a professor of transgender issues.

You don't like the presentation of this piece as "trans 101". That's fine, and you're probably right. You've said so. My similar distaste for that presentation is on the record. But digging in and reiterating that point, the one you've already repeatedly made, makes the entire discussion about the presentation of the piece and not about the piece. I guess I would argue that the piece is more interesting than a clumsy MetaFilter presentation of the piece. That's not to say that raising concerns with the presentation is invalid, but it is to say that since, as far as I can tell, most people in the thread agree with you that the presentation is clunky at best, how much more is there to say about it?

In other words, there's a difference between "let me tell you about some stuff trans people did" and "let me tell you about a cis person talking about stuff trans people did while implying they've done it better than the trans people could have".

There is certainly a difference between those two things. I am honestly struggling to see where anyone has said anything like the second one. I recognize that as a cisgender person I might not see something that is obvious. But I just don't see the implication that you see. I don't see any cisgender person in this thread or in the clip arguing that they are doing transgender equality work better than any transgender person. Could you please show me where you're seeing that implication?

But you can instead choose to tell me I should be happy when the latter happens for like the fifth time in this thread.

I'm not telling you that you should be happy when the latter happens. I'm telling you that I agree that the latter would be a problem if it were happening, but I don't see the latter happening.
posted by Errant at 2:59 AM on July 2, 2015 [3 favorites]


I also had a fairly generous reading of the confused weather guy, sort of surprised the conclusion he jumped to was the OPPOSITE of what I expected/feared.
posted by French Fry at 7:14 AM on July 2, 2015


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