Soloway describes herself as “seditious.
December 8, 2015 12:46 PM   Subscribe

"That night, Soloway sat in the bathtub, while her husband, Bruce Gilbert, a music supervisor for film and television, brushed his teeth. She remembers telling him, “ ‘I don’t want to use the money to pay off our debt. I want to be a director, and I want to make a film with it and get into Sundance. I want to double down on me.’ And Bruce was, like, ‘O.K.’ ” Then, just as Soloway was making the leap to directing her own material, her father called one afternoon and came out as transgender." (SL New Yorker)
posted by roomthreeseventeen (29 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 

posted by zamboni at 12:50 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Warning: Season 2 Spoilers.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 1:05 PM on December 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


How times have changed - as recently as, say, 2007 or so I would never have known who Eileen Myles was dating. (It's Soloway.)

On the other hand, I wouldn't have had to know about Myles's sort of annoying comments about trans men:

The next “Feminist Power Award” was given to Aydian Dowling, a muscular transgender man who had started a YouTube channel called Beefheads Fitness and who had been voted Men’s Health’s “Ultimate Guy.” He wore a suit and tie and motioned toward his table to acknowledge “my beautiful wife.”

“Isn’t that interesting?” Myles said. “ ‘My lovely wife . . .’ ” She let the thought trail off.

We spoke about it later, and Myles remembered “recoiling, because that traditionalist take on gender—which I’ve heard from trans women as well as trans men—it’s like permission to be the person we’ve been running from our whole lives.” What excited her about the movement was its potential to reinvent gender altogether. “I grew up thinking I was a boy and praying to God I’d become male,” Myles told me. “Jill says, ‘Why don’t you identify as trans?’ It’s like, I don’t want to make it your business to call me ‘he.’ I’m happy complicating what being a woman, a dyke, is. I’m the gender of Eileen.”


It's kind of, well, fuck you, Eileen.

So you're happy not being a trans man. I personally am actually not happy "complicating what being a woman is" and do not identify as a dyke. That's why, lo and behold, I actually want to transition. It's cool that you don't, though.

Then too, there's the failure of imagination which is so interesting in a poet. A lot of folks might think to themselves, "Hm, for a trans guy it must be a little bit extra thrilling to get validation of your masculinity, and maybe one could cut the dude a little slack." Or even, "Hey, politically, when an out trans man refers to his lovely wife, he's actually saying 'I am trans and yet not unlovable and my partners do not need to be ashamed of me', among other things, and it's a politically meaningful statement."

A lot of political people, even, might realize that it's bullshit to hold trans people to higher standards than cis people. Trans men shouldn't be sexist assholes, yes, but that's because no one should be sexist assholes. It's not worse or more hypocritical when trans men bro out, and it's not worse or more hypocritical if trans women get into something stereotypically female, like collecting high heels or whatever.

This was certainly an interesting article - thanks for posting! It's not your fault that Eileen Myles significantly failed to live up to billing.
posted by Frowner at 1:37 PM on December 8, 2015 [21 favorites]


I don't think Soloway always lives up to the billing either, for the record. To say "most of our laws are being formed by people with penises" without also saying that many trans women, who are marginalized in so many ways, often also have penises, well, you should be a better ally.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:40 PM on December 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, trans people do not have the unique and magical power to give people permission to enact traditional gender roles. The patriarchy does that just fine on its own, thank you.
posted by Frowner at 1:40 PM on December 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


All I can say is that this paragraph...

"Soloway and her husband were in an amorphous process of separating, which is ongoing. He is the music supervisor for “Transparent,” and he has a key to Soloway’s house, where he keeps his drum set. “We are dissolving some particular aspects of our connection,” Soloway said. “But we’ll always do the Jewish holidays together.”

...feels like a great pitch for a sitcom
posted by C.A.S. at 2:28 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Soloway and her husband were in an amorphous process of separating, which is ongoing. He is the music supervisor for “Transparent,” and he has a key to Soloway’s house, where he keeps his drum set. “We are dissolving some particular aspects of our connection,” Soloway said. “But we’ll always do the Jewish holidays together.”

Just followers of the new agey Hollywood divorce trend that was coined as "uncoupling" by Gwyneth Paltrow, I think
posted by knoyers at 3:06 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Or maybe they don't just totally hate each other.

(Yet.)
posted by mudpuppie at 3:49 PM on December 8, 2015


The first four paragraphs of that article, which is as far as I got, are validation for why I shouldn't, and won't, watch Season 2.

(I also won't watch because Jeffrey Tambor and Jill Soloway.)
posted by zebra at 4:34 PM on December 8, 2015


Reading this article and watching Transparent, whatever their flaws, while having listened to radio ads for pot shops all day at work, is quite like living inside the moment of inflection in which the society I grew up in changes into the ones I read about as a child imagined by Delany, LeGuin, and PKD. I think that's pretty cool. I mean except for Trump, who is obviously a Dick construct. If you will.
posted by mwhybark at 9:26 PM on December 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't think Soloway always lives up to the billing either, for the record. To say "most of our laws are being formed by people with penises" without also saying that many trans women, who are marginalized in so many ways, often also have penises, well, you should be a better ally.

There's some biological-essentializing in there, but also a really interesting point about female receptivity, about how the concept has historically been turned against women in art but also leaves space open for them to tackle the art men aren't willing to do because it places the artist in a less authoritative-- yet more discerning-- position (which is no less true for trans women making art than cis women). Perhaps Soloway shouldn't have tied it to vaginas and penises, but she's not the first person to make that connection, either.
“A patriarchal society can’t really handle that there’s such a thing as a vagina,” she said. “The untrustworthy vagina that is discerning-receiving.... So you can want sex, you can want to be entered, and then a minute later you can say, ‘Stop—changed my mind,’ ” she continued. “That is something that our society refuses to allow for. You don’t feel like it now? You’re shit out of luck. You know why? Because you have a pussy! To me, that is what’s underneath all this gender trouble: most of our laws are being formed by people with penises.”

Most of our entertainment, of course, has also been formed by people with penises, and Soloway is trying to change that: through her hiring practices, her choice of subject matter, and the way she thinks and acts at work. “We’re taught that the camera is male,” she said.... “But I’m not forcing everybody to fulfill something in my head and ‘Get it right—now get it more right.’ ” Directing with “the female gaze,” she asserted, is about creating the conditions for inspiration to flourish, and then “discerning-receiving.”
posted by thetortoise at 11:50 PM on December 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the first step is to acknowledge that cis-world has a pretty serious issue with the colloquially-understood differences between what we all collectively imagine are "the two biological sexes". Trans people experience and relate to biological sex in a different way. I mean, if you're not a woman with a penis you can logically understand it, but you're still not living the nuances of it. Because of the subtle differences between how cis and trans people interact to and relate with biological sex, it is easy for me as a trans person to see how Transparent is mainly about "what trans people look like to cis people" and not "here's a show for trans people written from the transgender perspective on cis people". It's just not. It's a good show for cis people, but it serves cis people first and foremost. IMO trans people need to remain aware aware of how Soloway will impart her cis-female lived experiences of the construction biological sex (which are valid! And real! And must be supported!) into the production of the show. To do otherwise will be to disappoint yourself.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:20 AM on December 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


A lot of folks might think to themselves, "Hm, for a trans guy it must be a little bit extra thrilling to get validation of your masculinity, and maybe one could cut the dude a little slack." Or even, "Hey, politically, when an out trans man refers to his lovely wife, he's actually saying 'I am trans and yet not unlovable and my partners do not need to be ashamed of me', among other things, and it's a politically meaningful statement."

Or... Aydian has been out for awhile, and strikes me as a pretty sincere and humble guy, and he's just referring to his lovely wife like many married men would do, and it's not intended to be meaningful beyond that. The majority of trans men I know just... live their lives. I mean, I mostly sit around and watch Netflix with my cats. Aydian has been in the spotlight - and he put himself there - but I don't think we have to search real hard for deep meaning in everything he says. His YT videos are thoughtful and insightful but also pretty unassuming. His IG feed is full of selfies and pedestrian JUST DO IT kind of memes.
posted by desjardins at 10:56 AM on December 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I mean, that too. I was frustrated by Myles's criticisms of him, because honestly, on the one hand making a big point about a woman's beauty in public is not the greatest place to go, but on the other hand, it's a widely accepted phrase, like when I refer to "the great state of Minnesota", and I think putting a whole political critique on it is a bit much. Especially with the smuggery [although to be fair to Myles, perhaps it is New Yorker quote manipulation] about how she doesn't need to transition, no sirree bob, she's happy just complicating womanhood unlike all those retrograde trans people.

Her comments just piss me off more the more I think about them.

What excited her about the movement was its potential to reinvent gender altogether...It's not totally clear what she means by "the movement", but it seems to be the whole transish/genderqueerish thing, and I feel like that's so annoying. You don't get to tell other people who are in a tough spot that they are letting you, personally, down because they are not running their movement, which is for them and not for you, according to your norms. You don't get to say to trans people, "In order for me not to smug at you, you actually need to make sure that you're not transitioning, you're reinventing gender, and what's more, you have to 'reinvent gender' on my terms, since a lot of people would think that trans people actually kind of do reinvent gender just by, you know, being trans people in all the complicated ways people tend to be trans."

Ugh, I used to really be into her work, and I suppose if she says somewhat better things elsewhere I could be again, but in the short term this has really left a bad taste in my mouth.

It does make me feel cautious, too, as it's pretty blatantly the "tolerance" of, like, 1985 - her position would have been all punk rock and awesome then, I guess, and I end up wondering whether my own views will ossify/are ossified in similar ways.
posted by Frowner at 11:14 AM on December 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


And it irritates me when feminist queer women say that they "wanted to be boys" when they were little/young and equate this with being trans. I "wanted to be a boy" when I was being a little girl, because boys got to do more and didn't have to wear dresses and got more respect and were the heroes of books and so on. That's totally different from the set of feelings I associate with wanting to transition, which are different from and more complicated than "wanting to be a boy" in that way. Wanting to have the social position of a boy - which you identify, as a kid, with being a boy - is not the same thing as wanting to transition.
posted by Frowner at 11:18 AM on December 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


That's totally different from the set of feelings I associate with wanting to transition, which are different from and more complicated than "wanting to be a boy" in that way. Wanting to have the social position of a boy - which you identify, as a kid, with being a boy - is not the same thing as wanting to transition.

/me nods a whole lot, cries
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:24 AM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


"In order for me not to smug at you, you actually need to make sure that you're not transitioning, you're reinventing gender, and what's more, you have to 'reinvent gender' on my terms, since a lot of people would think that trans people actually kind of do reinvent gender just by, you know, being trans people in all the complicated ways people tend to be trans."

Yup. That perspective is very much on the social/political end of cisqueer feminism, which owes a lot to how misogyny is attached to the construction of cissexual biology (aka the sex binary myth). It's a real hell to have to live through I imagine (since I'm not a cis girl I don't know the lived experience, just basing on what I've been told). The problem is how the movement for a gender revolution doesn't leave much air in the room for people to express their need to transition. Throw in all the "gender is all just a social construct ergo gender sucks so kill it" radical popfem that's been erupting since around the riot grrrl days and well, you've got a good admixture of "trans erasure ideological soup" just waiting to happen.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:51 AM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, Eileen Myles, how disappointing. I also kind of want to read "Tiny Women In Shiny Clothes" to see if it's as much of an internalized misogyny shitshow as the article makes it out to be.

I am trying so hard to find some charitable thing to say. On the one hand, as someone who is still trying to figure out what the fuck their deal is with respect to gender and frustrated by no seeming way out of it, whatever it happens to be, I spend a lot of time saying and thinking stuff like "I’m the gender of [beefetish]." And lord knows I have said a lot of dumb shit like Myles's b.s. because of being an ignorant turd-o while simultaneously just agonizing, agonizing internally about what on earth to do with this problem, if anything can be done, maybe confounding this stupid gender i'm stuck with is the only solution, O God God etc.

Frowner I think the thing with views is as long as one remains graceful about needing to change perspective on matters - like Soloway's comment on needlessly gendering bodies - I think one can be ok. I hope one can be ok.

IDK this article just kinda bummed me out. I have been having gender feels pretty hard lately and, man, I don't know. I feel like I should feel more kinship to the people in this article, but, urgh.
posted by beefetish at 11:53 AM on December 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Does anyone know of other people talking about ways of directing that are non-male-gaze-y? I found that part of this article interesting, and I'd love to read anyone talking more about it in less genital-essentialist ways.
posted by jaguar at 11:58 AM on December 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Myles's comments about wanting to be a boy appeared to be in direct response to Levy and Soloway asking her why she doesn't just transition. I don't think she's equating her feelings with those of trans men; she's explaining how they differ. She's probably defensive at this point because people keep asking her this. And while her comments about trans men in general are ignorant, giving Aydian Dowling, whose career is basically muscle dude, a "Feminist Power Award" seems weird.

I don't know, I'm disappointed that this is a profile of one of the most prominent women in Hollywood and we're mainly discussing comments her (famous) girlfriend made.
posted by thetortoise at 3:30 PM on December 9, 2015


In other interviews with Myles, she sounds frustrated that people keep expecting her to pick one gender or the other. I think she comes off badly here, but she's also speaking from her own experience and a few ignorant comments don't negate her entire career. Maybe we should just agree that the profile is disappointing (usually my reaction to Ariel Levy's writing, honestly) and Soloway's role as a cis producer speaking for trans people poses problems and that there's more to both women's careers than this article.
posted by thetortoise at 4:08 PM on December 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Aydian Dowling, whose career is basically muscle dude

Uh, no, he runs a clothing company that has funding grants for transgender surgery and a donation program for binders and bras. Because of the Men's Health contest, he's appeared on a number of talk shows, including Ellen. This is crucially important because trans men are so invisible. He's put himself out there and now he gets hate mail from radfems. I'm not sure if you're implying that a feminist award should go to a woman or what, but he's definitely not just a muscle dude.
posted by desjardins at 4:27 PM on December 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


You're right, I'm being dismissive and unfair; "activist" is a better descriptor. But I'm not sure how his work is especially feminist unless you consider all trans activism as falling under the umbrella of feminism (but maybe I missed something he's been involved with? Very possible!) And I'm pretty sure the feminist movement is the "movement" Myles was referring to, and it's what he was getting an award for. This doesn't excuse her broader statement about trans men and women, though.
posted by thetortoise at 4:37 PM on December 9, 2015




Argh, I feel like I'm not expressing what I wanted to say well here, which is just that Soloway and Myles are important in their respective fields and have more complex careers than this article alone would suggest, and that as queer women they have a really high level of critical scrutiny applied to their remarks and work (much more than for any male showrunner or poet I can think of). At this point I am thinking I really should just avoid posts here on gender/feminism topics because I somehow manage to always say exactly the wrong things and make the conversation worse.
posted by thetortoise at 7:16 AM on December 10, 2015


I don't think "disagreement that is phrased in polite tones and gets worked through" is the same as "making the conversation worse". I think if we were all yelling at each other and assuming bad faith, that would make the conversation worse.

I do think that while Soloway and Myles have a high level of scrutiny applied to their work, we here are not scrutinizing them any harder than they'd be scrutinized at any non-transphobic website. This isn't "you wrote 'trans*' and for various reasons that is no longer an approved term for trans people even though it was all the go in 2013, so you are bad" or "you were talking about abortion and forgot to mention that men sometimes need abortions, therefore you were excluding trans men and are bad"; this is pretty bog-standard bad thinking about trans people, and the fact that Myles and Soloway are being positioned as trans allies and people who are entitled to speak for trans people makes this relevant. The more so because "Transparent" is one of the primary ways that cis people are going to encounter discourse about trans people, and this article is in a fairly well-known and respectable mainstream publication.
posted by Frowner at 7:27 AM on December 10, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's complicated for sure and I don't really know how to talk about it so much anymore in a way that doesn't piss in someone's cheerios for some reason or another. Maybe being way less definitive on things is probably a good start for all of us on all sides of that whole gender and biological sex thang. But, come on, let's be real here: trans people will always be a super small minority and just the tiniest of blips on the radar of "situations and realities the cis majority will work to make space for in their daily lives". I am holding out little hope that I will ever see something resembling a trans-inclusive world outside a VERY VERY small set of temporal safe spaces about the size of a living room.

Instead we get to hear how cis women are standing up to the patriarchy and how awesome and amazing they are about "that whole transgender thing".

So I've adjusted my worldview accordingly. I exist as trans in the world mostly in a curio cabinet for cis people to objectify and ponder on. I mainly exist as a counterbalance to feminism, a challenge to the way the majority perceives and structures the rules of our world around the sex parts we are assumed to have. I am at distant second place a trans person who gets to have her own lived experience without it being challenged or questioned or misrepresented by cis allies or co-opted into some new flavor of feminism and understanding of how gender and sex assignment works in a cisgender construct.

But hugs you know? I mean, shit it's fucking biology and numbers and majority rules so I'm just learning how to live in that reality and not expect too much anymore.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:17 AM on December 10, 2015 [3 favorites]


I've been seeing a lot of radfem bull crap and not a lot to trans-inclusiveness lately. Sorry for being so dour about everything. For the record I love me some good hearty 3rd wave trans inclusive reproductive justice fighting cis friends.
posted by Annika Cicada at 11:34 AM on December 10, 2015


"this is pretty bog-standard bad thinking about trans people, and the fact that Myles and Soloway are being positioned as trans allies and people who are entitled to speak for trans people makes this relevant. The more so because "Transparent" is one of the primary ways that cis people are going to encounter discourse about trans people, and this article is in a fairly well-known and respectable mainstream publication."

yeah seconding frowner's comment here. i am like 0 interested, negative interested, in fellow queer afabs getting a pass for saying dumb shit, and they are saying some dumb shit, and we all say dumb shit but i expect more of people in exactly their positions.
posted by beefetish at 1:43 PM on December 10, 2015


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