A Challenge

[Trigger warning for transphobia, transmisogyny, objectification.]

So, this past weekend, Saturday Night Live aired one of their fauxmercials for a fake product called Estro-Maxxx, a "once-daily" estrogen supplement for trans women on the go who don't have time "for five estrogen supplements a day." It was a standard SNL fauxmercial for an imaginary drug—except that the male actors playing the transitioning women sported facial hair, body hair, and men's haircuts. It was your basic dude-in-a-dress shtick, with a gag about airport scans and a side effect warning that "Men taking estrogen may develop an interest in TLC's Say Yes to the Dress." Such an absolute clusterfuck of fail, the entire punchline (such as it is) of which is: Trans ladies are funny! A man wanting to be a lady is weird! Ladies are stupid!

The video is viewable here at GLAAD's site, where there is also a teaspooning opportunity.

That the SNL piece is insensitive, dehumanizing, marginalizing, and contemptible is so self-evident to anyone with a shred of decency or an infinitesimal trace of a social conscience, I won't belabor outlining in this space why it is hateful garbage. What I want to point out is this: It's so blatantly hateful garbage that its creators cannot have been expecting anything less than for trans* people and their allies to react with outrage.

In the age of viral video, it seems deliberately designed to provoke controversy. And that is more shameful than ignorance.

Courting the outrage of marginalized people is a swell publicity strategy, but it leaves marginalized people in an untenable position. We are admonished to "get a sense of humor," or "get over it," or "don't let it bother you," or some variation on Not Reacting, but this shit doesn't happen in a void; the dehumanization of trans* people for shits and giggles has real-world consequences for actual trans* people. Urging silence in the sunlight of that knowledge is to urge trans* people to participate in their own marginalization.

On the flipside, to react with the anger that was calculatingly piqued means trans* people and their allies are reactionary and oversensitive, just a bunch of humorless hysterics whose concerns can be dismissed on the basis that we are YAWN boring in our predictability.

Heads they win; tails we lose.

If no one complains, it's proof of concept. If people get mad, hell, that's fucking hilarious, too! HAR HAR hypersensitive weirdos!

Heads they win; tails we lose.

I can signal tacit approval of SNL's transphobia by being silent, or I can get angry about SNL's transphobia and play right into the hands of the deliberate provocateurs, who would like nothing more than a story in a major media outlet pitting the comedians against the hysterics.

Heads they win; tails we lose.

I can marginalize my own voice, or I can raise it and be marginalized with the usual silencing tropes.

Heads they win; tails we lose.

This is an issue beyond the transphobia inherent in the video. It's not just that SNL is being irresponsible and cruel; it's that SNL is actively obliging trans* people and their allies to participate in the marginalization of trans* people, which is flatly unconscionable.

And it renders indefensible the typical argument that no one gets hurt by a comedy sketch.

The actors and writers at SNL (and actors and writers everywhere who do transphobic and transmisogynistic material) are depending on the existence of transphobia to inoculate them against consequences. Transphobia, including all the silencing tropes (humorless, hysterical, oversensitive) used against people who advocate for social justice, ensures that we will always lose this game, as long as it's played by their rules.

So I'm changing the rules. I'm not going to be silent, and I'm not going to detail my valid (and useful) anger.

I'm calling out the unethical and reprehensible use of transphobia as comedy fodder, as a way to court controversy, and as a shield against consequences, and I'm challenging the people who use transphobia in that way to stop.

I challenge you to do better, SNL.

Because I expect more.

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