Transgender Male (FTM) Chaz Bono

Transgenders are bodies that are subject to victimization for gender transgressions. Discrimination against these bodies is prevalent, however underreported. Many studies show that many incidents of transgender violence go unheard of, which is a major issue in today’s society.

In 2011, ‘Dancing with the Stars’ (DWTS) was one of my favourite shows on television. Season 13 featured phenomenal cast members, such as Chaz Bono, Ricki Lake, Kristin Cavallari, Rob Kardashian, Rob Artest, Carson Kressley, and many other famous stars. Chaz Bono on DWTS aroused major controversy with the media because he is a transgender male (FTM). In the picture below, we are able to view the transformation that Chaz went through with a “before-and-after” photo. In the before photo (left), ‘Chastity’ Bono (female) had long hair and more feminine features, whereas the after photo (right) shows the transformation Chaz went through (FTM) where he encompasses more masculine features.

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On Fox News online, Keith Ablow (2011) posted a transphobic article ‘Don’t Let Your Kids Watch Chaz Bono on ‘Dancing with the Stars.’’ Ablow refers to Bono as a “transsexual” woman, therefore right from the beginning we can tell that he has no idea what he is talking about in reference to Bono and trans people. Chaz Bono is in fact a transgender male. Ablow continues to refer to Chaz using female pronouns, such as “she” and “her” and humiliate him by saying how he is a “woman who underwent plastic surgery and takes male hormones in an effort to appear to be a man, and who asserts she is a man.” The ways in which Ablow is referring to Chaz is degrading and a form of trans bashing. Ablow is a white, successful man who is ultimately arguing that trans people are confused and that this is an issue that can be fixed if they just get help. Ablow believes that trans people do not have a place on the gender continuum. Keith Ablow’s positionality definitely puts him at the highest level of the hierarchy, whereas Chaz Bono, a transgender male who is clearly at a lower rank on the social scale with limited advantages. Bono steers away from cultural gender roles that are deemed normative. Ablow states that by watching Bono on this TV show, children’s gender dysphoria “is a toxic and unnecessary byproduct of the tragic celebration of transgender surgery.” In psychology, I have learned that transgender individuals do not feel any sort of suffering or pain because of their gender identity, therefore this statement is used solely to humiliate these bodies by arguing that trans people do not exist or have a place in our society or world.

Ablow continues to argue that parents should keep their children from watching any episodes that include Bono as children are at their most vulnerable state. He believes that by making their kids subject to such a horror, it “can erode our children’s evolving sense of self.” Trans people are continuously attacked by the privileged, especially those who are cissexual. By denying their children from watching this TV series, they are reinforcing the stigma that is associated with transgender individuals. Depictions of trans people in the media often perpetuates this violence and reinforces the negatives stereotypes associated with these bodies, such as Ablow’s transphobic article. Due to this stigma, trans people are often victims of physical, sexual and verbal abuse, such as rape, hate speech, and other forms of abuse.

Transgender bodies are constantly being victimized for transgressing against normative gender roles. The law is designed for a cissexual body and as a result, transgender individuals do not possess any form of sexual citizenship. Consequently, this leads to violence against trans bodies in many different spheres of society, such as at school, workforce, in the home, jails, etc. For instance, transgenders in prison are extremely vulnerable, especially when compared to those who are cissexual. Cissexual bodies in prison have many more advantages compared to transgenders. This is an example of cissexual privilege, where the advantages cissexuals possess in prison vastly exceeds the rights possessed by transgenders when in the same environment. An LGBT person in prison encourages an atrocious amount of violence. ‘Just Detention International’ (JDI) recorded studies on abuse in juvenile facilities and “found that kids who reported a non-heterosexual identity had been assaulted at twice the rate of youth detainees overall.” Moreover, other surveys have shown that “adult prisoners have found that gay and transgender inmates are, by far, the most likely to be raped.” These studies show the tremendous amount of vulnerability that is associated with being queer. Cultural hegemonies at stake are those minorities, such as transgenders due to cissexual privilege.

Transgender bodies are victimized solely due to their gender that they identify with. Those with cissexual privilege degrade trans bodies by dehumanizing them, using derogatory names and blaming it on a psychological disorder. For instance, Ablow argues that those who are transgender are experiencing a “journey of a very disordered person who endured, and likely will continue to endure, real suffering based on extraordinarily deep psychological problems.” These issues concerning transgender people are increasingly perpetuating violence, should not be tolerated and must come to an end immediately.

References used:

Article on Juvenile Detention International on Vulnerable Inmates:

http://www.justdetention.org/en/vulnerable.aspx

Article by Ablow on Chaz Bono:

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2011/09/02/dont-let-your-kids-watch-chaz-bono-on-dancing-with-stars/

Article on Trans Violence (on Queen’s Library website):

Gender Violence: Transgender Exepriences with Violence and Discrimination by: Lombardi, Wilchins, Priesing and Malouf.

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Growing up, my favourite movies to watch were definitely Disney. At home I have three shelves of different Disney films, including all the Disney princess ones of course. I basically thought I was a princess and apart of Disney World. These movies truly fascinated me. I was a young girl who was mesmerized by their lives and the fairytales they were living in. I agree with the previous post in that these Disney movies highlight many negative stereotypes concerning gender and race. All of the princesses are beautiful, thin, and attractive young girls. These are the stereotypes and sexual scripts that are unfortunately instilled in the minds of children at such a young age.

Similarly, these stereotypes and sexual scripts are apparent in television shows today. In my opinion, I believe the degree to which television shows portray certain stereotypes is quite obscene in popular culture. The majority of television programs that adolescents watch nowadays are filled with gender stereotyping, racial stereotyping and as mentioned earlier sexual scripts. However, I also feel that some shows are trying to bush the boundaries of stereotypes and show the truth of it all. I will do an analysis of several shows comparing the differences some being very stereotypical and others not. For example, on Modern Family, Cam and Mitchell are homosexuals and the way they behave on the show is very stereotypical to gay men, such as the way they talk and act. Max Blum, a character on the show Happy Endings is portrayed as the gay best friend, however his character is very different than Cam and Mitchells. Blum’s character portrays a man who is “a hairy, horn-dog, no-good single gay dude…who spent more time eating Cheez Whiz than applying ‘product’” (Pinkert, 2013). As I was watching this show, I immediately thought this to myself. He is not depicted as the typical, stereotypical gay guy on a TV show. His character is hilarious and he’s essentially the joker in their friend group, but the majority of his jokes are not about him being gay or even homosexuals at all. I thought this was very interesting to compare the two TV shows and compare the portrayals of these two homosexual men. Another interesting comparison I would like to address is Sofia Vergara’s character on Modern Family, Gloria. I am a fan of this television show; therefore I am quite familiar with each character. Gloria does not go an episode without mentioning her ethnicity, her promiscuous clothing or acting in a certain way because she is “Colombian.” Of course, Gloria is always dressed in revealing clothing with her breasts out. This is typical and also very stereotypical, which is quite apparent in many episodes. On the other hand, April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation is also Latina. Her character is very different from Sofia Vergara. The humor on the show got me hooked immediately along with the cast and their personalities. The majority of the characters are presented without all the typical stereotypes that are visible in the majority of television shows today, such as Modern Family. April is “vivacious” and never goes on a rant in Spanish or even with a heavy accent as Gloria takes on in Modern Family. Also, Tom Haverford played by Aziz Ansari in Parks and Recreation is without a doubt comical and charming. His role on Parks and Recreation breaks the barrier of stereotypes as he is not portrayed like most South Asians would be – “proud and macho” or even “effeminate and nerdy,” however he is sweet, comedic and definitely considered the coolest guy on the show by far. The last example I feel is really prevalent in TV shows today would be the typical dumb blonde. On the Big Bang Theory, Penny definitely fulfills this character of a dumb blonde that is dating a nerd. On the other hand, Dallas Royce played by Cheryl Hines is very good at handling things, has great judgment with a good head on her shoulders as much as she comes off as a blonde bimbo.

These TV shows show us how gender and racial stereotypes are so apparent in popular culture. However, some shows in popular culture are able to push these boundaries and make great television. I believe it is quite distressing that children are being instilled with these stereotypes at such a young age and I believe more television programs should stop trying to make their show more comical by being extremely stereotypical.

Sofia Vergara, Modern Family

Sofia Vergara, Modern Family

 

 

Max Blum, Happy Endings

Max Blum, Happy Endings

 

Modern Family

Modern Family

April Ludgate, Parks and Recreation

April Ludgate, Parks and Recreation

Penny, Big Bang Theory

Penny, Big Bang Theory