Tuesday, February 12, 2008

LOGO Goes Loco?


Hot on the heels of MTV's moronic A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, LOGO -- the gay (or at least LGBT) network -- offers us a transgendered version of The Bachelor/Bachelorette which they call Transamerican Love Story. The premise has transgendered female Calpernia Addams (are there any transwomen -- or drag queens for that matter -- called, say, Karen or Sarah?) dating eight guys to try and find love --yeah, sure! -- with one of them. The show will proceed like all the others and at the end of each new episode, one of the rivals for the heroine's affection will be asked to leave until a real live love match is supposedly made. Since I doubt if anyone of any orientation has ever stayed together after "winning" on one of these shows, I have to say "Good luck to that!"

Okay, on the gay LOGO network we have a show about a woman (and Calpernia is a woman regardless of her biological origins) dating eight men. In other words, she's heterosexual and most of the men on the program say they are too. So this is to all intents and purposes a heterosexual dating show (if with a twist). How liberal of LOGO. Calpernia will ask questions, go on dates, have little competitions, and act all kittenish just like any other gal on The Bachelorette and the guys will fight to woo and win her, make nasty comments about each other, and ty to act all macho, just like the contestants. Big fuckin' deal.

In spite of that there are a couple of gay things about this program. First, the host is that adorable little "nelly" comic Alec Mapa. (Mapa is a likable guy but he seems a bit out of place with this crew. I think the fact that he is very stereotypically gay -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- had a lot to do with his being hired.) As for the second, we'll get to that momentarily.

Now I wonder. If LOGO wanted to do a gay version of The Bachelor couldn't they have had a guy guy dating eight gay men, or a lesbian dating eight gay women? Couldn't they at least have had a show with a gay transsexual -- they do exist. (That way they could have had their cake and eaten it, too.) I know everything seems to be GLBT these days, but it's almost as if plain old gay is getting lost.

Despite the trendy twists, the program is the usual junk reality dating show with a somewhat interesting "love" object and a bunch of dating rivals who typically run the gamut from pleasant pawns to obnoxious egomaniacs. Calpernia is an attractive and feminine woman who could probably "pass" if she wanted to.

Not that I'm in any way recommending it, but there are some interesting aspects to the program. One of the contestants, a man named Jim, is also transgender. He tells Calpneria, but none of his rivals. Calpernia is surprised (Jim can also "pass") but her reaction is even more surprising -- or is it? She actually says "I would never have known -- he's so handsome." What -- does this transgendered female think that all transgendered men are ugly? Is there some internalized transphobia going on here? Later Calpernia wonders if she'll turn out to be a hypocrite, that she may find it uncomfortable dating a transsexual male. I admired her for her honesty.

An interesting complication is that, like many Female-to-Male transsexuals, Jim has not completely transitioned; he still has a vagina. But apparently Calpernia hasn't fully transitioned either; she still has a penis. So if these two get together -- pardon my crudity and not to make fun of anyone -- we'll have a woman with a dick sticking it into a man with a pussy. I don't know, maybe it's just me, but somehow doesn't it seem as if this sort of makes the whole point of getting a sex-change operation kind of pointless?

One of the guys, Peter I believe his name is, dates both men and women and is, of course, the "gayest" of the bunch after Alec Mapa. His dancing with the guys during a silly harem session leads another of the men, Mark, to make clearly disapproving insinuations about his sexuality.

Mark is so afraid of even being accidentally touched by another man that it leads Blaine to label him homophobic, which is ironic (more on why in a moment).

As for Mark, he's essentially a creepy little overcompensating professional wrestler who is horrified that anyone will think he's gay. He goes out of his way to point out that one shouldn't label someone just because they date transgendered women. I might point out that if you're afraid someone will think you're gay because you're dating someone who used to be a biological male, then you probably shouldn't date transgendered women -- you just can't handle it. Mark has such a pathetic need to be seen as ruggedly heterosexual that he even has the tattoo of a lipstick kiss on his upper arm as if he's the big stud that all the women want! What a dork!

Blaine is pathetic is his own way, as well. He only dates transgendered females. He says he's not straight (and yes he gets points for that) but -- get this -- he also says he's definitely not gay (funny, he doesn't say definitely in that certain way when he talks about not being straight). He doesn't like labels, but bi is probably the one that might fit our boy the best. He says that transgendered females are "the best of both worlds" and that he especially prefers "pre-op" trannies. Yes, that means he prefers transsexual women with dicks. Gee, he's not just a little bit gay? He calls Mark homophobic, but could there be some internalized homophobia going on with Blaine?

There have always been men who like "chicks with dicks." Usually these were drag queens, and sometimes they were hookers. More recently we have pre-op trannies struttin' their stuff in the red light zones (not to suggest that most, or even many, transsexuals are prostitutes). If a guy felt more secure having a homosexual experience -- dicks and all -- with a man dressed as a woman so he could pretend she was female, imagine how secure he feels having sex with someone who's not only dressed as a woman but is one (although the dick might present a problem to certain straight men.)

Come to think of it, how will some of the guys on this show deal with Calpernia's penis?

Straight guys. I don't think so.

Maybe this show is gayer than I thought. But not in the Out and Proud way that would make me feel a lot more comfortable with its existence.

UPDATE: Okay, when I make a mistake, I make a mistake. Calpernia is actually post-op, and her friend Andrea is a lesbian transsexual. I regret these errors. Please see the comments for more information.


Anonymous said...

Actually, most trans women do have names like Karen or Sarah.

In fact, Calpernia’s middle name actually is Sarah!!!

Bill Samuels said...

LOL! Of course you're right. I was being facetious. The flamboyant names have more to do with "show biz" than with anything else. I've met trans women with "average" names and even drag queens -- not performers -- with "average" names as well.

My real name is actually Mortimer Fantasmagorical Samuels but I won't use it until I make it in the movies!

Thanks for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, sorry I took your humor too literally!

Thank you for clearing things up for me! :)

(Oh, and Calpernia is actually post-op, not pre-op.)

Callie said...

Hey, yeah, I have a lovely, shiny vagina barely out of the "box", so to speak! Ha ha. Thanks for the long and thoughtful writeup, though.

Logo is trying to give some attention to the "T" in GLBT, so the show doesn't have to be gay at all. It's "T", but most of us trans women and men found our support network in and among the gay community, so we still love you guys and gals. Alec Mapa is an angel, by the way, and Logo is posting some of his behind-the-scenes videos on the site, which are hilarious. Luckily he's pocket-sized, too. I think I lost him in my purse somewhere during the last episode...

The guys have all different self identifications when it comes to sexuality, but the most important thing to me is that they find a female body attractive and a female soul interesting. I'm a woman who dates men, but I don't care how they end up labeling it in their own minds. Much. Ha ha!

I cringed when I saw myself saying "I wouldn't have clocked Jim, he's so handsome", too... I mostly meant that his attractiveness would have turned on my man-craziness and drowned out any trans-dar. But still, D'oh!

I just hope everybody has fun with the show, and has a good time chatting about it. I'm as much dork as princess, so you can laugh at or with me, as long as somebody buys me a shot to help soothe the zingers a little afterward. =)

Bill Samuels said...

Thanks for your comment, Callie. I think I got confused about the pre-op business because of something one of the guys said.

I'm glad you've found support in the gay community. We're all "queer" as far as too much of the world is concerned, and should stand together, celebrating both our similarities and our differences.

Okay, I may not be big on reality dating shows of any kind, but I respect and admire you and love your sense of humor. It certainly helps all of us "queers" get through life and its absurdities, right?

I truly wish you Good luck! And who knows -- maybe you will find love with this venture!


Chup-Chup said...

is the first time i read ur blog and this post was sooo funny! i'll visit u again soon. greetings from israel!

Bill Samuels said...

I very much appreciate your comment, my friend in Israel! Thanks so much!


Anonymous said...

Bill I hope you will own up to the really BIG errors regarding your misperceptions about Calpernia, and about trans-people in general. Calpernia has a vagina, Bill. She has had it since 2002. The existence of her vagina negates your bizarre ideas about “chicks with dicks”, in regard to her.

You don't seem to have gotten the simple points that Calpernia and Andrea James (please note her VERY normal/regular name) are doing this to help present a social normalization to the general public of trans-people trying to date. They are trying through a show like this, and their other efforts to tear down the inaccurate stereotype that trans-women are “drag queens”, or hookers. Most people who get such surgeries are everyday, middle class people, as noted in their web “A to Z” videos (see link below).

Your blog also misses the fact that there is an important place on logo, a GLBT network, for inclusion of subjects about the T in GLBT. However, you are correct that T people like Calpernia are doing something heterosexual. Meanwhile, the T aspect of Calpernia, makes it appropriate, and very important, for the logo network to demonstrate that their network is for T people as well as GLB people, and should include T people, not just G men, L women, and B people. You also noted that there are “lesbian trans-women”, without noticing that Andrea James is one of them!

Meanwhile, thousands of people in private are dealing with the dating issues in Calpernia’s show every day. Andrea and Calpernia, like thousands of other similar women, will be dealing deal with the relevant issues long after the show is over. They hope to communicate, with humor, that trans-people deserve respect and empathy in dating contexts. Many trans-people quietly succeed with it too. Many such trans-women have met and married straight men and lived with them for a lifetime, sometimes without ever having told them about their medical past.

For example, try reading the real life autobiography of a woman who got her vaginoplasty operation ( the correct term ) in 1971 at age 19, got married, adopted six children, lived through her husband's death, and never told him in his lifetime about her medical past. She is a widow now, living in Beverly Hills, where none of her children or grandchildren know to this day, about what she did with the help of her parents a generation ago, before misconceptions had so badly poisoned plebian mis-“consciousness”. Women like the one at the link below represent the experiences of the vast majority of trans-women, who are quietly, anonymously, and often invisibly, leading normal lives, far from the searing eyes, or such deep social misconception and discomfort, as yours.


She removed her photo recently, after realizing how socially perilous it has been for her to have posted such a thing on the web.

The web site below, by University of Michigan computer engineering professor emeritus Lynn Conway, a trans-women, presents a gallery of the physicians, scientists, musicians, engineers and other professionally employed trans-women, who cope every day with the issues presented in Calpernia’s dating show. By the way, Lynn Conway is heterosexual, and very happily married too.


I hope you read the information at the links above, that you develop a better sense of where the T fits into GLBT, and where and how the T fits into a LGBT network like logo.


You may want to educate yourself a little more by watching the videos at the link above too! It is a web series called LGB to the T. I hope you will consider that the 25 year old, trans-women, Ashley Love, the presenter in those videos, is yet another woman dealing with the same issues, and what that may mean for someone like her.

Bill Samuels said...

Many thanks for your comments and for the links. Yes, I admit I made a BIG mistake -- based on something a contestant said -- about Calpernia's post-op condition, which she herself and others have corrected me on (see the comments above). I regret the error. And no, I didn't catch that Andrea was a lesbian -- maybe it wasn't mentioned on the first show?

Believe me, out of my own curiosity and sympathy I have watched many shows about transgender people (on LOGO and elsewhere), as well as read a lot about it on the Internet and in GLBT papers; and of course you're right that an LGBT network has a right to air any show that deals with either gay or straight transsexuals. (I will check out the links you provided.) I'm sorry if my often irreverent sense of humor has created the impression that I don't respect or care about transsexual people. As I told Calpernia -- whose comments reflected her good-humored nature -- we're all "queer" in the eyes of the fundamentalist and other bigots. Believe me, I'm well aware of that. I may find humor in many situations, but as a Jewish, middle-aged gay guy I don't find blatant hatred of anyone to be funny.

I think what you might have missed reading my post is that it was from the point of view of a gay guy, who understandably, looks for gay-oriented programming when he turns on the TV. Ms. Addams may be transsexual, but she simply comes off (and why shouldn't she?) as any typical gal like you would find on "The Bachelorette" -- my point was simply that because of this the show resembled more or less a typical "straight" dating show, despite the "twist."

Besides, I wasn't putting down Calpernia or other transsexuals. If anything I was making fun of/reacting to guys (some of the contestants) --as I often do -- who have "issues" with their own possible homo/bisexuality, or who have a HORROR of being perceived as gay, which as I'm sure you understand, would bother any Out and Proud gay man. I'm glad that you and others point out and educate others on incidents or attitudes of transphobia in both gay and straight communities, just as I point out possible homophobia in both straight and LGBT communities. It never hurts to keep people on their toes.

As for "chicks with dicks," they are generally drag queens and it is well-known in the gay community that there are closeted homosexual men who can only get it on with men dressed as women or who present a feminine mystique, due to their internalized homophobia. I've met guys like this and while they may be a dying breed I know they still exist, even if it sounds bizarre.

Again, thank you for your comments and for clarifying matters for me. I wish you the best. I hope I've cleared up some misunderstandings for you as well. Bill

Jim H said...

I think what everyone is failing to realize is that gender expression lies between your ribcage and your ears...not your legs. Quite frankly Bill, your insensitive comments I would have expected from uneducated members of the "straight society"...I guess we do have further to go than I thought but that's what I want to help do. You have all used the term "chicks with dicks" and yet there is also the OBNOXIOUS "boy with a vagina"...maybe we should just start with human being?


Anonymous said...

Everyone, stop picking on Bill! He’s a nice guy who just got a few of his facts wrong! Plus, I noticed that one of the comments above is inaccurate too, since Andrea is actually bisexual!

Bill Samuels said...

Thank you. I appreciate your comment.I'd like to think that I am a nice guy, even if my sense of humor may rankle some at times or make me seem insensitive.

To respond to Jim, I'm not going to repeat the responses I gave to the other comments for this post, but you can read them above; I think they clarify my position, which is more sympathetic than you realize. The tone of my post had more to do with the fact that I've checked out a number of reality dating shows and am just not a fan of the genre, no matter the orientation of the star or contestants, than anything else. And believe me, I do know that there are problems facing transgendered people that gay men like myself will never have to deal with.

But don't blame me for the whole "boy with a vagina" business. I believe it was transgender porn star Buck Angel who promotes himself as "the man with a pussy," dealing wth his reality in a way that works for him, but may not work for others.

I'm aware that we're all fundamentally human beings above everything else. At the same time -- while I agree that bigotry is no laughing matter -- there IS humor in some aspects of being gay, bi, transgender etc. and our inter-actions with each other. Life is tough enough without being able to laugh at ourselves and each other in a way that is not meant to be hurtful but can, unfortunately, be interpreted as such by people who are going through ordeals we may know nothing about. It's called life and at different times it's harder for others. But a sense of humor can help you get through anything.

All the best