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Another Trans Celebrity? … Crap. Well, That’s Just Great

CelebrityMy spouse, an ardent follower of celebrity gossip, forwarded me a blind item the other day. By blind I don’t mean the person mentioned was blind, but that the name of the person is currently being withheld by the person writing the story, presumably either for liability or complete fabrication reasons. Anyway, as the story goes, the lead singer from an uber-popular band with a boatload of hits in the 90’s, who is married to a super model/ actress or actress/ model, is undergoing gender transition and making a documentary of it along the way. My immediate reaction was a little sour. Great, now I’m going to be bumped down one to being the 24,753rd most influential trans person. Just fucking wonderful. My chances of getting a Wikipedia entry just became a bit more slim. So, let’s dish about trans celebrities, as I gnaw on my bitter bone of discontent.

I think none of us has failed to notice the sudden rise in individuals of full blown, or at least quasi, celebrity status undergoing gender transition. I mean, sure, it’s not exactly unheard of, what with Alexis Arquette, Calpernia Addams, and Andrea James bouncing around since the late 90’s/ early 00’s, but in spite of some amazing talent in that mix, they weren’t exactly making headlines. Then the teens hit and it’s a full blown eruption. Chaz Bono, Laura Jane Grace, Janet Mock, Lana Wachowski, and Chelsea Manning. OK, the celebrity thing is a stretch with Chelsea, but she was still a household name before she came out after the conviction. It’s a wonderful thing, right? A massive injection of trans awareness into the public sphere; bold inoculation against full blown ignorance and demographic degradation.

Here’s the thing that makes me just a tiny bit nervous. Since 1954, I don’t think one parent ever leaned over to their child looking wide eyed up at the movie screen and said, “See those people up there child? You do whatever you can to find out what they do, and dad-gum, you do the same thing.” Famous people hold our fascination almost completely for the train-wreck factor. The tabloids make billions off of the meltdowns of young starlets and crushing indiscretions. Amanda Bynes will always trump the juicy bit that Ron Pearlman likes to make his own quilts with hand ticking on Friday nights. Nobody cares about the good stuff; just those wacky zany antics. DUIs, domestic assaults, head shavings, gender transitions… I think you see my point.

Now, I’m not saying that the general public is going to suddenly think that being transgender is just another crazy trend sweeping Hollywood. I am worried, however, that people are going to get a bit of a misrepresentation. I’m sure serious practitioners of Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism were not super excited when Madonna and other celebs jumped on board and made a very old, deep and rich quest for spiritual understanding look like a fashion trend. Not exactly the same thing, but you get my point. Suddenly years of focused study, prayer and meditation appear to be replaced with slapping on a red string bracelet and everyone is equal.

I’m not saying being transgender is not tremendously difficult for anyone; Hollywood, one-percenters (the rich ones, not the crank fueled hog rider ones), and others. The same crushing fear, emotional difficulties, and painful coming out process definitely applies. The problem is that the general audience doesn’t really see all that. Unlike movies where we get a nice montage set to ominous music when someone is struggling with a seemingly insurmountable issue, the real anguish is off stage and in the back somewhere. In spite of tearful Oprah interviews, the main perception is that so-and-so was a dude and now appears to be a chick. Good for them. Go so-and-so! You can barely tell he… I mean she… used to be a dude! It sure doesn’t hurt to have ample funds, private doctors and surgeons, and at-will time off  to manage these huge changes. I pretty much see this ship docking in the port of, “Everyone and their brother is changing genders, Michelle. Doesn’t seem to be a thing to it, so what the hell have you been crabbing about?”

So… yeah. I think it’s good that transgender people who live in the public limelight are demonstrating the tremendous courage it takes to embrace their true selves. They are our sisters and brothers just as all trans people are, and any one of them would be very welcome at one of my meetings; not as a celebrity, but a trans person just like the rest of us seeking community. At the same time I wish they would acknowledge and promote the fact that while their inner difficulties are the same, that it might be just a little harder if they also had to worry about becoming unemployable or unable to fund any of the treatment they need in order to feel like a complete person. They helped the world understand that transgender is a real thing, but now I would love it if they expanded the message that it is also a hard thing.

By the way, I’m very much hoping that the person referenced in the first paragraph turns out to be John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls. He’s official Buffalo NY Royalty and we sure could use him (or her?) on the team. I mean, who could pen a song like ‘Iris’ without a female spirit? Maybe he’d even play at our annual holiday party to his smallest ever audience of 8 to 11 people. I can dream, can’t I?

About michellelianna

I'm a transgender woman now in the maintenance stages of transition having all the electrolysis and surgery one can reasonably be expected to undertake. While busy exploring my new world, I took to blogging about it with dubiously popular results. I don't have quite as much to say as I used to, but I'm not quite done yet either.

7 responses »

  1. Celebrities go the other way as well. I was watching some local morning news thing on the w/e and they were interviewing the real Allison DuBois and they were talking about nothing much in particular and then she came out with something about one of her clients whose husband “was carrying on with those transgenders – men who dress up as women”.


    • That’s always so nice, isn’t it? Ugh. Just have to chalk it up to celebs also existing in the range between astoundingly brilliant to unbelievably moronic or ignorant. Thanks for commenting so often Laura and so sorry I’m the absolute worst at timely replies! 🙂

  2. Ah, get annoyed with celebs, because it seems like they’re “safe” from all the crap the rest of us get. Got so tired of people posting “BREAKING NEWS” about Lana Wachowski’s “coming out”. As a Matrix fan it was OLD NEWS to me, and seemed timed to coincide with that film release – in other words, SPIN.

    So yeah, pleased for them, but can they please fuck off now?

  3. Celebrities that transition are bad news to us. They give the general public a view of how nice and perfect a transgender’s life is. Just the other day I was feeling down about my finances when my sister attempted to make me feel better by mentioning that there are so many people like myself in the news or on tv that are successful. That hurt, I explained that these people have money, fans and friends beating down their doors. I mentioned that I don’t get my daily high by going shopping on Rodeo Drive or have people proposing to me on a daily basis, I’m a 61 yr old trans-lesbian, so I asked her if she had any idea of how many lesbian women (not butch)were interested in someone like me? I then told her that I feel that genetic women seem threatened by me. It appears that most people now think that it’s cool.” Not so”. Nobody understands that I waited 27,000 days or over 1/2 a million hours to become who I truly am, while people cant wait 5 minutes in a lineup. People cant understand what it’s like to cry every night because of hurting or loosing family and friends. Stepping out of a body and jumping into a new body isn’t an easy task, the shell is different but the old life is still there between our ears and that’s what tares us apart, minute by minute day by day. I had a discussion the other day with a trans-woman like myself and the question came up “Would you do it again? we both answer simultaneously “NO” I replied that had I known about the impact it made, that I would of taken the easier way out.
    So celebrities please do us a favour and quietly back out of the limelight and transition, become that nice lady that lives next door and live the full facts of your new life.
    Oh by the way “Good Luck”

  4. A person has a talent and is a public figure. That person also happens to be transgender. How does that person go about living their life if they choose to transition?. How does one go about that transition and not ending up as the most recent de facto spokesperson for the transgender community (as chosen by tabloids or news outlets)?
    I have a lot of respect for how several of the celebrities mentioned in the article regarding how they were able to live their life, find their transition, and not make a publicity spectacle out of it all. I happen to particularly admire how Lana Wachowski and Laura Jane Grace have held up under public scrutiny of their gender issues. To be a public figure or performer does by virtue of needing an audience sacrifice ones’ personal privacy.
    So to me I see it as the trade-off between resources and privacy. And that asks the question ‘Is it worth it?” I know for me that having more money to help with my transition wouldn’t be worth the responsibility of being crowned Miss Trans Spokesmodel, 2013. Props to those who can!

  5. I haven’t yet reached the point where I consider transgendered TG celebrities as a negative thing. I’m not sure how much of a positive effect that they are either. Having the finances to pay for all of the counseling and procedures involved with a total sexual reassignment would make it easier than what I was able to scrape together. I got the basics done, but the extra touches, like facial and throat surgeries still await my discovery of my pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. My take on the additional publicity that a trans celebrity receives versus the general TG person can often be negative….. After one or two interviews has been done, there is really nothing new or different to say, so limit the interviews. Too much exposure leads to the ‘shrugging of the shoulders’ that you mentioned in your post, Michellelianna. As the writer of the previous post talked about, being able to educate and inform a person, or a group, is
    a wonderful thing, and I have done that numerous times–including at beauty salons. I thoroughly enjoy visiting with people who actually want to know about me and all I went through. The information given in a smaller setting can educate much more effectively that can an interview on national television because you have the full attention of the person(s) you are talking with.

    Going back to what the previous commenter discussed when she asked “the panties weren’t a clue?”………. People such as cosmetologists, nurses, physicians have all seen pretty much
    everything. I learned that as I moved along the rocky road to my eventual transition. They notice things like the panties, but they really can’t comment—unless you bring it up first. Often you may find that they have interacted with others with similar thoughts and feelings. As a general thing, they don’t mind listening if they have time since it gives them a better perspective for the next trans person that they come into contact with.

    I really enjoy reading your posts, Michellelianna. You have an amazing insight to accompany your gift of language. You write from conviction, and from your heart. I only wish that I could express myself as fluently.


  6. Personally, I think it’s a good thing. Every one of us who comes out and makes the news, and those are liable to be celebrities, puts the word on the page. For myself, once in a position to be exposed to it, I was astounded at the magnitude of the LGBTQ community in my locale. Prior to that, I personally knew only one gay person, and we of course never discussed it; it was just a fact about the guy, and no big deal. I am not a young person, so to have spent decades curtained off from a major element of our society probably means not a lot of hubbub was going on about it, or I just wasn’t paying attention. Big, big news when Ellen DeGeneres came out, and then to be in a relationship with Portia deRossi… OMG. But it got “regular” people talking and thinking, and in some cases, accepting. Not everybody, naturally. But maybe enough to take some of the stigma out of it.

    I had a treatment at a medical spa yesterday during which two young ladies were required to take my measurements. I was instructed to take off all my clothing down to my underwear. I asked, Just the underwear? The reply was that if I had a bra on, that could stay too. Wow… did they make me as trans that easily? I was in boy mode, but I wear panties daily, and had on a very pretty pair in black with hot pink lace trim. When they returned and I was in most of my glory, neither of them flinched. As a matter of fact, the one recording the measurements the other was taking gave me a broad smile of approval. I said something cute about the bra comment to the effect I wear one depending on the outfit. Chuckles resulted. When the recorder left, and I was placed on the table for the treatment, the girl taking care of me was making small talk, so I asked if they get a lot of transpersons coming through. She looked kind of surprised and said she wouldn’t have known had I not said anything. I said, Honestly? The panties weren’t a clue? And so began a fabulous conversation during which I was able to give her a lot more information about transpeople than she’d had. Not to mention I got a lot of super make up tips from her, as she had originally trained in cosmetology under the auspices of an instructor who also happened to be a drag queen. Small world.

    So keep those celebs coming. News is still education, and knowledge is power.


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