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They Slushied Unique!

Unique slushiedWell, it looks like they went ahead and shitcanned Unique, the first trans character on ‘Glee’. Relax everyone, this wasn’t an anti-trans thing where they quietly shoved out Alex Newell and then leaked a story to the gossip rags about “creative differences” while publically touting that he went on to pursue new opportunities. They also shitcanned the rest of the hated new class as well: Marley, Other Puck, New Quinn, and that gangly kid. Clearly they were all memorable, but none so much as Unique.

For those of you familiar with my other posts, most of them written in my young and fiery days as a newly transitioning woman, full of vim and vigor, piss and vinegar, and vitameatavegamin, I’ve gone on and on about Glee quite a bit. I was elated when they introduced Unique, had some heartache about the way they explained the character, defended her against conservative bullies like O’Reilly, but overall kept up the gushing. That was then. Now, after the fabulous 100th episode and a lackluster gay bashing very special episode, I’m somewhat incensed and want you to join me in my misery.

A quick aside, like I never do. I’m glad Ryan Murphy tackled the still very relevant topic of gay bashing. I am. But holy shit, could the show have done a shittier job of it? While I’m 100% certain this still takes place in tolerant old NYC, and probably every day, but by a couple of good old boys in a battered old pickup? I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a pickup truck in New York City. Assuming they aren’t there on vacation, I would think it would be remarkably easy to track down these losers. Just look for the only pickup registered to Jim Bob Jethro on Manhattan and go arrest the sonofabitch. I think it’s a safe bet that it was probably him. Aside from that, even the event itself lacked the emotional depth we had long grown used to.

Remember when the show had Karofsky, the closeted gay bully who forced Kurt to change schools, then later got bullied himself by the evil leader of the Warblers and tried to commit suicide? I just described three episodes in one sentence that made me cry. Or when Kurt’s dad had the heart attack and Kurt sang to him? Or Quinn giving up her baby? Even Grilled Cheezus had more heart and he was just a sandwich. This was my thought process while the credits rolled. Glee no longer has any heart, and without heart, the apathy grows.

OK, I’m going to stop waxing nostalgic for the evil Vocal Adrenaline, lovely guidance pamphlets like “You and Your Hag, the Zizes-Puckerman romance, and guest stars with awesome names like Brian Ryan. And the slushies. Oh, the slushies. These stories are done and told. That’s fine, turn the page and life goes on. But they still had a character they could have used to inject some life back in to the show, that in my opinion, really died with the Mighty Finn. Unique still had a story to tell and huge challenges to overcome. Given the history of the show, it really wouldn’t have been all that hard to grant her early admission to NYADA and stick her in the unrealistically spacious Manhattan loft with the drearily self-involved remaining cast.

To Ryan Murphy and the writers of Glee, I thank you for the awesome work you did, especially in the area of promoting LGBT issues to the great unwashed. I think your efforts went a long way toward bringing America to the tipping point on rights and equality and no one can ever take that away from you. At the same time, you just brought your beloved platform into ‘Saved by the Bell: The College Years’ territory, or worse yet, ‘Showgirls’, and it just breaks my heart to see it. No longer unique, no longer effervescent, like a ginger ale that sat open on the counter for a good week, please, close your eyes and have a slushie on me.

Trans as “Personal Truth”? Thanks For the Screw Over, Glee

Ryder vs Unique

“No you’re not, you’re a guy” Oh, the words we so love to hear, especially when someone’s gaze at the same time is focused 30 degrees below our chin. Because I managed to go several months now without mentioning ‘Glee’, the writers responded to the doubtless flagging viewership and decided to shove something in there guaranteed to inspire me to write about. Well, probably not, but I’m glad they brought it up anyway as this horribly cold March is leaving me grasping at straws to come up with good topics every three days. For that I thank them.

In case your regular viewing has strayed from quality programming and you spend the time watching shows about people who make duck calls, use coupons, or toss out precociously loveable zingers from double wide trailers, I’ll catch you up. Last week on ‘Glee’ we got to witness a confrontation between Unique, the mega star in the making trans girl, and Ryder, one of the new characters who is catching on as fast as ‘Saved By The Bell, the New Class’. I doubt even Screech could bring out his best. In this episode, Ryder takes the position that Unique is “really a guy” in spite of being told point blank that she is a “proud black woman” and refuses to back down. For the record, the rest of the characters, except for Sue Sylvester, have no trouble understanding Unique for who she is. I was super glad they decided to tackle this. At first.

As usual, I’m going to tangent off to the left for a moment, if for no other reason than to avoid making this a sketchy re-write of the Wikipedia recap of the same. This point hits home for most, if not all, trans people because it speaks to one of our greatest challenges. No matter how we educate those around us, and no matter how we appear, attempting to overcome that lingering mindset that we are “really a…” is both heartbreaking and infuriating. Even those who claim to understand, who want to understand, and may have stood solidly by us the entire time often have trouble wrapping their heads around this.

Very recently, this happened to me yet again. I was explaining to a co-worker, who has been incredible in every respect to my transition, how I had decided to dorm for college because I like to be in total control of my own personal space. This was a little more pressing before I was out, and I’ve since calmed down about it. He replied off the cuff that, “of course you would, like any guy.” My hackles went up immediately. Uh, guy? He attempted to backpedal quickly. “Well, I mean you were a guy at the time.” No, not even then, in spite of appearances. He finally attempted to rectify by comparing me to his daughter who was the same way.

I know there was no deliberate attempt to hurt my feelings. I know he isn’t transphobic, or expressed even the slightest bit of resistance to my change in appearance. What it did though was give me insight into an internal mental space that hadn’t quite made the change over quite yet. Granted, he did know me for a little over ten years as ‘Mike’, but it’s now been 8 months since I have appeared as ‘Mike’ anywhere, much less here at work. I have to wonder how many others still think of me internally as ‘dude’? I clearly have a lot more work ahead of me on a front I fooled myself in thinking was won early on and now a distant memory.

Getting back to ‘Glee’. Well, as glad as I am that they broached the subject and brought it into the mainstream consciousness, I think they flubbed it in the end. After attempting to resolve the issue in the worst possible venue, a sing off, understanding is pushed to Ryder via groupthink. The message? Unique has a different personal truth than Ryder. OK, not what I was hoping to see here. True, in Gleeland a musical mash up usually is enough to win a campaign for hearts and minds, especially when perfectly timed, choreographed, and with shifting changes of venue and wardrobe that may or may not supposed to be really happening. Let’s put that aside and go with the whole ‘personal truth’ thing.

Personal truth is a great concept for disparate opinions that cannot be independently verified. It’s a good compromise along the lines of ‘my orange juice tastes better than yours’ when you have one person calling Jesus the one and only, and another party proclaiming that Buddha is where it’s at. In these cases ‘personal truth’ is a good fallback position to avoid another ‘Taste’s great! Less filling!’ campaign that resorts in untold death, destruction, and still no clear answer like the Great Bud Light War of latter 20th century.

The inherent danger of taking this position is that it all becomes very subjective. Sure you feel you are female, but I feel you are not, and therefore my opinion is equally valid. In most cases of this type, however, both truths are not at all equally valid. If I contend an antibiotic will improve a bacterial infection, and you hold that going to a faith healer is equally valid, I’m reasonably sure the numbers are going to weigh heavily in my favor, no matter what your personal truth is. If the question of trans is handled in the manner of a personal truth, the results are going to be compared to the faith healer by anyone who wants to express doubt for whatever reason.

I would have been much happier if Glee addressed this by pointing to the validation provided by the medical, psychological, and psychiatric communities and the specific reasoning as to why this is nearly universally recognized by scientific bodies as reality. Instead, millions of viewers were left with a very milk toast namby-pamby kind of reasoning that anyone looking to doubt our existence is all too happy to jump on. So glad they brought it up, but really wishing they would have put some more thought into it.

Unique and the Grouchy Old Fool

Something about Bill O’Reilly really pisses me off. I’d say it’s hard to put my finger on it, but it’s kind of already there and hard to deny. I know, I could be talking about anything right now, can’t I? This time it’s about the character Unique on ‘Glee’. How have I avoided talking about last spring’s latest diversity inclusion on my favorite progressive hit TV show? I must be off my game or something.

For you culturally confounding people who read my blog, but for some reason don’t watch ‘Glee’, I’ll explain a bit. The main cast of characters, the one’s you see in all the promos and commercials, has a rival group called Vocal Adrenaline. VA is housed conveniently a few blocks away from our chirpy band of misfits in this forgotten corner of Ohio that somehow produces a multitude of nationally renowned glee clubs at the high school level. A new superstar emerges at VA, encouraged by rivals, who belts out numbers that would make Diana Ross gnash her teeth in jealous rage. The new star, using Unique as a stage name, is revealed to occupy a male existence off stage.

It hasn’t yet been made clear if Unique is a transsexual figuring herself out, or a stage drag queen who is comfortable with a male identity at all other times. Plenty of time to explore that. Either way, anyone under the trans umbrella is a welcome addition. It took TV land long enough to break the race barrier, along with the interracial relationship barrier, and far longer to crack the gay barrier, but it looks like our turn has finally come around. I seriously don’t count goofy gender bending for laughs schtick like ‘Bosom Buddies’ or the short lived ‘Work It’.

As expected, conservative pundits declared the ruination of America, which makes perfect sense after ‘The Jefferson’s’ and ‘Will and Grace’ somehow failed in that regard. I mean something is bound to topple us into Armageddon, so it might as well be an African-American kid in drag. Old Bill O’Reilly spoke out in defense of our nation’s youth and shamed the Fox network of all people, for providing an example for impressionable young children to follow straight toward the hot and rusty gates of Hell. Wait… what?

I’ll admit, I don’t know his personal history and I’m not in the mood to Wikipedia him to see his youthful accomplishments as a scrappy stickball player from Hell’s Kitchen, or the real life inspiration for hit 80’s show ‘Silver Spoons’. For all I know he was created from dust into the form of a disagreeable old curmudgeon we see today and thus knows not the ways of American male youth culture. Those of us who do, however, are dead certain that putting on a dress is not the path to bona fide stud muffin popularity. Yes, at some point things might change as they often do, but I really think that it’s a stretch to say that a boy in a skirt has got the Vegas odds of becoming prom king. Male youth popularity is firmly rooted in the paradigm that girls have to want you and other boys have to want to be like you. Most girls are just never going to want the guy in the dress and most boys are never going to want to go that distance to emulate him, no matter how cool he might be in other areas.

Assuming this is true, and it is, what the hell is Mr Bill going on about? “Oh nooo! Kids are going to start taking the least effective ever road to popularity! Oh noooo!” My older readers are going to get that, but if you don’t, you are probably too young and let it be. What he is really crying about of course is that mass exposure to something not well understood at large works in favor of making it OK. When someone lives by pat little truisms like “girls are girls and boys are boys” have their diminutive orderly worldview challenged by real life complexity, they get a little grumpy. They are now forced into the position of either reconsidering their position and putting some honest hard thought and research into an issue, or jumping up and down and insisting that danger and ruin lay in wait.

We all understand that Unique is a welcome addition to our viewing pleasure. We all know that no straight boy, comfortable in his male gender identity, is going to be inspired to raid mom’s closet for her best chiffon and start belting out show tunes. We also know that there are kids watching, lounging on the couch and doing their very best to look disinterested, who know there is something deep inside of them that is wrong and different. Seeing Unique might make them feel just a little less alone, a little less of a freak in hiding, and spark a tiny ray of hope. Sometimes that is really all a person needs to decide to keep living one more day.

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