Thursday, February 6, 2014

"I'm Not Aware Of Too Many Things, I Know What I Know, If You Know What I Mean"

By Kara Tucker

Just this morning, I posted my views on two days' worth of Piers Morgan and Janet Mock here.
One aspect mentioned in passing in that piece was the belief of others that Morgan is a great LGBT ally. That view seems to be expressed mostly by the LGB part of the acronym.
Today, America Blog editor John Aravosis, a long-time gay advocate, weighed in.
As you can see, just from the headline, Aravosis is not on the same page as a lot of folks with the T in LGBT.
The initial Morgan interview was not "amazingly pro-transgender."
It is not "amazingly pro-transgender" to put a graphic that says "was a boy until age 18" for entirely length of the entire interview.
It is not "amazingly pro-transgender" to ask a question about informing a partner of your trans history and basically framing it as part of a "you were a dude!" narrative.
It is not "amazingly pro-transgender" to tell a trans woman that she is so pretty that you can't tell she's trans. It's problematic. It would be problematic if someone interviewing Aravosis said, "Just talking to you, I'd never be able to know you're gay."
Aravosis has a checkered history when it comes to his views on trans issues, most notably when he threw the trans community under the bus on ENDA in 2007. But, that was over six years. People can learn, grow and evolve, perhaps educate themselves about the role trans women played at Stonewall.
But if he believes that the initial interview was "amazingly pro-transgender" or, as he puts it here...

...then he clearly has more to learn.
True, there's no denying that Morgan used words like "courageous" and "remarkable", but in context of a narrative that isn't as gushing as Aravosis claims.
The author also betrays a lack of understanding of how the situation unfolded, saying "But those comments earned Morgan a multi-day harangue online, and utter evisceration from trans-right advocates and Mock herself.
To call what Mock said "utter evisceration" is to have no clue as to what the term means. Mock was pointing out that the characterization and how the story was packaged was incorrect and incomplete.
Aravosis talks about what he suspects what trans people are thinking, but admits that he has no idea what Janet Mock was unhappy about.
He refers to another recent interview in which the host, Katie Couric, also had some problematic moments.
stepped in
In Aravosis' view, Couric was "attacked for doing a different interview with a trans woman that was, again, incredibly supportive."
Couric meant well, but she also fell into the trap of focusing too much on the genitals and surgery. To gloss it off such questioning as what "most people think about" when it comes to trans people is to be rather reductive to trans people's humanity.
It's one thing to have it be part of the story, but there's a point where one wants to say, "Okay, can we move on now?"
I'm sure Aravosis would be less than thrilled if an interviewer, no matter how "brave and remarkable" they called him, kept pressing him about his personal tastes, right down to his favorite positions, in the bedroom since it seems like that's the extent of a lot of people's views about how gay men live their lives.
What's more important -- what's under Laverne Cox's dress or the efforts she's doing to tell the story of CeCe McDonald?
I realize that gay rights and the knowledge of gay people's lives is farther ahead than the discussion of trans rights and trans people's rights, but at some point, we have to move past Trans 101. The teaching moments can only happen if people actually learn.
Mock's tweets actually could have been a teachable moment, had Morgan actually listened instead of insisting he was right.
Therein lies another problem with Aravosis' piece, he leaves it at the first interview and the reaction of Mock and other trans folk.
He glosses over Morgan firing back at Mock, at his calling trans folk who questioned him "STUPID" (all caps) and "dimwits" and he doesn't even talk about the follow-up interview.
The piece was posted at 3:48 p.m. Thursday, the day after Mock's second appearance.
Aravosis seemed to excuse Morgan's response on Twitter, telling another user, "In all seriousness, what happens is that you have like 200 people be dicks to you, then when you finally get dicky in response..everyone only sees that one tweet of yours, and says, man you're being a dick."
He also said, "He just did the biggest softball interview in history, and got blasted for it, so I'm not surprised that he responded a bit annoyed."
Judging by Aravosis' written words in the piece, Mock was an eviscerator while Morgan was besieged and his response was unsurprising because...

In other words, Morgan didn't need to paint himself the victim, Aravosis is doing it for him.
The piece doesn't bother to examine that trans-free panel discussion in which three non-trans people, included a man on record calling a trans rights bill sick and proper care of trans children "child abuse" having a loud voice.
In the end, the article reads as one long bit of tone policing. Aravosis says most of America doesn't know about trans people (he's right) and that he doesn't know everything (right again).
But that doesn't stop him from telling the people he doesn't know about fully how to act, even though he doesn't understand their lives, their truths. He's content to call Morgan a "staunch ally" (talk about throwing a softball) and say those who dare criticize him are "ripping (Morgan's) head off."
Another Twitter user asked Aravosis about it. He responded.
Well, forgive me, but it doesn't strike me as particularly "pro-trans" to completely mischaracterize how Mock and Morgan acted and to not write about the story as a whole, ignoring the second night altogether.
Aravosis might have moved forward and learned about trans people since 2007, but he has farther to go. A lot farther.
I hope I wasn't too "eviscerating" in saying that.

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