Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Transgender Bashing on Lost Girl

Perhaps it's because Twitter blew up with the following story last week:

Julie Burchill Transgender Column Causes Firestorm For The Observer

Her original piece, which the Observer pulled, can be found here.

But this past week, as I was watching the mid-season premiere of Lost Girl, I couldn't help but wonder what the frak had happened to one of my favorite shows. Given television production schedules, this episode was shot months ago, so perhaps it's just unfortunate timing that this episode airs during this controversy.

Lost Girl is a Canadian produced science fiction program that airs on the SyFy Channel and has, in the past, been applauded for it's portrayal of gay and bisexual relationships. The lead character, Bo, is a succubus and her two main relationships on screen have been with a man, Dyson and with a woman, Lauren. The show's plot is that fairies are real (the fae) and exist side by side with humans. There are light and dark fae, and Bo, who has only recently realized she is fae, chooses to remain unaligned and instead works as a private investigator for both sides. Both  of Bo's relationships have been given equal time, screen wise, and have been treated with dignity. Bo's other sexual relationships have shown (or been shown) with no bias as to the gender of her partners.

So I was shocked at the recent episode, "Caged Fae". The episode starts with Bo robbing a bank, acting out, and being arrested and sent to Fae Prison- Hecuba Prison, an all female prison run by Amazon guards. During the show, the anti-men stance of the Amazons is revealed, and the fact that they only breed every five years, and then when they deliver, the girl children are raised, while the male children are abandoned.
It turns out that Bo is undercover at the prison to find out what has happened to Lauren's mentor, Dr. Everett who was the prison doctor. Bo discovers that someone is faking release papers for the female prisoners, drugging them, impregnating them with some "super vitamin" (?)  keeping them in solitary confinement until they deliver, and then wiping their memories before putting them back into the prison population.

It's the prison warden's portrayal though that is disturbing, all on its own, but certainly in light of the recent hate mongering towards transgenders. The prison warden is portrayed as a black leather, corset wearing, tall, blond female who is the leader of the Amazons that run the prison, and stands in stark contrast to the black and white uniforms that the rest of the Amazons wear throughout the episode.


The resolution of the "Caged Fae" episode was that Bo realizes with her succubus superpowers that the prison warden (who is never named) is actually a male, a male son of an Amazon that was abandoned, and yet managed to survive. The Amazon guards feel betrayed, and drag him/her off so that they can enact their own justice for his/her crimes.
There are multiple issues with the portrayal of the prison warden:
  • the portrayal of a transgender as a clownish S&M figure
  • that a transgender character who is a man---> woman, is played by a woman, Sarain Boylan
  • the transgender character is not named, is not fleshed out, in fact is presented only as a stereotype cut out
  • this transgender character is portrayed as raping, imprisoning, and then brain washing young women
The fact that this episode ends with Bo cementing her lesbian relationship with Lauren makes this episode even more problematic. I was confused, and as a fan, felt betrayed that a show that had been so great about showing relationships that stood on their own, versus prejudicing them against which gender was involved, would  feature an episode that's focus was hate mongering.
The assumption that transgenders are deviants, capable only of torture and rape, the idea that they must be destroyed for the greater good, is a horrible idea. I can't believe any show, let alone one that has been honored by GLAAD for its portrayal of gay/bisexual relationships would feature this kind of storyline. The implication seems worse- that transgenders are somehow not accorded the same rights as gay, lesbian, bisexuals, that even "that" community ostracizes them.

Surprisingly, this focus in the episode got little attention on the show's main discussion board, with most people justifying the portrayal because
  • "He was in disguise. He was in drag. He was a transvestite. He was not a transgender MF"  
  • "The Fae that was impregnating the prisoners was a trickster Fae disguised as a female to have access to as many women as he could rape." 
  • One of the most hateful things that was mentioned in the few, brief posts was the following, "Besides, the transgendered thing is fairly uncommon enough that its depictions in media are few enough that its not likely to reflect too much on the actual people." 
  • Another stated that "Well, people looking to be offended will certainly find plenty in this episode to complain about". 
  • Out of the thirty-four posts about this episode, only five mentioned the prison warden as a transgendered character, and three out of those five responded vehemently to a transwoman who stated that "Yes I am sensitive because I'm sick and tired of trans women being used as vilians or jokes and not much else. Oh and the dismissal of a trans woman as just a guy in drag also ****** me off. If you haven's already guessed I am a trans woman and am sick and tired of this ***** and being told I'm overly sensitive." 
  • Her comments were ignored.
The posters for the most part ignored reading the prison warden as transgendered, and instead sought to explain away the character. Which also bothered me. Except for the one transwoman poster, Mansquito, no one else seemed to have a problem with the prison warden's portrayal, and almost all dismissed reading the character as transgendered. I think the only thing worse than a horrible portrayal is explaining away the portrayal as not relevant.
The fact that the episode was an "homage" to 1970s prison sexploitation films got more traction amongst fans than the transgender portrayal. 

When is this going to end? When are we going to realize that people are people, are people. Everyone deserves to be left alone about their personal choices, and deserves to be shown as a fully fleshed out, three dimensional person instead of a cardboard cutout. That people deserve to be happy, and loved, no matter who they choose to love, or how they choose to identify themselves.

Perhaps I'm naive, and I know all the evidence is to the contrary, but I am always shocked by people's hatred, by their blind spewing of vile insults against people they don't know. It's like a gut punch. That's certainly how I felt when I read Burchill's filth earlier this week. I was actually pretty horrified that a newspaper would print it- it seemed better suited to the dark corners of the Interweb, wherever crazy people spew their hatred and garbage. The fact that the response, the outrage of the general population, was so slow, seemed only to reinforce that even "liberals" considered transgenders outside of the lines, fair game for ridicule, somehow not worthy of the same respect and dignity as others.
I'll tell you what, I rather be naive, and be shocked and horrified at events such as these than ever exist in a world that views anyone as lesser.

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