Bil Browning

Tribeca's crossdressing lawyer/hooker

Filed By Bil Browning | February 28, 2008 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: crossdressing, hookers, prostitute, sex worker, transgender, Tribeca Film Festival

Discuss. It's a busy day, but I didn't want to leave you hanging.


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That is really disgusting.
All of the crossdressers i know, and i know a lot wouldn't be ought dead hooking.

The very fact that you would even think of posting that as a serious subject for comment shows you have no concept whatsoever what gender variance is about.
Of all the people here contributers and commenters I am the only one who has a finger on the pulse of the CD community, it is nothing like that.

This is so typical of Gay Men.


Sue

Oh, Bil, Bil, Bil. I'm with Sue. I realize it's intended to be funny, light, and harmless, but it reinforces stereotypes of trans people as prostitutes. I can't say I like it any more than I thought the faux game show "Are You Smarter Than A Tranny Hooker?" was good fun on the Big Gay Sketch Show on LOGO.

Um, hello? What makes you think he posted it because it was funny? It's an open thread... that means discussion. Seriously, talk about jumping the gun.
I think it's incredibly transphobic and stupid. What's the point?

[EDITOR'S NOTE:] This comment has been removed for violating the Terms of Service agreement. -Bil

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Sue,

Contrary to popular belief, I do not walk on water nor do I endorse every video put up here. In fact, we often put up things that we think are homophobic, sexist or transphobic just so we can talk about them.

We have a site where two popular topics have been prostitution and transgender people. This video deals with both issues. That makes it ripe for conversation.

Now climb off your high horse, stop being insulting and either join/start a real conversation. As I said, I'm busy today so I'm hoping you'll behave. *crosses fingers*

Yah okay..
I know it's hard as hell to apologize isn't it.

Y'all want people to be respectful of you.
That works both ways Sir.

Have a Hell of a Nice day Sir.

Shit. She's at it again. How often do we have to hear her hate speeches? Since I posted, she will attach me next. Just watch.

Marti, Bil, AirMonica and others who have been constantly attacked by some people on this list. I was discussing with my Pastor, Paul Turner, on various things that had happened, some on this list.

I asked him if other leaders in other communities face the same things that leaders in the transgender community face. Horizontal hatred, he called it. He gave me a very stark example. He said that even someone as beloved as Dr. King is today had African-American people during his day who totally hated him. Stokey Carmichael and Malcolm X are two of the well known ones.

Along those same lines, I had a conversation with Jamison Green early on in my activism. I heard of someone who totally hated him. I had always had heard nothing but good things about him, so this other person's comments shocked me. Jamison said that if you spend any time as an activist and you don't have people in the community who hate you, then you aren't doing anything right. Based on that, Marti, Autumn Sandeen, Becky, Bil, AirMonica and myself must be doing something REAL right.

Pastor Paul said that the bottom line is that you keep doing what you know is right, and those other people become irrelevant. His words have helped to make the attacks and hateful language less of an issue in my life.

Marti is right. We need to have a serious discussion about this video. It is not funny. This reminds me of what happened in Las Vegas in August when the DNC had a major gathering of the minorities in the DNC. In the beginning, they had a Power Point presentation where they told about how to counter the various Republican candidates running at the time.

After a few people were put up on the screen, the put up a picture of Rudy Giuliani in drag. The straight audience laughed. I got up to make a comment on how showing that picture belittles the transgender community, but before I could say anything, a gay man from Colorado got up to express the same thing.

Things like this video is the very thing that not only belittles and makes transgender people look foolish, but the "Humor" bleeds over to the gay community. This kind of thing doesn't help any of us.

Actually this crossdresser respects the hell out of the work Marti, the two Monicas and others-who-been-routinely-attacked here do, including Bil. And I beg to differ Sue that you have the pulse on the CD community, nor are the only one who can speak for us. I can speak very well for myself thank you -- and for that matter I do only claim to speak for myself and not all crossdressers. (At most, I'll relay what I've heard said by other crossdressers I know/I encounter in forums I'm member of.)

Now much as I hate "me too" posts, I'd like get this thread back to the original focus and discuss the video... as Jillian said, it was undoubtedly meant to be edgy and funny, but it's belittling and reinforces stereotypes that all trans people are prostitutes. The key is that we're not laughing with lawyer/hooker, we're meant to be laughing at her.

And yeah, it hurts more when it comes from folks who undoubtedly would be horrified at equivalent humor involving other minorities. Do you think they would've done an ad showing a black lawyer who moonlights as a crack dealer? Or a female attorney who moonlights as a hooker? I thought not.

The key is that we're not laughing with lawyer/hooker, we're meant to be laughing at her.

And yeah, it hurts more when it comes from folks who undoubtedly would be horrified at equivalent humor involving other minorities.

Bingo, Lena.

And this is the Tribeca Film Festival? I mean, we can all agree that TFF is not the bastion of conservative thought... So what the hell happened here?

All i want to see is some respect given to CD's.
I found the video disrespectful, i have been the president and vice president of the oldest transgender group in SanDiego Neutral Corner.
those terms spanned four years. Neutral corner is fifty percent CD with the other fifty percent TS and TG. To say i don't have my finger on the pulse of the CD community and i don't mean the fantasy community that exists on the inter but real people who get together every month for soical and support activities makes me laugh.
CD's are always the but of jokes in the TG and gay communities and are considered by some "activists" to be the lowest form of life, because they choose not to out themselves.

Lena is right there needs to be a serious discussion and perhaps a more respectful policy here regarding the treatment of CD's ...
while you are at it some education regarding tolerance needs to be conveyed to a few contributers.

Take care
Sue

Just wanted to add that the truly sad thing is that the ad's joke about jaded New Yorkers could have just as easily been accomplished with a positive portrayal. For example, the crossdressing lawyer could have out for a walk with her wife, who she introduces to the mother with her kids, who is equally blase about it all.

FYI, the ad was for the 2006 festival, not the one coming in April.

There are several crossdressers who are activists. TAVA's VP and Treasurer are active in their communities and nationally. Other national and local organizations have active crossdressers who participate in lobbying, local activities and other things to help the transgender community. One of the transgender Delegates at the 2004 Democratic Convention considered herself a crossdresser at the time. It all depends on their comfort level.

Good point, Bil, about using this clip to question TFF. I'm a little slow sometimes. I would point TFF to the best practices guidelines of the Commercial Closet Association (http://www.commercialcloset.org/cgi-bin/iowa/index.html?page=best), which notes "avoid using cliched and alienating GLBT stereotypes, homophobia, and transphobia." (I note that the CCA's best practices are not as strong as I would like regarding transphobia, though they represent a good start.)

I had a flash of insight when you mentioned the lawyer/hooker connection. I've been a lawyer -- and I once accidently had sex for money. Frankly -- I'm not sure there's much difference between the two.

Okay, folks - I'm gonna play devil's advocate... I think the real point of this video is the attitudes of the two main characters:

Jen (the mom), upon discovering her husband's business associate working the streets in drag, has absolutely no hangups about either crossdressing or sex work. She even suggests that her husband needs a similar "hobby." There's a refreshing attitude!

Jerry Schwartz, the crossdressing lawyer/hooker, feels absolutely no shame regarding who s/he is and what s/he's doing. Hooray for Jerry!

Even the two kids don't seem bothered by this supposedly bizarre situation: ho hum, just another boring adult.

And even though this is such a short piece, I like how the two leads have names and histories: "he's a lawyer with Daddy's firm," "remember Billy's father?" "I haven't seem them since the picnic last summer."

I guess the real question I want to ask is: What's wrong with being a "tranny hooker?" Several commenters seem to be suggesting that Jerry should be ashamed. Well, s/he's not, and it's wonderful!

Regarding stereotypes and the unfortunate linking (in the minds of some) of transpeople and prostitution: it's a fact that some transpeople do sex work. We're told that Jerry's doing this for kicks, so s/he's not being forced/exploited. Why do we automatically vilify sex workers, anyway?

For my part, I wasn't laughing AT Jerry, but definitely WITH Jerry. S/he seems so comfortable and happy with who s/he is, and that attitude is obviously contagious. And before you folks start attacking me for not understanding the realities of being cd/ts, let me say that I identified as a genderqueer crossdresser for many years before I decided to formally live full-time as female.

"Even the city that's seen it all hasn't seen this." People who seem happy with who they are, and who are genuinely interested in exploring differences, not condemning them. I'd like to see more of that!

In fact, the only person who seems uncomfortable in this piece is the "john" (and maybe a few Bilerico commenters).

I am with Angel on this one. I realize there is a fine line here, but when did we lose our sense of humor as it pertains to exploring our differences?

I don't think sex work is something to be ashamed of, nor should be ashamed of transl hookers.

But the premise of the joke was that Jen (the mom) was utterly blase about something that we the audience are _supposed_ to find freakish and probably shocking. You could've substituted a talking dog and the premise would be the same. Even in my rewriting of the ad, the joke remains premised on Jerry (the lawyer/hooker), being a "freak," but at least my version tries to show something unexpected about someone who's perceived that way. Similar to a "Sex in the City" episode I once saw where one of the characters was upset about boisterous trans hookers outside her apartment, but through some plot twist that I don't remember ends up getting to know and discovers that they're human too.

Now you do raise a fair point, that it could be viewed as "hey there's nothing wrong with being a crossdressing lawyer/hooker." And if there were a lot of other kinds of portrayals of trans people in the media I might agree with you. Or the scene had been played straight and not for laughs. But let's be honest, the vast majority of Americans (even New Yorkers) do see prostitution as disreputable, and the ad clearly seems to be making her a hooker for the additional shock value.

But the other part of what makes the ad problematic is that it's trafficking in stereotypes, i.e. someone's trans, well obviously they must be a hooker. It's similar to the historical complaints about blacks and Latino _only_ getting roles that depict them as crack dealers and gang members, gays only getting roles that depict them as stereotypical caricatures, etc.

I've bit my tongue for a bit, trying to think through my response to this. I know there's some messed up stuff going on when the premise of the clip is "what's the most wild thing we can think of" and they come up with a lawyer who crossdresses and moonlights in sex work.

But despite that, I was taken aback by the imagining of such a positive interaction around the topic of sex work. I know the intended response is supposed to be "I can't believe their treating such a weird thing so normally" but that's not too far from how I talk about sex work with the people in my community. Despite the fact that I'm supposed to be disgusted, I'm encouraged. After seeing so many horrible responses to the issue of sex work, it's refreshing to see a world where it's everyday life (not that it's a perfect representation of sex work, either).

I know I'm still the but of the joke, but I don't feel as slighted by that clip as I do by some of the conversation. So what if trans folk are linked to sex work? Stereotypes are inherently bad, but we don't have to act like being a hooker is the absolute worst thing in the world. We don't have to purge every image of trans sex workers any more than we have to purge drag queens and leather folk from the parades because that's a stereotype of gay people.

You know what is strange is the attitude some here
have toward illegal activities...
Assuming this was not Nevada...
Also this post seems to have drqwn a influx of "new commenters"....

This person is nothing like the members of Neutral Corner.

I suppose next our hosts will be posting Jerry Springer clips.

Sue

Sue writes "You know what is strange is the attitude some here have toward illegal activities..."

It wasn't too long ago that crossdressing was also illegal in most places. "Illegal" isn't the same as "wrong."

Also, I think it's interesting that Lena perceived that "the joke remains premised on Jerry (the lawyer/hooker), being a freak."

It seems to me that the Jerrys of the world have every right to dress however they want and express their sexuality however they want. If you assume that Jerry's being played as a freak, doesn't that automatically label every transperson whose features don't live up to the "Cover Girl ideal" a freak as well?

I know lots of people who look like Jerry. I'm certainly not the prettiest thing on the planet myself. But is that how we're going to judge people - by their looks?

I think we should all lighten up and enjoy the humor of this piece. It's clever, and it suggests that being comfortable with diversity is something of which everyone is capable.

I'm not saying that this clip is great or even accurate. It is a stereotype and trans sex workers are the butt of the joke. I'm just saying we shouldn't be so quick to stigmatize folks involved in sex work.

You know what is strange is the attitude some here have toward illegal activities...

I don't find it strange at all. Non-violence movements have always been strong on civil disobedience and knowing the difference between a just and an unjust law. In my experience there are very few people who let legality trump their sense of morality when it comes to how they perceive people who break unjust laws.

Advice on safety aside, I refuse to stigmatize people engaged in sex work, legal or not, just as I have been unwilling to stigmatize people engaged in illegal sodomy, illegal crossdressing, or illegal hormone use.

People who break the law have their reasons and it's not always because they are bad people.

Angel...
Crossdressing was illegal in California, Oregon, Nevada, and Arizona, that didn't stop very many of us. In SanDiego for instance unless you were cought in a raid at a gay club they left you alone unless you had broken another law then they would add the extra count of being cross dressed....
I had been out for sixteen years before the law was repealed and had traveled wearing the cloths that represent who i was without harassment.

As i have said before i believe everyone has the right to be who they are. You have to remember that YouTube video is a Fake that doesn't represent a real person and it was not intended to represent anyone.

Personally i think what is needed is a little more respectful attitude toward crossdressers.

Take care
Sue


Crossdressing was illegal in every state at one time or another. When someone wanted to finally fight them, it turned out not as tough as they thought to overturn them, because of the double standard between men and women. It would be an interesting article for someone to do to research on the history of those laws being overturned.

in SanDiego it was a freedom of expression issue that nixed the ordinance.

TransAction a local TG/TS political pressure group brought about the change in the ordinance.
It wasn't a big deal anyway for law abiding folk even the ones caught up in those raids on the bars in Hillcrest would usually not be charged for crossdressing in public.

For Pre-Op, Paleo-Transsexual women this was not an issue because the weight a carry letter carried.
California as far back as the early 70's has turned a blind eye to Paleo-transsexuals and in the larger cities to crossdressers.


Take care
Sue

While I appreciate the feminist sex-work-isn't-degrading philosophy, I respectfully disagree, and side with those feminists who emphasize the coercion that goes into sex work and the global human trafficking that it spawns. Most women (including transwomen) who take on sex work are not doing so as a full-fledged choice based on a wide range of life options available to them, but as the only available way to obtain a decent amount of cash and respect in the face of widespread prejudice that affects their family upbringing, education, personal relationships and careers. (I say "most" based on my personal experience and that of the many trans women I have known who engaged in sex work in NYC.)

I see sex work as "coerced" in the broad sense of the word, even though no one is holding a gun to their heads. It is coercion by prejudice, rather than by weapon, but no less effective. I also note that prostitution, as engaged in by professionals, rather than one-time amateurs, also involves a lot of physical coercion by criminal types. It is not an empowered life, although those who have had little contact with such a life may imagine it to be so in a "Pretty-Woman-Julia-Roberts-Richard-Gere-fantasy" way.

Although the particular character in the TFF commercial is clearly empowered and is engaging in prostitution by choice and without shame or negative consequence, it is clear to me that this is a rare occurrence. When women are forced into sex work, I cannot see it as funny. It strikes me as about as funny as a commercial about a Hispanic lawyer who decides to engage in migrant work on the side. The fact that the woman involved in the sex work is a crossdresser does not change my feelings on the matter.

You misread my perspective. I don't appreciate feminist sex-work-isn't-degrading philosophy. In the vast majority of cases it IS degrading and disempowering. And the inaccurate representation of sex work in the TFF commercial would come up as my number one complaint of it. What I was saying is that I do not believe we should stigmatize those who participate in it.

It might be regional variance, but almost all of the professionals in the business I know here in the northwest entered into it due to economic forces, not physical coercion by criminal types.

And when it comes to economic coercion, there's plenty of horrible jobs out there that people generally don't take unless they have to. I've got a partner who got out of sex work by working a minimum wage job with an abusive boss, and ze often wonders if it's better or worse.

But we don't stigmatize people in those other professions. We don't feel the need to purge any and all representation of them from our ranks. Nobody tells a factory worker that they are in a bad profession because sweat shops exist.

I don't approach the subject from naivety, and I don't think it's a profession anyone ought to be encouraged to explore. But I do think the LGBTQ community ought to respect the sex workers within the community and make space for us to participate without having to enter another closet. I'm guessing that you and I, Jillian, agree on that point. And my only intention was to point out that the knee-jerk reaction of "OMG it's horrible that they show a trans-type person in sex work" doesn't help that.

Tobi: I wasn't referencing your comment, but Angel, who said "I'm gonna play devil's advocate...What's wrong with being a "tranny hooker?" Several commenters seem to be suggesting that Jerry should be ashamed. Well, s/he's not, and it's wonderful!" Sorry for the misunderstanding.

Jillian: Ah, thanks for the clarification. Interestingly, when I read that from Angel, I interpreted it as being wonderful that Jerry was not ashamed -- as opposed to it being wonderful that Jerry's in sex work.

Also, I think I've had you at a disadvantage. I most certainly remember you, so I think it may be useful to reintroduce myself. I happen to be the Tobi that you helped out a few years ago when I was facing some pretty extreme harassment in college. I really appreciated your thoughts and insight back then and I'm glad to be interacting with you again now.

Sex work from a feminist standpoint is degrading.
you are after all servicing the bass needs of some man who can't get it from his girl/boy friend...
Sex Work spreads disease unless it is carefully regulated. Most people who say they are forced into sex work turn their nose up at other legitimate jobs. Most of these folk can make more money turning burgers and at the same time be safer.

Now before you start calling me some hater Prove i am wrong.
Sue

I can't imagine what kind of proof would even apply. But personal testimony from a sex worker would perhaps be useful, so here goes:

Yesterday I saw a client whose girlfriend, who's in another state, gets off on hearing about us having sex. He can get it from his girlfriend.

Now, he is an exception. Most of my clients see me for other reasons - crummy marriages, not feeling up to developing actual relationships, enjoying supporting the supposedly oldest profession, and sometimes lousy social skills. I often feel objectified, and hurt by patriarchal attitudes support the commodification of young women's - and often all women's and all young people's - bodies and sexuality. But this exploitation doesn't just happen in sex work; it happens when people are sexually harrassed and assaulted at school, work, home, wherever. Most people are exploited in some way, and have to deal with that in order to survive. That does not mean that the targets of exploitation are bad people. It is the perpetrators who are creating the problem.

I have been told by anti-porn activists that I have no bodily integrity because I fuck men for money. But I do have bodily integrity. I set my own boundaries and demand control of my body. People always try to violate my boundaries and take away my control, but they can't take away my knowledge that my body is my own. And I will not feel ashamed that right now I have to work in a degrading, patriarchal industry in order to survive in a degrading, patriarchal society.

Your assertion that sex work spreads disease seems to draw from stereotypes that sex workers are dirty. Now, my clients - and many people who do not hire sex workers - often pressure me and presumably their other partners for unprotected sex. I do not allow that. I do not want government officials to have more control over my body or to forcibly subject me to medical tests. I do appreciate free and low cost medical care, and it would be nice to not have my work criminalized.

Earlier you said that sex workers could earn more money and be safer flipping burgers. Safer, maybe - though there are always dangers associated with low-wage jobs, including abuse from employers and customers, toxic chemicals, work that's bad for your body, having to walk to work in the dark, etc. And making more money isn't really that likely. I don't think many sex workers are making tons of money, but in my experience working full time at minimum wage is about the same financially as turning a few tricks per week.

Anyway, I'm sorry you don't like me, but the feminism I know supports people's struggles to survive in a patriarchal society rather than trying to smack them down with stereotypes and moral righteousness.

Late to this thread, but:

Sex work from a feminist standpoint is degrading.

That's so just plain incorrect. There isn't a unified feminist standpoint on sex work. Some believe it's degrading, yes, and others think it's empowering, and some think it's just way more complicated than that.

I think this was a good post. I think we should be posting more homo/trans/queer/bi phobic stuff on this site just for discussion. Let's hash this stuff out and get deeper than "It's bigoted!" This thread turned out well, IMHO.

I'd like to applaud you, J, for being so open and honest. Let me tell you that I do like you, and I support you as a human being. I think you're so right regarding the degradation that happens in the workplace. Personally, I don't condemn sex workers. I do condemn the system that simultaneously makes such work a necessity and then condemns the people who do it. It's that contradiction that I detest, as it strips people of all human dignity. I want you to have more dignity and respect, not less. At the same time, I'm sure that we as a society are not ready to legalize sex work and give sex workers the respect and dignity to which they are entitled.

Jillian