Rebecca Juro

"Heroes" Star Greg Grunberg Tweets Transphobia

Filed By Rebecca Juro | December 06, 2009 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Greg Grunberg, media, NBC, television, transphobia, Twitter

UPDATE: Greg Grunberg e-mailed a response to this post. Read the message and Becky's response in this post.

Since greg-grunberg.jpgI started using Twitter several months ago, I've built up quite the list of personal friends and aquantances as well as media folks and celebs who I find interesting. In addition, I'm always looking for new and cool tweeters to add to my list. In using Twitter, I've found that I can often glean new insight into the kind of person a Tweeter really is through their 140 character posts. In most cases, what I've learned makes me like and respect that Tweeter and their work all the more. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way.

Last night, I noticed a tweet arrive from renowned transgender author Kate Bornstein. It was directed toward the Twitter feed of Greg Grunberg, one of the stars of the hit NBC television series "Heroes" (in the role of telepathically-powered policeman Matt Parkman), and it said:

bornstein-grunberg.png

Of course, I had to know more. I clicked on the link to Grunberg's feed, scrolled down a bit, and found this:

grunberg-let-go.png

I subscribe to his feed and a little later, another Tweet from Grunberg arrives:

grunberg-casting.png

Yeah, sounds great, Greg. Real nice coming from the star of a show that focuses on the trials of living a life where something that makes you special and different from the rest of the world can also make you feared, hated, and an outcast. You'd think Grunberg would at least have learned something from the scripts of his own television show, if from nowhere else.

Let's be fair here, though. Greg Grunberg is an actor, not an activist, a politician, or a political pundit. He has every right to say whatever he wants and he has no social or political obligation to gain our support or approval first. That said, Grunberg is also a star on a top-rated primetime television drama, and as such is a celebrity whose public words and behavior not only reflect on himself, but also on his show and fellow Heroes actors (regardless of whether or not they share his views), and on NBC as well.

Grunberg's feed has over 1.3 million subscribers. When he tweets this kind of transphobic "humor," hundreds of thousands will read it. Furthermore, because Grunberg's a major television star and thus has a certain influence on those who enjoy his work, his words and opinions will likely have a lot more traction than the average Tweeter's.

Thus, I do not call out Greg Grunberg here for being a transphobic jerk. That's a determination each viewer and reader must make for themselves. What I call Grunberg out for here is irresponsibility, for shooting his mouth off publicly, apparently completely unaware of the potential impact of his transphobic "jokes," not only on us, but also on his show (which I enjoy immensely and have followed since the beginning) and on his network.

In my opinion, people like Greg Grunberg, celebrities who have an impact on our modern American culture, also have an obligation to use that notriety judiciously and carefully, knowing and understanding that what they say or do in public can and often does have an impact outside of their own personal sphere.

Or to put it another way in keeping with the theme of the series, Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee said it best a long time ago:

With great power comes great responsibility.

UPDATE: Greg Grunberg e-mailed a response to this post. Read the message and Becky's response in this post.


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Yet another censor-prone trans activist commissar. You folks should form a US chapter of the NKVD.

His tweet wasn't a joke; it was an observation. Anyone who looks at Chaz Bono can see that he is in poor physical shape. It is not "transphobic" to make that observation and your status as a trans person doesn't exempt you from all criticism.

More to the point, why are half the posts on BP about trans issues? Even if you accept the dubious proposition that trans has anything to do with gay, there is no justification for grossly over-representing trans issues on a gay blog.

Did you actually read the tweet? Because the transphobia has nothing to do with him being overweight. Try and think while you're reading it. It isn't exactly hard to spot.
And since when is Bilerico a strictly "gay blog"?

1 - That's not how freedom of speech works. Greg has the right to comment on Chaz, and Rebecca has the right to comment on Greg. How is Rebecca's chastisement of Greg any more censorship then your chastisement of Rebecca?

2 - "Man did she let himself go" indicates that gender and trans status is playing a role somewhere here.

3 - "Why are half the posts on BP about trans issues?" That's an obvious exaggeration, out of 7 posts today, this is the only one on trans issues. Yesterday it was 0 out of 4
Friday it was 1 out of 10
Thursday it was 2 out of 10

You might bump those numbers up a bit if you count any mention of ENDA as a trans post (which you might be because trans folks seem to care about it more, but it effects cis LGB folks just as much) but even then it doesn't even reach one third and half the time a post discusses trans issues it also discusses queer issues, whereas the reverse cannot be said to be true. Your perception of the posts here says more about you then about TBP.

The editors don't pick and chose posts for representation, what you see is what the contributors decide to write about and we don't get together to try to balance our topics in any way.

Do you really feel like there is not enough gay content here? Or is the issue that you don't like reading about trans people? Or to put it another way, if every contributor was both trans and queer and every post was both about trans issues and queer issues, would you be satisfied or horrified?

Except that The Bilerico Project isn't a gay blog, Mark. As it says in the title graphic of the site, TBP is "daily experiments in LGBTQ". To my way of thinking, that covers all of us.

Furthermore, if you don't want to read about trans issues then don't. Skip over our stuff and read what you're interested in. At the same time, however, don't complain because other readers are interested in what we have to say. TBP is our home too.

battybattybats battybattybats | December 6, 2009 8:40 PM

"More to the point, why are half the posts on BP about trans issues? Even if you accept the dubious proposition that trans has anything to do with gay, there is no justification for grossly over-representing trans issues on a gay blog."

1. Transgender is quite likely the LARGEST part of GLBT. Consider that crossdressers alone make up 5% of the total American population by some figures.

2. Transgender peoples rioting at Compton and after that at Stonewall was a critical point in gay rights. The raid on Stonewall and the closing of all the gay bars befire it used an anti-crossdressing law. The T is and always will be inextricably bound to the G by this history.

3. Growing evidence of cross-sexed neurology of GLB people as well as of the parts of transgender so far tested for it makes us scientifically part of the same grouping of subsets... and that group is logically a subset of larger intersex. The most common mild form of intersex it seems.

Over represented? Nope. if GLBT is 10% of the population and crossdressers alone are 5% then over half would be finally getting the right balance wouldn't it?

"Transgender is quite likely the LARGEST part of GLBT. Consider that crossdressers alone make up 5% of the total American population by some figures."

Hey, you know what? If we add all citizens of the People's Republic of China to our movement, then they would be the LARGEST part of it. Then they could make reunification with Taiwan the top priority of the newly reformulated "LGBC" movement.

The only problem would be that doing so would make no sense, and the gays and lesbians who are legitimately part of the gay rights movement would object, if they had any sense. I bet most gays and lesbians never thought, when the "T" was imposed on them w/o discussion or debate, that there movement henceforth consisted, in LARGE PART, of heterosexual cross-dressers.

battybattybats battybattybats | December 7, 2009 8:57 PM

Imposed?

You need to do a re-check on your history because despite the transphobes amongst certain parts of the gay community and homophobes amongst part of the trans attempting to erase the shared connected history we have always been part of things from the very start.

Same Sex Marriage in California coming from a Trans legal battle. Stonewall. Compton. The people sent to Nazi death camps. The rise of acceptance of gay and lesbian culture in pre WW 2 Germany and France oh i could just keep going back for centuries if you like but the point remains that Trans people were side by side with gays and lesbians through the lot.

And what about the cross-sex neurology science results that makes Gay and Lesbian and Transsexuals (and when they get around to testing the rest of Tans thats predicted to fit the same pattern) all variations of the same neurological intersex phenomenon?

To make your claim we are imposed requires you to ignore:

1. All of modern TBLG history going back over 100 years!

2. The laws that have oppressed us both together.

3. The haters that hate us together.

4. The science that shows we are related.

5. That many TG people are also GLB and Vice Versa.

6. If you want any acceptance and inclusion and equality from straight cis society you are obliged to do the same towards everyone else without exception or you invalidate your own claim to equality acceptance and inclusion. Making your view hypocritcal and self-refuting intrinsicly!

So your wrong. History and sense and science says your wrong. Suck it up and deal with it. We are and always will be connected to you. You even owe us for some of the victories you enjoy and for kick-starting the whle darn modern movement! Get over your bigotry and develop some maturity and integrity.

Mark, I am a Lesbian activist with a very long memory and I seeem to recall gender transgressors dancing in the streets of Greenwich Village after a couple nights of fighting the NYPD to a standstill there.

You obviously have some issues with trans people, as evidenced by your implication that they somehow were forced upon "the gay community"

Well, mark, and I say this with all respect, we all transgress gender roles and stereotypes, some more than others, by simply having a same-sex attraction. Butch Lesbians transgress the stereotypes more than meny, less than some and are abused upon occasion by the same kinds of homosexual males who dis the trans community.

Your kind of mattachinistic, separatist remarks are dated, they might possibly be forgiven coming out of the mouth of someone from my generation, but ought not be.

Open your eyes and rid yourself of the "gay males are the one true queer" mythos. We are a better and stronger community precisely because of our diversity, not in spite of it.

I am a gay man and I thought much the same thing that Greg Grunberg did when I saw the video of Chaz, that he had gained a lot of weight and just looked awful. Having said that, it is well known that depression is common with transitions such as Chaz's and that Chaz admitted he had been having a difficult time with the transition. Whatever an individual's worldview around sexual identity, gender, or sexual orientation, it must be very difficult to have video of a little girl (such as Chastity as a child and a hell of a lot of archival photos and videos) to face in the process of transitioning. Also, consider the changes in one's body that are brought by hormonal therapies for transitioning. I do not think Greg is a bigot, but that he was inconsiderate and insensitive with his behavior.

nice post, Rebecca, Mark's curmudgeonly comment notwithstanding. I suspect Greg's just going for sophomoric laughs made possible by the juxtaposition of pronouns (she let himself go), yuck, yuck. Even though it's childish, there is where the roots of larger oppression lie. If we're ok with "that's so gay" as a childish taunt and we're not worried that it signals larger social attitudes, then I suppose it's ok to joke around with Greg about ugly trans*women and out of shape trans*men. But I'm with you and Kate in pointing out the hurtful language and its underlying fear/uneasiness about us.

As for how much trans activity is "proper" on Bilerico and whether trans issues have anything to do with gay issues, I find the amount just right, relevant to L's and G's and Q's in ways that Mark may not have considered, topics of "gender expression," identity politics, and social phobia around sex/gender among themes that bind us together.

Joyce

california panda | December 6, 2009 7:56 PM

Wonderful LGB separatism post there Mark. Why is it that some people, both gay and st8, seem to ignore the fact that, according to the usually uninformed general public, anything not gender-conforming or heteronormative is virtually guaranteed to be seen as "gay" and discriminated against on that basis alone? To you Mark, please find yourself a good gender therapist who can help you get your head out of your backside. (Oh, sorry that would be a proctologist wouldn't it?)

valerie

It was me who brought Grunberg's comment to the attention of Kate and others and asked for help. I tweeted @bilericoproject also but they probably missed it. Here is the first tweet about this that I sent out:

http://twitter.com/FireboltX/status/6353559595

I had been following Grunberg's tweets for a long time until this happened. I thought him to be a good guy, a tv actor who gives to charity to help find a cure for epilepsy. His son suffers from epilepsy. I did not expect to see such an ignorant tweet from him in my twitter timeline. When I did, I was shocked. I replied him politely that he should be more considerate, that calling a trans guy 'she' was extremely offensive. Then I sent out the tweet above, followed by more tweets directed towards calling this situation to the attention of those who could help. Many people responded to my calls and tweeted at him, thoughtfully and politely, pointing out that what he did was wrong and hurtful.

I had expected him to correct himself but guess what, he is just too big of an ass for that. After the flurry of condescending tweets by us, instead of acknowledging his mistake he decided to trash Bono more by posting a picture of a poodle, focusing on its genitals and asking his followers to guess whether it was male or female. At this point, I was enraged and called him out on his asshattery and so did others. He just ignored us and carried on with his trash talk.

Call this a trivial issue, call it what you will but the point is that I used to like this guy. I used to think he was a real life "Hero" but not anymore. I don't understand how people can find it in them to joke at the expense of minorities like this. Making fun of such serious issues is SO not cool. Transition is a private, personal and extremely difficult process and people are intent on trashing transfolks. I read somewhere that 2 in 3 transsexuals attempt suicide and 1 in 3 succeed. And idiots such as Grunberg are not helping.

I'm still so outraged that I don't know what to say to him or to anyone else, anymore.

Now I'm even more saddened. His charity work for epilepsy (which I had no idea about) is something I could laud him for and support him in. I'm an epileptic myself, been on meds for it since childhood.

Unfortunately, now I don't know if I could feel comfortable supporting any charity with Grunberg's name attached to it.

This makes me sad, too. Just goes on to show that one cannot imagine the extent of impact that inconsiderate words can have.

You should read this blog post here - the link to which was tweeted by Grunberg along with retweets of other transphobic drivel by those who agreed with him - prompting many comments by such fans who just don't see the point. There wasn't a *single* retweet by him of our thoughtful calls for considerate behaviour.

He still doesn't get it and that's what makes it worse.

Wow, everyone's already responded to Mark. LOL. I was just going to say the same thing as everyone else, except as an editor and one of the people who worked his tail off to launch "The Bilerico Project" in July 2007 that this site was never a gay blog and it won't be as long as I'm around. It says "LGBTQ" in the corner for a reason.

Anyway, yeah, this guy seems like a jerk going for the cheap laffs. In addition to the transphobia, the fatphobia's annoying, especially coming from an actor who spent the first season of his show being rather... rotund.

Alex-

I assume the "Q" is for questioning, not queer. If so, you might notice that there are no posts by Qs.

Also, just because you insist on sticking T into the equation doesn't mean that it is right or rational.

I assume the "Q" is for questioning, not queer. If so, you might notice that there are no posts by Qs.

Actually, it is "queer." There aren't many because not many people identify as queer first and then gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, but three contributors that I know of do. If you like the transgender content, I'm sure you'll enjoy theirs.

But I'm not going to get dragged into a discussion of whether the T should really be a part of the LGBTQ, or whatever. It's 2009, we've had that conversation as a community around 200,000,000 times, and if you're still not convinced then you're not going to be.

There's an internet petition out there somewhere (I'm sure someone can provide a link) to remove transsexuals from the T and I'm sure you could start one to remove the G from LGBT. When it garners 100 signatures, let me know and I'll congratulate you for your diligence.

Nice.

Great cheap shot at a woman who isn't even here to defend herself.

Well done, fair and neutral moderator.

battybattybats battybattybats | December 7, 2009 9:19 PM

Just cause Mark you complain about the T being in there doesn't make you Right or Rational either.

I have already given you a heap of reasons why it's both Right and rational. If you cannot address every single one of them successfully then accept you were wrong and deal with it.

I will be particularly looking forward to the academic book you will have to write on the history of GLB especially about Stonewall and Compton and prewar Berlin and Paris and of course the neurology study, both FMRI and also brain disection based as well as a thorough methodological refutation of all accumulated evidence thus far that you will have published in a peer-reviewed neurology journal in order to do so. A feat like that you may well get a Nobel prize!

Cause leave just one shard of just one of my points intact and you lose! Just one shard.

One person's hee-larious joke is another community's put down. It's humor like Grunberg's which get laughed at by the wits wasting time by the water coolers and microwaves at offices around this country. For every stab at humor someone like Grunberg makes, it emboldens another million wannabes to go a step further and get even raunchier and more insulting with their humor at some marginalized group's expense. So basically, Grunberg is enabling them to make "epileptic" jokes the next day... something I suspect he wouldn't appreciate but then, it's all in the name of "fun."

Letters to his management & agent might work - they don;t like disgruntled fans! Suggest including great points from some of the letters above eg how on Heroes he should be learning about the challenges of being different, & how you appreciate his charity work but how would he feel if his kid was being taunted with tasteless humor re: epilepsy?

Manager: Thruline Entertainment
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Los Angeles, CA 90069

Agent:ICM, Leigh Brillstein
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310-550-4000
Fax: 310-550-4055

Lisa C. Gilinger | December 7, 2009 12:35 PM

I am going to write to his management and his agent and tell them I will never knowingly watch his work in any media, nor will I buy products that he endorses, if he has an endorsement gig going.

I really don't know who he is. I've never seen his show. I plan to keep it that way.

Anonymouse Me | December 7, 2009 5:32 PM

While many of us in the LGBTQ community have become quite good at the pronoun adjustments for talking about somebody who has transitioned, straights often have not. His tweets may have just been a simple screw up in pronouns. The thing is, we can't know.

And Chaz Bono is in fact very out of shape from the photos I've seen.

Lisa, it's easy to avoid watching Heroes because it sucks.

I follow Grunberg and I was shocked when I saw that comment. I'm not LGBTQ myself but the use of "she" for Chaz was extremely offensive and it upsets me that he doesn't get it, even now. He definitely lost a fan in me with that ignorant and nasty joke.

For what it's worth, I think he means that Chaz gained all that weight when he was still Chastity and now he's a fat man. Perhaps Grunberg thinks that because he makes fun of himself all the time for his weight it's ok to do the same to other people but it's not. Esp. not for someone like Chaz who is going through such a difficult time now.

The large majority of comments on this post illustrate quite nicely why the idea of placing "people group" labels, i.e. LGB or T or Q or I, as the keystone to identity is a fundamentally flawed philosophy, which only leads to further fractioning.

From a political perspective, it makes the work of true bigots who seek to oppress the rights of an individual all the easier if the group self-destructs battling out which "collective" goal should rise above all others.

Consequently, such infighting also benefits the next politician who views to use said "people group" as a convenient voting block for their own personal ascension. Pandering promises with catchy cute little slogans like "Change We can Believe In", "Hope", et al, whilst the actual actions of the pandering pull-peddler loudly proclaim they could careless about any "people group" other than their own.

Anonymous Me,

Why do cis LGB folks (I'm assuming, but your phrasing seems to place you as cis) assume that they are obviously better on trans issues than cis straights? Some of the worst transphobia I've ever seen has been perpetrated by cis queers in cis queer bars and clubs. And while cis straights can be jerks too, there are plenty of folks who can get it right. When I came out, a majority of the cis queers I encountered couldn't get my pronouns right -- none of my coworkers at the student LGBTQ union did.

The issue isn't whether someone is gay or straight, but how much humanizing contact they have with trans people. You might be surprised at how many cis straights have trans people in their lives that they care about, and how many cis queers who don't.

Also, I can't imagine sending something out to 1.3 million subscribers and not looking it over a second time so as not to embarrass yourself. And if you're checking for spelling, etc, then you'd catch the mixed pronoun use. The chances that it was not a purposeful statement are very low. If it was, he would have apologized rather than further antagonize the folks who called him on it.

jimbolandjots,

It's not about the "letting himself go" part, but the "she" part and the follow up tweet on poodle genitals with a degrading "guess the gender."

Also, it's not about whether or not he is a bigot. Without being inside his head we would never know. It's about what he did, not who he is.

I completely agree with you on everything you've said here, Tobi.