Dr. Jillian T. Weiss

Beautiful Darling: A Positive Transgender Media Portrayal

Filed By Dr. Jillian T. Weiss | April 02, 2010 9:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Gay Icons and History, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Candy Darling, James Rasin, MOMA, New York Times, transgender performer

With all the talk about negative portrayals of transgender people in movies lately (and by the way, did you hear they're changing the trailer on the trashy one?), it's heartening to hear that some directors have class. From Thumbnail image for beautiful_darling.jpgWednesday's New York Times comes word of what seems like a positive portrayal of transgender actress Candy Darling:

James Rasin's Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar is a tender biographical portrait of the vulnerable transgender actress (born James Slattery in Massapequa, N.Y.) who dreamed of being an old-time movie goddess in the mode of her idol, Kim Novak. Organized around the reminiscences of her close friend Jeremiah Newton, it is one of the best documentaries spun off the Warhol axis. Darling was only 29 when she died in 1974. Had her impossible dreams come true, she might have starred in a film like I Am Love.

I'm hankering to see this on Saturday. Despite my general dislike for movies, I love well done documentaries. There's some big name stars involved with the project, people I respect. With all the stories about the awful trash out there, I think it's important to point up the positive media portrayals too. Trailer after the jump.

This trailer really piqued my interest. It's a human story, with people who actually knew her, it's touching, and I feel connected to Candy Darling. I'll let you know what I think after I see the movie.

The series continues through Sunday at the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters at the Museum of Modern Art and at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. Information: filmlinc.com and (212) 875-5601, and at moma.org and (212) 408-6663.

Here's the blurb on the New Directors website:

Born James Slattery in Massapequa, Long Island, in 1944, Candy Darling transformed herself into a stunning blonde actress who in the mid-Sixties became an active player in New York's "downtown" scene. In her passionate act of self-creation, Candy Darling mesmerized. A party fixture, she appeared in Warhol films, and Tennessee Williams cast her in a play. She was seen and written about, and then, before she turned 30, cancer claimed her life.

Using vintage footage and interviews old and new, and anchored by the presence of Candy's very close friend, Jeremiah Newton, director James Rasin creates a critical and loving portrait of a singular and audacious life. With Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, Penny Arcade, Paul Morrissey, Fran Lebowitz, John Waters. Candy's letters and diaries read by Chloë Sevigny.

About the Director: New York-based filmmaker James Rasin was born in Chicago in 1963. His short film The Burning Ghat, featuring Beat writer Herbert Huncke, was screened at the Venice Biennale and the Chicago International Film Festival, and his short documentary, Gregory Corso Reads from the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, was shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Rasin has written several screenplays, including Somebody's Sins (cowritten with Jack Walls), about the lives of Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith. Rasin also wrote the screenplay for an Andy Warhol feature to be directed by Abel Ferrara.

Click here for ticketing info.


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R. Conrad | April 2, 2010 9:44 AM

ahem... what is wrong with being trashy? maybe everyone doesn't want to be tender, touching, etc.

and i'm particularly annoyed by everyone writing TOTWK off before even seeing it. sure it's got problems, but i'm not impressed by the mud slinging.

are we setting up the same dichotomy of good gay vs bad gay with good transgender vs bad transgender? just saying...

Did I say there was something wrong with being trashy? Not I.

I hear your concern about seeing the whole work before declaring it devoid of artistic merit. It's a good point. But I also think I have a right to say what I think is worth seeing and what is not. And you have a right to disagree.

As far as good vs. bad, I must tell you that the trailer for TOTWK was enough to tell me that I didn't care to spend my scarce leisure time to see it. I'm not sure whether the whole work does dishonor to transgender people or not, because I haven't seen it. I will say that I dislike the use of the term "tranny" and it is considered pejorative by lots of people, even if a few trans people here and there say they use it. So they lost me at the third word of the title. But that is my right to decide for myself.

As someone who believes in freedom of opinion, isn't your annoyance at my interest in Beautiful Darling contradictory? Just saying...

To R. Conrad: I don't think that this is setting up a dichotomy of good trans vs bad trans (don't know why you decided to use gay for possibly non-gay LGBTQ folks but that is a different issue). I do appreciate positive views of LGBTQ people.
Dr. Weiss: The trailer looks interesting and I will keep my eyes open for a chance to see this. I remember as a kid seeing David Bowie as the bad guy wearing a dress and beating up a cop in a restroom. That depiction above all others stays with me because it was the moment as a kid that I realized that movie depictions of anyone not straight tended to be negative. Villains were often somewhat effeminate males, while the actually gay ones were there for laughs, depictions of prostitutes usually had at least one badly done 'dude in a dress' in the crowd. And bi people were the picture of evil.
Another depiction from childhood that stood out to me was from Barney Miller when one of the cops dressed like a woman to catch a guy in the park who was assaulting women. I was amazed that they let the good guy wear a dress.
This even led to a whole section of jokes in my comedy act. Makes fun of cops alternating between arresting trans folk and going out dressed like them and queries how the on duty cops always seem to know exactly where in the park to look.
What did you think about the depiction of trans folk in Flawless?

Kathy Padilla | April 2, 2010 10:51 AM

I have no inkling of whether this might be seen as a positive or negative depiction today. The times and place were much different. But - as a documentary - I hope it's accurate , fair and interesting.

Intersting to note - Christine Jorgensen lived in Massapequa when Candy was growing up. I think I'll give this one a look. Hey - my home town was right next door.

May have to check that one out as well

I just want to put a note of possible caution. I've been hearing about this documentary for a long time. Jeremiah Newton, while doing a wonderful job keeping Candy's memory alive also has what I consider some very dubious views on Candy's life. He very much sometimes viewed her as a gay man. He makes a big deal about how she made some notes towards the end of her diary (which he edited) mentioning detransitioning (basically, how tired she was of dealing with it).

What he has little perspective on is how hard it is to transition (especially in the early 70s) and how many transitioners have doubts, especially when it's done in such a public way as she did. I've known other people who knew Candy very well who say she had no such real doubts and often had a talking conversation with herself about every aspect of her life.

Hey, Mr. Conrad, thanks for projecting your own issues onto yet another trans women, just like Israel Luna did. Seriously, it's time for gay men (Jeremiah Newton included) to leave us alone and start dealing with your own conflicted issues of identity, femininity and depiction.

Ryan simply asked: "are we setting up the same dichotomy of good gay vs bad gay with good transgender vs bad transgender?"

How is that projecting his issues onto yet another trans woman (and we don't know what Israel Luna did, since none of us have seen the film)? Isn't Ryan simply doing the opposite, asking, simply asking if we're not in danger of setting up ideal representations of trans people? Representations that are doomed to fail in light of the fact that masculinity and feminity are complicated?

At any rate, I'm glad to hear of the film, so thanks Jillian, and also interested to hear more of Newton's perceptions of Candy Darling. I'll look out for it in Chicago.

Kathy Padilla | April 2, 2010 7:50 PM

There's some distinctions to be made between the films. One is a biography and a period piece. While it may or may not portray troubling views of a trans women - if they're true to the subjects life they don't extend to a class of people nor to today. If the project is a true depiction of the person, one would hope it's understood the depiction is a case not a category.

The other says it's a trans exploitation film - that it uses negative stereotypes of trans women to defame a class of people with a purely commercial motive. To deny that people should find it offensive denies the intent of the project. The only way that this film couldn't be offensive to a class of people is if the Director failed in his project. And we're not basing solely on supposition - he's spoken - we've seen the advertising, we've seen the trailer, we've interacted with the star of the film in online forums - it's not an uniformed opinion.

While somone who isn't a trans women may find some reason to see the film - either that it fails in it's intent and they find that interesting or it suceeds in it's intent and they find value in that - it's hard to see any reason why a trans women would need to see the film. By the express voiced intent of the Director - it's exploitive - either it's an insult or a failure. So - why should we both subject ourselves to insults while compensating the defamer? Please sir, may I have another?

Yasmin, I have a problem with people outside the trans community making judgments period about how we wish to be portrayed. Guess what, it's not about you.

And the protests against Israel Luna's film are NOT just about good trans vs. bad trans, they're about the title, the poster, rape humor, and exploiting the subject of transphobic violence into a "transploitation" entertainment film. Btw, the protest NEVER claimed to be speaking for all trans people, just for a sizable portion of the community which IS offended by the materials we've already seen for the movie.

And increasingly, as I'm hearing people outside the trans patronizing us, it's becoming more about whether trans people even have a right to express our displeasure at how other people in the LGB spectrum choose to portray us.

And increasingly, as I'm hearing people outside the trans patronizing us, it's becoming more about whether trans people even have a right to express our displeasure at how other people in the LGB spectrum choose to portray us.

Yes, this.

Regan DuCasse | April 2, 2010 4:24 PM

I love documentaries, and I'm interested in learning more about Candy Darling. She lived in a time soon after Stonewall, as well as the feminist upsurge and changes in the roles of women, femininity and so on.
A lot of different kinds of people, otherwise invisible, rare and taken for granted, were ushering in another form of openness and making themselves known on their own terms.

Candy was representative perhaps of those sorts of souls who find much validation in what they believe is the glamorous world of show business, and it's attendant craving for attention. It looks like she identified strongly with tragic sirens like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.

But, as mentioned here, there is a serious price paid. In physical stamina, the expense of keeping up appearances and maintaining it in front of so many people. That alone would be difficult for a female born female, but to be a man doing so and living as a female, is a whole other row to hoe.
Yes, and transitioning had to have been even more difficult a medical procedure, more expensive with less skilled practitioners as well.
The risks must have been so intense and I read somewhere that it was the hormones Candy took that fed the aggressive cancer that ultimately took her short life.

Candy was surely a very cute kid and I wonder at what must have gone through his head and expectations and how close was attainment?

What price indeed...
Hopefully, those of us who aren't trans men and women can learn from these rare films, and especially more from tangible friends we have from that community.


Regan,

Candy wasn't "a man living as a female." She was a woman.

Being trans isn't fun, but part of that lack of fun is the sheer number of people who constantly misgender trans people, or try to assert cis realities on trans people that do not apply to us.

Regan DuCasse | April 3, 2010 4:11 PM

Hi Lisa, point taken. Now, I can honestly say that the visibility and opportunity to be educated has come fairly recently for most people.
The categories, the compartments and language to make it possible to have this conversation has and will evolve. At least the mainstream is getting involved and conversation is happening where it should, however incrementally.

Exhausting, I know. Being taken at face value is something most people WANT, and only some can accomplish.

The constant 'misgendering' you're talking about, well, exactly how can that be avoided at such an early stage (relatively) on this subject being so openly discussed nowadays?

Identity is through which just about everything in human existence is arranged. How gender is identified and what people expect BECAUSE of gender is complex.
Simpler minds want things easy and unambiguous and basic dignity and respect be damned.

"She was a woman..."

I don't disagree, but my information about her was limited and please be fair about that. I didn't insist it was gospel, I was simply misinformed.
But, that situation I mentioned, if not for Ms. Darling, IS true for OTHER people, isn't it?

Hence, the confusion and mis identification that goes with it for the general public.

I suppose what we're really talking about is, being taken at one's WORD about their identity, even if some level of biology and appearance contradict it.
Because ultimately, it's also about how one is treated because of all that. And none of those things should matter when it comes to one's civil treatment and dignity.

Our President checked the box, African American on the census form.
That's only half true, but he LOOKS, walks and talks like a black man and there wasn't another man that looks like him EVER elected to be President.
Now, if we hadn't been told about his white mother, and being essentially raised by the white side of the family, I doubt anyone would know just HOW much white he was...maybe not even care.

But there are people still debating his birth right and religious affiliation, so what does that tell you?

He's the one that deserves to OWN what he is. And that certainly must be the case for the trans folks of the world.

We're on the same page about respect and dignity for EVERYONE, and believe me, I respect what it's taking to get there.

I don't know who comprises the "trans community" anymore in these situations, given how much of these "conversations" are occuring online. And that's with putting aside my sense that identity categories don't work the same way for everyone, or that they're rigid demarcations for everyone.

I'd like to see more of the discussion about these texts happening in the communities where I live, and I don't trust the mob mentality of web-beings/avatars whose very existence I can't vouch for. I'm also wary of "us/them" categories given, again, the increasingly fragile and ephemeral nature of what we call "communties" today. I completely understand the many, many reasons why a lot of people need to remain anonymous on the web, but I don't think anonymous conversations are the way to go in formulating civil and civic discourse and I find it more than irksome that some loud voices are claiming to speak for the whole.

Here, on Bilerico alone, where everybody's a multi-billionaire offering 100 million to anyone for the grand plan to bring about "equality," or a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist who must remain anonymous or a social scientist or an economist or a marketing genius without proof of work/credentials to back up those titles or a visiting professor at the University of Chicago who doesn't even know where that institution is located in the city (all real examples) we can see the dulling effects that anonymity has on discourse. Much of the recent controversy around Ticked off Trannies is because of people being genuinely angry, yes, but too much of it is being encouraged by "individuals" who make it their life's work to simply pop up and fan the flames.

I don't know whom the "it's not about you" is directed towards. If it's towards me, [shrugs], I have no idea what that's about. If it's towards anyone else, I have nothing to add.

There are lots of problematic LGB statements on the issues concerning the representation of trans-folk, but it's not unreasonable to think that a film should at least be viewed by everyone before silencing it. I still believe in the old-fashioned forms of protest - I'd like to see everyone outside the theatre protesting the film. After they've actually seen it.

I'm looking forward to seeing both Ticked off Trannies AND Beautiful Darling. And I think it's high time all of us started to have conversations about the issues raised by these films within the real-time and real-life worlds we inhabit. After we watch them.

Kathy Padilla | April 2, 2010 9:06 PM

There's nothing that requires seeing any film to have a serious discussion about real world issues that trans women face. And there's no need to seek inspiration, permission or information on them from someone other than us. What do you want to discuss - the experts - they are here.

"Much of the recent controversy around Ticked off Trannies is because of people being genuinely angry, yes, but too much of it is being encouraged by "individuals" who make it their life's work to simply pop up and fan the flames."

Yasmin... this is a really offensive and dismissive statement. There are plenty of people who would categorize you as one of those "individuals"... what right do you have to characterize other people that way? The flames are there because of genuine concern with the PARTS OF THE FILM WE'VE SEEN. No, I don't have to wait to see the entire film if I have very specific issues about the title, poster, rape humor used in the clips I have seen and the way the film integrates humor and campiness into the very real subject of anti-trans violence.

And, yes, the "it's not about you" could well refer to yourself if you would allow it to.

What really bugs me is here we have this often absurdly complex and fragmented "transgender community" (and many in that community can't even stand that term) the definition of which was largely externally imposed, and people are being called out by GLB people because they feel little connection to some of the groups housed within their community. Yes, those are issues which need to be worked out, but not by outsiders. I will not have cissexual gay men telling people in the trans community what they are or aren't doing wrong. Sorry, their history with our community is too spotty and too dismissive to have a right to do that. Same with cissexual lesbians. And we have an absolute right to protest this film just as Cruising, 9 Dead Gay Guys and Basic Instinct were protested by parts of the GLB communities.

Tab Hunter’s Ghost | April 2, 2010 7:52 PM

Interesting looking documentary. Thanks Jillian for the heads up!

According to Wikipedia, get your grains of salt out, this episode surrounding Candy Darling’s premiere of “Women In Revolt” this episode took place:

"The day after the celebrity preview a group of women wearing army jackets, pea coats, jeans and boots and carrying protest signs demonstrated outside the cinema against the film, which they thought was anti-women's liberation. When Darling heard about this, she said, "Who do these dykes think they are anyway?... Well, I just hope they all read Vincent Canby's review in today's Times. He said I look like a cross between Kim Novak and Pat Nixon. It's true - I do have Pat Nixon's nose.”

The parallels to the current controversy are interesting and informative, if true.

Yasmin, I appreciate your attempts at injecting a bit of mature sanity in these threads. Keep it up.

ginasf, the more of your postings I read the more I realize that nothing short of an absolute separation of the T from LGBT will be acceptable to you. We hear you and accept your offer. We know you are angry as hell at all things regarding (white) gay men, you have nothing but contempt for anyone who doesn’t share your views, and you dismiss and attack anyone who attempts to talk with you. Maybe you should start your own religion to gain the power that you clearly long for?


R. Conrad, I remember well the “good gay” versus “bad gay” wars that are still being fought, to some extent. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is what is happening in the T groups as well; it certainly has precedent with the classic transexual versus transgender flame wars. Divide and attack is the achilles heel of all coalition groups eventually. Good point.

Kathy Padilla | April 3, 2010 8:35 AM

Maybe it would help this discussion if we answered a few basics first Tab.

Do trans women have the right to define gay men?

Do gay men have the right to define trans women?

Do trans women have the right to disagree with how gay men define them - and of course the reverse.

Do gay men and trans women have any rights to disagree with the others complaints over being called out on how they defined us?

Why would one want the right to define the other?

In the lgbt political alliance - what rights and what power do each have? Which should each have?

Thanks.

Here's another question:

"Who decides who is trans and who is gay?"

I reject your categories. I reject your cordoning off of one person's experience from another's. I reject the neat lines you've drawn between me and you.

Kathy Padilla | April 3, 2010 11:58 AM

Who? You do - if you say you're trans - I accept it. I don't accept that you're a transsexual woman without some explanation fom you. Which is what this specific discussion is about.

I mean - I've been part of the trans community for over three decades. I haven't seen you at our events, haven't seen you at our heath conferences or care providers, haven't seen you at any of our lobby days or at the forefront of our political actions. So - you'll have to explain how you see yourself as part of part of the broader trans community and what that means. To me - it looks like a flag of convienance when talking about transsexual women - but I'm open to persuassion.

And to hearing your qustions about power, representation, appropriation and agency.

@Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer:

And I think you're a classic case of appropriating a genderqueer identity for entitlement purposes. Sorry, but IDing as "queer" doesn't give you a free pass to be a member of the trans community, it takes more than that.

We each decide for ourselves how we identify and then we should all respect that personal identity. For instance I am not gay or trans, though some people will identify me as gay anyway (which is rude) and I have often been told that I act too feminine about some things and was often called a girl growing up.
But I have my identity which is as a bi man and for anyone to decide to call me otherwise is rude.

So are you trying to imply that trans people's needs aren't distinguishable from cis gay men's needs?

These aren't neat lines, and they don't neatly cordon everyone off from each other. I am a trans woman, but I'm a lesbian trans woman. I know many gay trans men, and of course quite a few bisexual trans people, and many more who are queer without claiming gay or lesbian, so it's not as if there's a neat line dividing T from the LGB. This is a false distinction that people on from every letter in this coalition like to perpetuate, but drawing those lines cuts directly across my body. Do they honestly cut across yours?

I think the issues of the controversy over TOTWK go well beyond the blending lines of gay/bi trans men or lesbian/bi trans women or even genderqueer/2-spirit people. I think much if not most of this controversy is about trans women standing up to many (not all) cissexual gay men who sincerely believe they have a right to label and depict us any way they want. And they're royally pissed we would have the gaul to say no to that.

I completely agree with you, and I believe the comment I replied to was explicitly about that.

Also, Steven, a statement like:

I reject your cordoning off of one person's experience from another's. I reject the neat lines you've drawn between me and you.

sounds pretty bad coming from a position of privilege (a cis gay man says it's wrong for trans women to draw lines between themselves and cis gay men).

In fact, it sounds exactly like what ginasf is talking about: That trans women aren't allowed to define ourselves, to own our own lives, but rather that we must allow ourselves to be defined as or in relation to cis gay men, because otherwise would be "cordoning off of one person's experience from another's."

The fact is that trans women's lives are not cis gay men's lives, even if some trans women intersect before or even during transition. We're not the same as you, and it's acceptable for people to be different. Difference is not oppression and you have no claim over any trans woman's life in this way.

(Sorry for so many comments, Jillian...)

Tab Hunter’s Ghost | April 2, 2010 7:52 PM

Interesting looking documentary. Thanks Jillian for the heads up!

According to Wikipedia, get your grains of salt out, this episode surrounding Candy Darling’s premiere of “Women In Revolt” this episode took place:

"The day after the celebrity preview a group of women wearing army jackets, pea coats, jeans and boots and carrying protest signs demonstrated outside the cinema against the film, which they thought was anti-women's liberation. When Darling heard about this, she said, "Who do these dykes think they are anyway?... Well, I just hope they all read Vincent Canby's review in today's Times. He said I look like a cross between Kim Novak and Pat Nixon. It's true - I do have Pat Nixon's nose.”

The parallels to the current controversy are interesting and informative, if true.

Yasmin, I appreciate your attempts at injecting a bit of mature sanity in these threads. Keep it up.

ginasf, the more of your postings I read the more I realize that nothing short of an absolute separation of the T from LGBT will be acceptable to you. We hear you and accept your offer. We know you are angry as hell at all things regarding (white) gay men, you have nothing but contempt for anyone who doesn’t share your views, and you dismiss and attack anyone who attempts to talk with you. Maybe you should start your own religion to gain the power that you clearly long for?


R. Conrad, I remember well the “good gay” versus “bad gay” wars that are still being fought, to some extent. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is what is happening in the T groups as well; it certainly has precedent with the classic transexual versus transgender flame wars. Divide and attack is the achilles heel of all coalition groups eventually. Good point.

Thank you Dr. Weiss. I was not familiar with Candy. I don't watch many movies but that one looks worthwhile. I'm a total Ditz but even to me it is apparent that TOTWK and Darling are 2 vastly different flicks. But I find myself wondering which will do more in the long run to advance LBGT acceptance in society. Sometimes it is the most awful events that move social awareness to the point of "enough is enough". It wasn't Rochester on the Jack Benny show that created civil rights movement by society as much as it was the dogs and night sticks unleashed on innocent marchers.

Now please don't misinterpret me. I think TOTWK should never have been produced but.....it may cause a much needed backlash within general society. Stranger things have happened.

"The risks must have been so intense and I read somewhere that it was the hormones Candy took that fed the aggressive cancer that ultimately took her short life."

Regan, I think this is an urban myth. She died of leukemia. Leukemia, from what I've read, is not affected by estrogen (or Premarin, the HRT I understand she took).

Tab, if I'm offending you I'm doing something right. :-)

Deena, I think I get your point, but are you saying we need specific instances of transphobia to rally around if we're going to organize? I actually see TOTWK (and some of the pop trashy trans tv shows which are coming up) as a kind of 'backlash,' much like what Susan Faludi wrote about in her book of the same name. It tells me trans people are actually making inroads and some out there aren't comfortable with it.

In any event, Candy was a very apolitical person (for living in such a political era), knew little about Vietnam or the SDS (nor was Andy, for that matter). I think she'd be a curious figure around which to advance a political rights movement. She's more of a cultural icon with a magical persona and sense of her self. I can honestly say I've been fascinated with her since I was about 15-16!

No Gina. I was not saying anything about needing a transphobic instances to rally around or organize anyone. The movement of "general society" was the focus. Society and generalized norms are not easily moved but when there is movement it takes place not because of "uplifting events" but rather in reaction to "negatives". Society has to reach a tipping point where the majority of people overcome previous attitudes by finally realizing that "enough is enough" and the previously held attitudes are just plain wrong. That point is never reached through a single event but through a cumulative process of many abuses. Trans people (or whatever label you care to choose) being upset about TOTWK is inconsequential. What does matter is that the general public becomes more aware of the abuse that group is subjected to.

Deena, I think I get where's you're coming from, but I would categorize it entirely differently. What the wider public will be gradually aware of is how people from the trans community intend to speak up when we're being made into cartoons, cheap laughs or freaks for public consumption. It's not the "negative event" which creates empowerment, it's entirely the reaction to the event. Cops had been attacking African Americans like that for decades, it's when the community stood up to them that something changed. Trans people have been portrayed as trash and freaks for decades, this is no different. It's the reaction to it which is the only thing making this film different.

Groups get noticed (and ultimately respected) when they stand up and say we're not going to take any more crap—which is entirely when the backlash starts. There is zero real empowerment in this objectifying, trashy film, but there's a lot of empowerment in people from the trans community saying "you don't get to depict us however you want, you don't get to label us however you want and WE, not you, will ultimately define what are empowering representations of us."

Gina I don't disagree except to the extent that you used the word "entirely". The very character of a "negative event" creates some level of public disdain even without someone standing up and screaming "no more". In the case of civil rights national press coverage did more to advance the cause than anything else. The general public had its awareness heightened. But I won't quibble with you because your points are well taken. I was simply saying that the very positive movie "Darling" holds less potential for significant change of public attitudes than TOTWK. Perhaps future events will prove me wrong.

Believe it or not Deena, I don't think trans people need every piece of art which features us to overtly be about social change or changing the public's attitudes. A lot of us are just hungry for a film, tv show or story which actually presents us with real respect and not as a joke, freak window dressing or object of pity. I think that was partly Jillian's original point?

I think you are correct. It certainly was not my intent to derail that focus. I have long been an Andy Warhol fan and although I seldom watch movies Darling is one that I will watch. I have already discovered that there is quite a bit about her on Youtube. I can guarantee you I won't watch TOTWK after viewing the trailer. That film is definitely third rate sleaze IMHO.

There are some great clips of Candy on YouTube, including bits from some of the films she made in Europe, like the 'Death of Maria Malibran.' She was really quite a wonderful performer with a very magnetic screen presence. Honestly, I can't think of any of the Warhol "superstars" who had any of the charisma she had, including the much-written-about Edie Sedgwick who, honestly, just seems like a pathetic stoner in most of her films.

Hmm.

I don't know if you meant me, Yasmin, but

Oddly, when I, as a social scientist, attempt to get into a serious discussion over the merits of a film regarding trans people, I get accused of precisely the statements made above.

Yasmin, my education, my background, my life in general -- all a matter of public record.

It is not difficult to do the research to find it. And there are people doing that, right now. I know, because I get notified about some of it.

But I do not pop up anywhere just to stir the pot. If I see something, I will make arguments -- and I always do them reactively.

I've even asked you some things in a different post, and been ignored -- possibly because of bad timing on my part (you may have already left the thread by the time I asked).

What happens is I make a statement or ask a question and instead of answering the question or rebutting the statement, what I get are personal attacks on my sex, on my gender, on my personality, on my appearance, on my style of dress, on my behavior in the past, on my motivations, on my "history of activism", on mental health, on my emotional state, on my writing style, on my grammar, on me.

None of which have anything to do with the statement I made or the question I asked.

I get told how I am feeling by people who have literally no personal experience with me -- online or off, and who have never had a conversation with me in person (which, as some here can tell you, is markedly different from encountering me online, even though I use the same arguments and the same methodology).

I am dismissed, ridiculed, called an "angry tranny" which is really the same thing as an "uppity nigger" in terms of dismissal and also something I've been called.

Even if I had a third grade education, none of that would matter, because I'm raising an argument and that argument is valid until someone demonstrates that it is not so.

Even if I'm the Devil incarnate come to drag the whole of the world into the Infernal nether world, it would not matter -- the questions, the statements are still there, and they still are valid.

Yes, I say harsh things. I will freely admit it. I am somewhat gifted at using words and language. Absolutely.

But I am that way because all of the above have been done to me any time I've made my thoughts known. I could say the sky is a light shade of grey today, and if I did so and tied it to my background in a post, there are people who frequent this site that would attack me personally just because I've said that.

Argue the points, not the person. The message is what is important, not the person delivering it.

IF you did mean me in your comment above, then I'm hurt. My being hurt is my problem. Your being wrong about me, though, that's yours.

And then we'd both have something to work on.

James Rasin's Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar is a tender biographical portrait of the vulnerable transgender actress (born James Slattery in Massapequa, N.Y.)

The frustrating part of this is the way that it's seen as practically required to assert a trans person's prior identity. She can't simply be Candy Darling, we have to name that prior life and make sure everyone knows who she was "born as." This tends to turn out as a kind of erasure, because the ciscentric understanding of the world says "Who you were born as" as far as they understand, is who you really are. Anything you do afterward is a superficial alteration that only serves to conceal the truth. And, of course, ciscentric reality denies the authenticity of transness, and requires our disowned names be indelibly painted upon our lives.

Kathy Padilla | April 3, 2010 8:44 AM

It is problematic. But, in a biography it would be unavoidable to talk about all of a persons life, unless the focus were limited to a time period.

How it's talked about is key to how it's perceived.

My specific complaint is how trans people's names always get this treatment in articles (like the quoted text). It's like, why do we need to know the name Candy's parents gave her when she was born at that point? Is it pivotal information?

I'm not strictly critiquing Dr. Weiss' usage here, I'm questioning why everyone does it all the time.

Re your point, Lisa, about the use of Candy's birth name. I note that it's not my usage. I simply reprinted the notice from The Times. I agree that the need to point out birth names is problematic.

Sorry about that, I missed that you were quoting.

But I didn't mean to aim it at you, just a general complaint because I am so tired of seeing it.

I'm kind of sad after googling Candy how many times I saw cis narratives about her life refer to her as a "female impersonator" or a "man pretending to be a woman."

everyone knows who she was "born as." This tends to turn out as a kind of erasure, because the ciscentric understanding of the world says "Who you were born as" as far as they understand, is who you really are. Anything you do afterward is a superficial alteration that only serves to conceal the truth.

I wanted say "precisely" in regard to this quote. I thought about it, however, read more closely and noticed this part of the quote

Anything you do afterward

With transsexualism "what you do" is driven by who you are. I guess Candy is not here to tell us how she perceived herself so I won't speculate.

"What we have here is a failure to communicate", though. "No one's gonna learn what they don't want to know" is mostly where these discussions go. The level of comprehension that persists here is "I saw this guy doing his impression of Barbara. It's amazing what you can do with make-up." Occasionally, it rises to the level of "I saw Jaye Davidson in the Crying Game". It's amazing how many beautiful men there are out there." It is depressing to realize that this is the context my civil rights could be relegated to.

I am also becoming very apprehensive about the "othering" effect reliance on expressions like "trans" and "cis" exerts on these discussions, too. Are those young kids at Spack's clinic going to have to go through the rest of their lives living as "transpeople" or will they be allowed into the human race?

"Anything you do afterward" refers to changing your name, taking hormones, getting surgery; that is, transitioning. Many cis people don't care about who we are they care about what they know which is often not very much at all. And often "what they know" is that "trans woman" means "really a man" and "trans man" means "really a woman." This is why "what we do" (transitioning) has no relevance to them, except to mark us as other.

I am also becoming very apprehensive about the "othering" effect reliance on expressions like "trans" and "cis" exerts on these discussions, too. Are those young kids at Spack's clinic going to have to go through the rest of their lives living as "transpeople" or will they be allowed into the human race?

The othering effect was there ever since transsexual people were labeled "transsexual." The point of cis is to decenter cis experiences as the default, to give both human experiences equivalency, and to make being "cis" a marked class, in the same way that "straight" or "heterosexual" marks straight people. Otherwise, you just have "trans people" and "everyone else."

Trans people don't have the power to maintain the distinctions between "trans people" and "everyone else [cis people]". Cissexist society maintains that distinction. News articles about trans people frequently degender trans people, assert that our lives pre-transition are our real lives, and that we're now just "living as men/women, but still really women/men," tell everyone what our assigned names are, even though we no longer use them and they are no longer our legal names, and often reveal specific details of our medical history.

So, yeah, if all of us who are using cis stopped using cis? Well, everyone else would still call trans people trans, transsexual, or transgendered, and they'll just be the default. It'd be fun deconstructing their institutionalized privilege without being able to name it (but when they learn of it, they don't want it named), but they will continue to name us.

These labels exist precisely because cis privilege constantly assigns us a category as "other?"

Also, I don't separate trans people into "who we are" before transition and "who we are" after transition. The assumption that we're changing "who we are" when we transition is a cissexist assumption as well as a false attribution error. We transition because of who we are, not to change who we are.

Hi LIsa,

I agree with a lot of what you have to say. I am sorry if I sounded as if I am nitpicking when I brought up the "what you do"/"who we are" disparity, even if it is at the heart of the issue.

I don't question whether the expressions "trans" and "cis" describe realities. I said reliance on those expressions makes me apprehensive. Overreliance on those expressions, in my humble opinion, creates oppositional binaries that can become false dichotomies.

Within the "cis" population exist people who are living lives that are far from what anyone could describe as privileged. There are people born transsexual or "trans" who do enjoy privilege but i understand. it isn't "cis" privilege they are able to enjoy. Still, the fact remains that life isn't easy for a lot of people even if the reasons for that fact are different.


I don't think most people mean "Your life is easy because you're cis" when they say that. I certainly don't. But if you have cis people living in these difficult circumstances, then you can also have trans people living in those same circumstances, and also being trans. Being trans is a complicating factor that makes life difficult in specific ways for trans people, and no matter where you can find cis people, you can find trans people who have to deal with the same problems + trans.

I think cis will be necessary as long as cis people insist on maintaining "trans" as a category, and that there's really not any overemphasis any more than there is on GLB vs. straight or men vs. women or white vs. people of color.

What strikes me about one of my trans friends is that she has never had any issues with talking about her childhood and her early life in a male body. She has no problem starting a statement with "when I was a little boy" We have known her since before she started her transition process and it has never really been problematic. My kids have grown up knowing here since shortly after the process began 15 or so years ago. Honestly my 12 year old has no problem understanding these things and he will sit and tell her about things that he likes to do and she will tell him about things that she liked when she was a boy his age.
It is just so honest and open that it seems perfectly normal around my house (consider that it is my house so it ain't Leave it to Beaver)

This is something individual trans people need to deal with. When cis people make this decision for us, it's problematic.

Like, if I choose to tell you my name? That's my choice. If a newspaper runs a story about me, digs up my old name, and then says "XXXXX XXXXX" (who goes by the name "Lisa Harney") and then describes my medical history in detail before bothering to actually touch on the topic the article is about (say I won the lottery or was in an automobile accident), that's pretty problematic.

Agreed. She doesn't ever mention her name from then. I don't even think that any of the kids but maybe my oldest would know it. Those of us who do know it would never use it or answer that question were someone to ask.

Regan DuCasse | April 3, 2010 2:16 PM

Ginasf,
Okay, I'm misinformed around the specificity of the cancer that Ms. Darling had.

I haven't seen a lot of material about her, and in fact, what little I learned was from a documentary about The Factory. So I came by my misinformation honestly. And considering this thread, there seems to be a challenge to the impetus behind this new film. It's true then, that she died of cancer and obviously at a tragically young age.

HOW she got leukemia...well, I know HRT doesn't cause or effect it.
What I don't understand is, if I'm misinformed, then why would this be a matter of antagonism or offense? I wasn't asserting anything as gospel here.


Anyway...
I know I don't know, which is why I'm here. And why I'd like to see this film.
Okay...WOW, seeing this thread. I have some other questions I need to ask.

Regan:

"then why would this be a matter of antagonism or offense?"

Regan, I corrected you about your cancer information. Whatever judgement you're putting on that correction is coming from you. It wasn't me who corrected your use of pronouns.

The reason I corrected you is because this urban myth (of transwomen getting cancer from hormones) has been floating around for a long time and gets repeated over and over again. In the real world if trans women get problems from anything in transition, it's if they've used injectable silicone (which Candy didn't do).