Bil Browning

The Cleveland Show goes transphobic: GLAAD goes silent

Filed By Bil Browning | November 29, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Cleveland Show, Family Guy, Madea, Seth McFarland, transgender stereotypes, transphobia, Tyler Perry

I realize the Thanksgiving holiday was last week, but surely the folks at GLAAD didn't take the entire week off work. After all, they had plenty of time to critique Good Morning America's decision to dump Adam Lambert after his racy AMA performance.

The week before, the org got into a ridiculous fight with South Park over an episode that used the word "faggot" repeatedly to show how hurtful it is. (The org later withdrew its objections and acknowledged there was nothing anti-gay about the episode.)

Auntie-Mama-Cleveland-Show.pngSo why isn't the media watchdog all over last Sunday's episode of The Cleveland Show? Why scream bloody murder over a cartoon with a pro-gay message while completely ignoring another show that is actually demeaning to our community? You know, the one that has characters vomiting at the thought of having sex with an "outrageous" deceptive "tranny" - who's really just a deep-voiced man pretending to be a woman, of course.

Thankfully, some of us were paying attention, because GLAAD sure as hell wasn't.

Complete episode and some of Renee's commentary after the jump.

...Cleveland discovers that Auntie Mama has a penis and immediately declares her a man. Auntie Mama clearly presents as a woman and lives her life as such and therefore; declaring her a man is highly transphobic. Rather than just admitting that trans people make the decisions that they do because their bodies are not aligned with their gender, Auntie Mama claims to have made the decision to live as woman after the death of Donna's mother to give her feminine role models.

Cleveland then decides to corner Auntie Momma and demand that she declare that she is a man. Immediately Auntie Momma's voice deepens and the rest of the episode is spent making jokes about her gender presentation. It was written as though she was deceiving those around her. This meme is particularly dangerous. The deceptive trans woman construction has lead repeatedly to murder and yet MacFarlane decided that this was just pure humour.

Of course, the deceptive trans woman then goes on to seduce a straight cisgender male. When Auntie Momma is outed by Cleveland, his father proceeds to vomit copiously and expresses shame for having in engaged in sex with Auntie Momma. It is absolutely not Cleveland's place to out someone? In the real world, such an action often ends in violence. Why is it necessarily shameful that a cisgender man engaged in sex with a trans woman? The response of Cleveland's father is based squarely in the trans panic and homophobia. Isn't MacFarlane great; two marginalizations for the price of one.

This entire episode was devoted to promoting transphobia and homophobia. It is particularly galling that this episode was aired right after the Transgender Day of Remembrance, which commemorates all those who have died because of trans hate in the previous year.

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What, GLAAD silent on blatant transphobia in the media while being right out there with a statement when the issue concerns a hot young gay celeb? I'm, um, shocked...yeah, really I am. Just yeah, that's the ticket.

GLAAD sure as hell wasn't.

Give GLAAD enough time and both of its faces will hop into action.


One will hop; the other will limp.

First, there will be lavish praise of the episode (at least if there's any way to connect it to same-sex marriage). Then, there will be lame condemnation of the transphobia.

I won't mention the Simpsons same-sex marriage episode by name.

I really won't,

Here, here Bil for an outstanding post!

It’s not at all surprising to me that a network like Fox would have no problem airing garbage like this!

I’m reminded of the “hell to pay” that Don Imus was put through a couple of years ago for his racist remarks. Our LGBT community needs to instantly react loudly and persistently to situations like this Fox show!

Unfortunately our LGBT community is not yet organized well enough to react swiftly, loudly and persistently when these situations develop. All of us in the LGBT community, both those of us who are “out” as well as those of us who aren’t must do a better job of providing a united public response to these very basic threats.

I had the honor of participating in my first TDOR event at Princeton University earlier this month. It was very difficult keeping my emotions in check whilst reading the names of 2 TG/TS people brutally murdered this past year. We all took turns reading these names aloud as well as the terrifying circumstances of each death. There are people among us, everyday who are capable of committing crimes like that against us if they somehow feel “justified!”

I just watched this video and I have to say that I am shocked. I'm all for un-PC humor and do not think I am generally overly-sensitive about things like this. But this show was blatantly transphobic and homophobic. The humor wasn't used ironically or satirically. GLAAD really should have said something....

Thanks for this, Bil. I hope GLAAD listens up...

This is just messed up. I'm generally a MacFarlane fan and I love Family Guy. I've only watched a couple of Cleveland episodes and missed this one until now. I don't know what the hell they were thinking.

By the way, for those who don't know, MacFarlane is a "progressive." Arianna Huffington does the voice of Arianna, the female bear character in the show. Fox is not the same as Fox News Channel. This is totally an attack coming from our own progressive corner.

MacFarlane may be a progressive, but that doesn't mean that he's educated or even sympathetic on all of the issues. I wouldn't be shocked if he didn't think that what he was doing would be a big deal. But this is precisely WHY GLAAD really needs to step in.

They are supposed to be our community's watchdogs. Our WHOLE community. Perhaps MacFarlane--who is an admitted Progressive--and the Cleveland show writers are in a place where they can be educated better and become better allies, but if our one group charged with doing that doesn't step up, then what motivation is there for them to give a damn?

GLAAD, please step up!

I agree, he and the staff are probably in need of some education. I wonder if they were attempting to satirize homophobia but ended up conflating homosexuals and transsexuals. Clearly Auntie Mama enjoys sex with men. But the satire falls flat with the explanation as to why Auntie Mama decided to become a woman (which apparently was to deceive other people).

GLAAD is asleep at the wheel lately... To this date their Latino/Spanish team still hasn't been visible in the media coverage of Jorge's murder in Puerto Rico. Some of it has been amazingly homophobic, like when one of the detectives explains to the news media that the suspect wants everyone to know he is not a homosexual...

Let's see if they actually take action on this...

OK, I do not get why anyone is shocked about this check the name "GAY & LESBIAN" AAD so they shouldn't really be expected to address anything about Trans or Bi people. They are like nGLtf and GLSEN trans and bi people really can only expect their attention when they are asking for money to help the community.
As far as these groups are concerned the T and B are back door company and really just a source for funding. There is a reason why we are not in the name.
Stop acting surprised when they do nothing for trans or bi people or queer people. Nothing is what they do best where most letters of the alphabet are concerned.
Here is an idea: tell them what I told the last HRC person who called me for a donation. "I only donate to LGBTQ organizations and your organization only represents two of those groups"

Sigh, GLAAD does some cool things and I really appreciate their media trainings and have worked well with them, but I've NEVER seen them respond effectively to transphobia in the media. As noted above, the simpsons episode is a example of their horrible reaction. But I can't count the number of times I've reported some transphobic media to them only to be told that it wasn't a big enough incident, or it wasn't egregious enough, or even to outright defend it as not transphobic.

I see this as worse than just transphobic or anti gay I see it as anti family values programming. While they bleeped the little kid in the beginning enough was let through. While we as lgbt should rightfully offended by this type of programing where are those who claim higher family values? I don't draw a distinction between fox and fox news because those who watch fox news watch fox. I will be making a complaint to the FCC thanks Bil

This is indefensible, but why is everyone so surprised? We're talking about a show about black people that doesn't have a single black writer on it (also, Cleveland is voiced by a white man). MacFarlane's other show (Family Guy) frequently makes fun of Arabs unapologetically, too.

battybattybats battybattybats | November 29, 2009 10:31 PM

This is disgusting.

I've seen ads for the show coming soon to Australian tv. I'm going to write to the station and tell them i won't watch it.

And while i doubt they'll do anything about it once that episode airs here i'll lodge a complaint to the tv standards authority on it's villification.

If I ever had sex with a person that I later found out was a man, I'd fucking puke too. Now stop being so sensitive.

Wonderful. The kind of mindset that perpetuates this transphobia.

If I ever had sex with someone who told people "Now stop being such a sensitive fag," I'd be just as upset, as I'm sure a good many others would be here as well. I doubt anyone would care that you later changed it to be "stop being so sensitive."

I want to say, surely you know the difference between being a trans woman and being a man in disguise, but being someone with a male name who pukes at the thought of sex with a man and throws around "fag" as a slur you don't seem to be the kind of person willing to educate yourself and I wonder what you're doing here other than to stir up a reaction.

Just to clarify - I forgot to put this in the comment.

I edited it to remove the "fag" portion since it was a direct attack and let the rest stand. I assumed y'all could respond to the other bullcrap the author has left. But for what it's worth, the same person is leaving other comments - all anti-trans - under different names on other posts.

Being anti-trans inclusion, however, isn't a slur or a direct personal attack. I ask that everyone else please refrain from attacking the person instead of the idea. It looks like this person will flame out on their own nicely.

If I had sex with a conservative, I'd retch my innards out. However, Eric, no one is doing programming on the unappealing nature of sex with reactionaries nor are they saying that reactionaries who posture as human beings ought to be denied their self-identification

GLAAD's actions have, or rather inaction, on certain media presentations lately is nothing short of appalling. Not more than two weeks ago an episode of Nip/Tuck depicted a trans woman that expressed her desire to de-transition. The surgeon obliged, but not before he derided her lifestyle, her choices, and voicing threats of violence against her. As if that wasn't enough to incur the wrath of trans-advocates, this week hot on the heels of the suicide of Mike Penner aka Christine Daniels, the show has again featured said transsexual (Alexis/Alex) requesting yet another surgery to replace breast implants so she might continue her sexual relationships with otherwise straight men.

Where has GLAAD, or for that matter any other organized LGBT advocacy group, on this particular matter? (crickets chirping....)

Instead of presenting a united front rebuking such heinous media portrayals, the majority of blogs I have been watching are kindling a debate over Same Sex Marriage and Gender Identity inclusion in ENDA. Let's not forget the increased frequency of and elevated awareness of militant feminist groups claiming that trans-women are merely "misogynistic gay men with severe mental disorders" infiltrating and ridiculing the ranks of "authentic feminist women".

I think it's completely relevant at this time that the trans community is asking ourselves, "Who are our friends, really?"

GLAAD, in my opinion, has never been a staunch ally to the trans community, their actions don't surprise me at all, but what about the majority of the rest of the LGB community. One hardly needs GLAAD to stand up and voice collective outrage, this is something we can do individually, but sadly it's not what I am hearing.

Why has the larger LGB not completely rallied support of the impending ENDA, choosing instead to engage in strategy debates about SSM further diluting the coalition that could easily advance this vital piece of legislation. I am not saying this because I'm trans, I'm saying this because an inclusive ENDA has more than 70% support in the general population vs. barely 50% for marriage. However, because ENDA is characterized as benefiting the trans community and SSM is perceived as benefiting the LGB, here we sit in an endless tug of war with both sides screaming "me first". Stop it!!!!

I'm sorry to have gone astray of the original post, but to my mind, this is all part of the same illness that infects our movement. The sooner we stop framing this as Us vs. Each other and rightly determine it's Us vs. Them, the sooner we will begin to accomplish meaningful advances.

Or, we can continue with the status quo, how's that working for ya?

Okay, we have seen the complaints and the bitching that GLAAD doesn't give a shit about transphobia in the media. Now, what can we do about it?

Why not start a national organization that is specifically for responding to these very problems in the media? The trans community have relied on GLAAD far too long and they have constantly failed us. How about the "Transgender Anti Defamation Association," or "TADA." (Yes I know. It looks like "TAVA.")

I co-founded a successful national organization seven years ago. I know what it takes to start one. And, on MANY occasions, I have done what GLAAD won't do. Jay Leno has heard from me.

However, I will not be in charge of this. I will be here to help those in the trans and trans-supportive communities who wish to take this on. You want to respond to these issues? Then, take it on. I will be at least one person who will help this new organization grow. I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one.

But, but....but...GLAAD has such WONDERFUL Fundraisers and Din-dins!!! Hmmmmm...yeah.
They're really on the ball(s).

In case you hadn't noticed, the name of the organization is GLAAD, with a GL, not GLTAAD. Fortunately, GLAAD is one of the few organizations that haven't buckled to the PC thugs like those who hang out at Bilerico, who insist that anyone who doesn't consider themselves in the same group as "trans" people are horrible, terrible, evil bigots.

Good for GLAAD. Stay focused on gay issues and don't lose credibility by defending heterosexual-identifed transgenders who choose to deceive their sexual partners.


The name is an issue of formality, the actual mission statement is as follows:

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) is dedicated to promoting and ensuring fair, accurate and inclusive representation of people and events in the media as a means of eliminating homophobia and discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

The complaint many of us are airing is not that they don't include trans people in their work but that their prioritization of different elements in their mission seems to be influenced by a discriminatory bias.

Additionally, do you really think that depictions like this only impact straight trans people who don't disclose their trans status? Do you also think that rants against gay men who flaunt their sexuality and come on to straight men only impact gay men who engage in sexual harassment?

You seem to at least tentatively support defending queer trans people, so rather then go over the reason why inclusion of straight trans people is useful (not just moral but strategically beneficial too). Instead, I'll just point out that decrying the horrible depiction of trans people in this show is not the same thing as defending the ludicrous and illogical behavior of the trans character. You don't have to associate yourself with the type of trans people you seem to abhor in order to point out that it is an unrealistic and harmful depiction.

battybattybats battybattybats | November 30, 2009 7:47 PM

Hi Mika. I'm not heterosexual-identified. I'm still transgender. I don't deceive my partner. I'm a MtF crossdresser/bi-gender/genderqueer. My partner is FtM. So on any given day we may appear to be hetero, lesbian, gay or confusingly difficult to identify.

So much for stereotypes huh. Thats the problem though usn't it, the viscious stereotypes used to harm me and my partner and the entire sex and gender diverse community.

I really get tired of reading how none of the LGBT organizations do enough to make the T's in LGBT feel included.

Instead of sitting around complaining start your own organizations if you don't like the way things are being done, or better yet engage the existing organizations and lobby them when you feel they should do better.

Sitting on the sidelines and constantly sniping is not constructive in the least and only further separates OUR cause, which is equal rights for all of us.

I'm curious travelingman rick, have you ever started an organization? Have you ever held a leadership position on an organization? Because you seem to be making it a criteria before other people can have a say in what's going on, it would be beyond ironic if you don't meet your own criteria.

I'm getting really tired of people who assume that anyone who complains must never have started a group or lead one. A resume don't make or break the validity of a person's argument, but since you care a great deal about it let me share that I've started several organizations (6? 12? I lose count) and about half of them are still operational. I also have been on the board of 3 different mainstream LGBTQ organizations and have working relationships with another dozen or two, including GLAAD. Maintaining a working relationship doesn't mean I refrain from pointing out problems when they arise. In fact, I've had organizations thank me for not letting them get away with things, and I similarly am appreciative of the constructive criticism my organizations receive.

If you are so concerned about folks sitting on the sidelines and sniping at others, furthering infighting, and threatening the unity of our movement, without adding anything constructive, you might want to begin by examining your own behavior.

battybattybats battybattybats | November 30, 2009 7:59 PM

travelingman rick, what are the defining differences between:

a) "Sitting on the sidelines and constantly sniping .... not constructive in the least and only further separates OUR cause, which is equal rights for all of us."

b) Informing people of a problem going unnoticed or under-noticed so that everyone may fulfill their responsibility towards "equal rights for all of us." to enable the entire community to "engage the existing organizations and lobby them when ... they should do better."

As i see b) going on and the only thing i see like a) seems to me to be coming from anti-trans-inclusion folk. But perhaps i have it backwards instead of them so please do show the defining characteristics of these two things to correct my error if i have one.

I really get tired of reading how none of the LGBT organizations do enough to make the T's in LGBT feel included.

I am too! They should really get on it, because criticizing them for the same things, over and over, is getting old!

Meghan Fenner | December 1, 2009 1:55 AM

@travelingman rick-

I hate to think I give you, or any other reader, the wrong impression. Please let me clarify.

I don't for a second advocate a division of the alliance between the LGB and T communities. Contrary, I think the loss of any of our community would be a peril to us all. I simply advocate for the autonomy of each individual demographic. You know, the whole...greater than the sum of it's parts.

I wonder when I hear people voice sentiments similar to yours', whether you even make an effort to understand that without unity, we are all just disparate minorities. Not a single progressive piece of civil rights legislation has advanced in this country or any other, without support from a portion of every minority coalition. Not even the AARP can advance legislation without first garnering support and building a coalition. How do you suppose they do that, by packing up their toybox and abandoning their allies at the first sign of dissent?

Contentions fuel the fires of healthy and vigorous debate and without that, we are nothing but sheep following the herd. The consensus is that T occupies a valid place in this movement. Might I suggest, if you don't like that we are here, you go ahead and start your own organization and wage your own battles. As for me, I am here. Get used to it!

And FYI, I also identify as lesbian.

battybattybats battybattybats | December 1, 2009 9:01 PM

Lets look at the demographics... TG in the full extent of the umbrella is estimated as being as large OR LARGER than self-identified GLB combined (I've seen estimates of self-identified GLB at 2-4% and crossdressers alone at 5-10%), with a significant overlap as a lot of TG people are GLB. So excluding TG from GLB would seem positively INSANE.

Now instead of reducing GLBT power does dramaticly increasing the power of GLBT sound good to everyone here?

Then we need to build bridges to the mostly-closeted parts of the TG community and help them with internalised oppression and help them understand the need for becoming active. Imagine the extra votes, donations and activism that could come from getting those closeted crossdressers onside and active and contributing!

Yeah, I'm not surprised either. The Family Guy is one of the most homophobic shows on TV. I don't know if they even let a single episode go by without with a "You're gay! hahahahahahaha" joke being included in it.

Bruce Zhou | April 16, 2010 9:30 PM

So many reactionary stupid people who doesn't actually "watch shows".

You gotta be kidding yourselves that majority of the public are homophobic. Most heterosexuals within the middle class demography won't bother watching "positive" potrayals of transgenders on tv or goto or be impressed by festivals.

battybattybats battybattybats | April 19, 2010 12:02 AM

Who do you think bought tickets to Priscilla Queen of the Desert? Or Kinky Boots? Do you think that was only GLBTI people? When Priscilla is put out as part of Mothers Day sales regularly in major supermarkets? When it's included in the pink-coloured items raising money for breast-cancer in said supermarket in rural towns no less... when 85% of the Australian population polled say they support Gender Identity Inclusive Federal Anti-Discrimination Legislation, when comparing polls on religious belief with polls on that and same-sex marriage we see that the majority of pro GLBTI people are religious and the majority of Religious people are pro-LGBTI!

No a tiny minority (less than 4% strongly opposed that anti-discrimination legislation!) using good spin and media skills, has hijacked our collective idea of what the majority actually is like! And people who don't want to make waves fall in line in their public actions and words with what they expect their peers would think of them rather than their actual views.

Contemplate that!