Rebecca Juro

Why Our Lady J Writing For 'Transparent' Is a Bad Idea

Filed By Rebecca Juro | January 05, 2015 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Media, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: anti-trans slur, Jill Soloway, privilege, RuPaul, RuPaul's Drag Race, slurs, Transparent

Editor's Note: The publicity photo of Our Lady J that she uses on Twitter was removed from this post at the photographer's request. You can see OLJ here, since her team doesn't want her face appearing in an article that questions her authority as a transgender community leader.

transparent-amazon-pilot.jpgLike a lot of trans women, I loved the first season of Transparent. Loved, loved, loved it. The acting was wonderful, the stories were well-written and affecting, and it shined a spotlight on a segment of the trans community that's all-too-often overlooked these days, older and late-transitioning trans women.

I was in my glory as I binge-watched that first season. This is it, I thought to myself and wrote later, this is our Will & Grace, this is the show that's finally going to portray trans women as real people with real lives instead of as stereotypes and caricatures.

Since then, I've never had reason to doubt that assessment or to question my confidence that the second season of Transparent would be just as good as the first.

That is, until now.

It concerns me greatly that out of all of the possible candidates for a trans woman they could have picked to join their writing team, Jill Soloway and her team chose Our Lady J. To be blunt, if Soloway and her creative team on Transparent were trying to include the perspective of real trans women on their writing team, they couldn't have chosen anyone less representative of how most trans women actually live, think, feel, and believe than this woman.

We already have all the evidence we need to conclude that Our Lady J doesn't represent the thoughts, feelings, or values of most trans women, or even wants to. In fact, it's all on video.

In this video, recorded last spring when trans women were speaking out against RuPaul's use of the anti-transgender slurs "tranny" and "she-male" on his television show RuPaul's Drag Race, musician Our Lady J and Australian drag queen Courtney Act publicly took the side of RuPaul and Logo. They cast RuPaul as blameless and trans women as shrill, unreasonable haters who didn't have a right to be upset that their super-wealthy elite drag queen buddy with the television show (which they have both appeared on) is publicly using words seen by trans women as demeaning and offensive.

The rationalizations here are stunning in their ignorance and detachment from the lives most trans women live. Indeed, unending waves of elitism, entitlement, and privilege practically gush from your computer screen as you watch this conversation unfold.

[Photo Removed] First, Our Lady J claims that the word "tranny" was "...created as an umbrella term for everyone who was a gender outlaw, and instead of saying 'Oh I'm a transsexual, I'm...a drag queen, or a crossdresser, I am genderqueer.' You know, all these different labels. I understood 'tranny' to be all-encompassing."

Really? I guess I have to wonder where this woman came out because in the world I came out as a trans woman into, "tranny" wasn't used as a legitimate community descriptor, it was thrown at people as a slur.

The way I've heard this word often used in my own life is the way I heard one of my new managers refer to me on the very first day I reported for work as a woman, "They hired a fucking tranny?" "Which bathroom is the tranny going use? Are they going to let it use the ladies room?"

In my experience, which I believe is in concert with the experience of far more trans women than Our Lady J's kumbaya fantasy, "tranny" is used to degrade and demean trans women, not as a positive collective descriptor for the trans community.

Oh but wait, it gets worse...much worse.

Regarding the term "she-male" (which has been popularly considered derogatory for decades), Our Lady J says that her boyfriend was more offended by the usage of the term by RuPaul than she was, but he ultimately admitted that he was upset because he thought he was supposed to be. Therefore, Our Lady J claims, that there was " true, like, offense." This privileged, white, celebrity performer simply waved off the offense felt by trans women and allies from the use of this slur, implying that the hurt and offense these slurs cause other trans women to feel isn't real or valid because she and those around her don't share it.

Our Lady J then complains:

"...and it wasn't until they came for Ru where I put my foot down and said 'Enough.' So I don't understand why for somebody what Ru's relationship with these words are, but I know that he isn't hateful toward trans people. There was suddenly very clear hate speech coming from the trans community, saying that they were defending themselves from hate speech. I've never seen someone in the public eye say to trans people 'I hate you', and I heard that coming from trans people about RuPaul."

For me, this quote says it all about how Our Lady J sees herself and her relationship to other trans women. By referring to the trans community repeatedly as "they" and "them" and defining the trans community as some sort of angry, pitchfork-wielding mob who "came for" RuPaul, she separates herself from the rest of us and places herself socially and culturally outside of the borders of the trans community.

Later in the video, Our Lady J demeans the trans community yet again when she blames the trans community's anger as being responsible for giving "tranny" its power as a slur. This woman exhibits such an incredible level of arrogance and open disdain for our community that she actually blames trans women for our own victimization and even throws in the "sticks and stones..." rationale for good measure. Talk about forgetting where you come from.

Despite being a person with a trans history, Our Lady J makes it crystal clear in this video that she doesn't see herself as one of us nor does she wish to be seen by others as part of our community.

Well, have no fear OLJ: from what I'm hearing, the feeling is almost universally mutual.

out-of-touch.jpgIt bothers me a lot that someone who is so completely unlike the average, everyday trans women most of us know, someone who doesn't credibly represent how most trans women think, feel, or believe, someone who obviously has no interest at all in accurately representing the perspective of most trans women, was chosen for this position. This was an incredible and extremely rare opportunity for a real, honest trans community voice to be heard in the mainstream, but instead it's going to be wasted on yet another Hollywood phony.

How horribly, crushingly sad.

I guess all we can hope for now is that Our Lady J's elitist, detached, and cynical perspective on her fellow trans women is overshadowed by the rest of the Transparent writing team. That is, unless common sense prevails and Soloway and her team try again for someone much more authentic, someone more like the characters they're portraying.

Hopefully, it's not too late for this horrible mistake to be fixed. Our Lady J is a person of trans experience, but she isn't really one of us. She doesn't reflect who we are, the kind of lives we lead, or our values. Most importantly, she's made it abundantly clear that she doesn't want to.

Proactively including a trans woman as a writer on Transparent is a wonderful, commendable thing, but it needs to be someone who accurately reflects the kind of woman most trans women are. Real, everyday trans women who live real, everyday lives and love this show are hoping Jill Soloway and her team will come to their senses and make this right.

Image of Our Lady J via Twitter.

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