Gender Is A Pretzel

Teri Toye by Steve Meisel James Killough Pure Film Creative


by James Killough

It seems to have been very moving for non-LGBTs to see Chaz Bono on Dancing With The Stars.  He has even persuaded the skeptical, maybe even some of those who were initially outraged that he was going to appear on such a wholesome show, although I doubt the Christian groups which called for a boycott of the season were ever appeased.

Male model Andrej Prejic was named the 98th sexiest woman in the world by men’s magazine FHM, which also called him a “thing.”

For most of us in Homolandia, it wasn’t a big deal at all, of course.  We live in a magical parallel world like Harry Potter’s, full of all sorts of odd, splendid creatures walking around fucking with your reality and casting spells.  What is always more surprising is the negative reactions we still get from the religious troglodytes in the flyover states.

Mike Thompson, the acting president of our own grand arbiters of moral rectitude, GLAAD, a.k.a. The Swish Inquisition, issued this statement:

“Though it’s sad to see him go, Chaz has helped countless people better understand what it means to be transgender. He should be commended for both his courage and determination. We hope Chaz’s time on “Dancing with the Stars” is just the beginning in a long line of transgender-inclusive programming across the media.”

To my comments in previous posts regarding Gheys and Lesbotrons having trouble reaching a consensus on anything, note how Mr. Thompson is the “acting” president.  I’m sure he dances and sings, too.

I lost interest in the DWTS program when it was clear from his embarrassing Phantom of the Opera routine that Chaz was going to be booted off the show, or else there was no justice in the world, and Cher would have been accused of rigging the contest if he had stayed.  It was only the next day that I read in the news that the inevitable had happened: Chaz was yanked after being compared to a dancing penguin, which immediately made me think he might have done better if he’d slid across the stage on his belly at some point.

Except the dancing penguins in “Happy Feet” could bust a move. They also had a sense of humor.

When I remarked about it to my Shriekin’ Rican, Willy, who had watched the whole show, he expressed what most Homolandians thought and felt, despite statements issued on our behalf by the righteous GLAAD.  “Bueno, mi’jo,” he shrugged.  “Chee have to relax now, ju know?  Chill out, take time off, go diet.  Chee too fat to dance.  All de hormones, chee look like an elephant.  And so sweaty, too!  Bleh.”

Note how Willy says “she”—well, as best he can—and doesn’t accord Chaz the more PC gender change to “he.”  This is, of course, the feminization that many Gheys commonly use in speech, randomly switching any man’s gender.  When they are speaking a Romance language it is even more pronounced because the endings of many words change.  Willy generally doesn’t feminize me when we speak Spanish, but will refer to us as a group of girls sometimes for effect; i.e., ‘we are ready to go out’ will be estamos listAS para la calle, rather than the masculine plural listOS.

I rarely go in for feminizing in speech.  I find it confusing and not very funny when applied to Gheys; it’s trite and too camp; it might also have to do with being a writer and so constantly concerned with the precision of language.  Turning Muamar Gaddafi into Mama Gaddafi the disgruntled black drag queen was the first time I’ve done it in writing because I could just imagine Gaddafi frothing at the mouth and going berserk if I’d actually done that to his face.  Feminizing him was my idea of kicking him in the nuts and dragging him through the mud, which if you think about it is totally wrong, but who cares: it was fucking hilarious to create new captions and commentary.  I had a blast.

When Chaz was eliminated from DWTS, he said something to the effect that he wished he’d had role models like himself on TV growing up, that it would have been a lifesaver, or life-changer, or something to that effect.

Chaz, turn off the TV: you’re Cher’s daughter/son. There is no bigger transgender role model than your own mother: she’s a drag queen’s drag queen.  When Lady Miss Whatever-Name-Is-Punny-Or-Homonymic gets up there and lipsyncs, she regrets she can’t do Cher every time because it’s almost a cliché.  Your mother sounds like a man trying to sing like a seductive woman to the gayest GLAAD-approved boom-boom wailing anthem beats allowed by law before it becomes labeled disco porn.  Her face has always looked surgically altered to make a dude look like a chick, from her cheekbones to her jaw line.

Not a transgender role model. Nooooo.

It seems only natural to me that Cher’s daughter would go a step further and become a man.  What else was he supposed to do?  Get a Real Job?

That’s what I kept asking myself when I was watching the somewhat interesting Becoming Chaz, the OWN network’s reality series about Mr. Bono, which put him in the spotlight, but more importantly kept Oprah’s fledging channel from collapsing altogether right out of the gate: what does Chaz do for a living?  Why did he need to borrow the money for his surgery from people outside his family?  Did he blaze through whatever he inherited from Sonny?

Despite Willy’s assertions that “hormones make ju fat,” the truth is the few female-to-male (FTM) that I have encountered have left me flustered and confused.  I find them extremely attractive, when they are handsome and fit, obviously.  The first one I met was the “boyfriend” of a lesbian friend of Jonathan Kemp’s in London.  I couldn’t even speak to him because my attraction to him left me so perplexed; my sense of the order of things was turned completely upside down.  Another was a “guy” I met online, a tattoo artist in Los Angeles, who was even more confusingly attractive.  I almost gave in with the tattoo artist, but shied away from actually hooking up.  And I feel like a total sissy wimp for not doing it.

Another gender-bending model who kept me in her thrall in the 80s was Leslie Winer. When, high as a kite, she flipped the birdie to all Vogue editors from the runway, that was the end of her career.

Indeed, the general belief when Chaz and I were growing up was that your mother made you this way.  That thinking was prevalent especially among Gheys.  One of my early gay mentors even used to say, “Well, with a mother like that, what do you expect?” when we’d speculate as to whether someone like Prince Albert of Monaco batted for our team or not.  With the glamorous Princess Grace to look up at, he didn’t stand a chance in our view.

However, despite the fact my mother is an Upper East Side interior decorator, a character straight out of the first seasons of Sex and the City, she isn’t to blame for my homo-ness.  There is not a teaspoon of diva in her Aussie practicality, nothing that would whet an appetite for other men much less make me want to don her frocks.  The fact that she chose one of the few acceptable professions for a woman or a gay man from her era and socio-cultural background had nothing to do with my stomping around a bathhouse as an adult in a flimsy white towel at 3 a.m. jacked on drugs.

It’s a pity Cher took Chastity to Palm Springs as a child rather than Italy because I grew up there with a transgender role model on TV, Amanda Lear.  She was at various times the biggest pop star in Italy, singing dreadful Euro-disco songs with lyrics like, “voulez-vous, a-rendez vous, tomorrow?”  (Shit, now I’m going to have that tune and Amanda’s throaty tone-deaf baritone on maximum rotation in my head for the rest of the weekend.)

Amanda Lear with Salvador Dalì, who apparently drew her when she was still a man.

Her exclamations of surprise on Becoming Chaz aside, I doubt Cher was in the least surprised her daughter turned out to be a man.  Just like with my mother, it’s not her doing at all.  Cher might be somewhat responsible for Chaz’s eating problem and body image issues, but that’s another matter.  Chastity becoming Chaz and doing it so publicly was just a natural progression for someone raised in Cher’s particular carnival lifestyle.  Had he come from my background, Chaz would have made his transformation discreetly and moved to Alaska to become a lumberjack, and never set foot on Park Avenue again.

At the end of the day, Chaz is a normal FTM—yes, normal, and rather boring—making his hay while the sun still shines.  And we all get the need to make hay in some way or other; if he needed to borrow the money to have his surgery, clearly Chaz has to do some sort of work, even if it is being a reality TV star.  It’s pretty clear from his graceless unhappy feet penguin turn on DWTS that one thing Chaz wasn’t born with is his mother’s talent gene.

Andrej Prejic again, playing with baby oil.

It is ironic that Chaz was eliminated after his unconvincing portrayal of the Phantom of the Opera, a physically challenged man whose inner graces charm a beautiful woman.  All I saw was an overweight, chemically enhanced Lesbotron unsuccessfully trying to be something she really isn’t for the sake of ratings and his own commercial worth as a celebrity.  To proclaim himself a transgender hero at the end was a bit much for me, despite his apparent “humility,” which I think is more social awkwardness and insecurity.

All relentlessly scathing critiques of his TV appearances aside, I think Chaz seems like a sweet, down-to-earth guy.  My problem is in the same vein as my ranting about the degrading of the fat bitch: I find the pathos he generates in viewers to be irritating, but I’m not sure that’s his fault.  I want real parity for Homolandia, not pity.  Again, Chaz is just trying to make his own mark in the deep, dark shadow his mother casts in the only way he knows how because that’s how he was raised.  And when the day comes that he inherits from Cher, that is going to be one empowered transsexual.

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