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April 14, 2017

No Worries: The Trans Guy Is Still on the Island

CYBERSPACE—Supporters of sexual choice castigated broadcaster CBS and production house Xfinity TV for allowing a contestant on the latest edition of the long-running "reality series" Survivor to out a fellow contestant as transgendered—but as it turns out, they spoke/posted/tweeted too soon. Seems that during Wednesday night's "Tribal Council," Jeff Varner, one of the previous contestants returning for the current series, Survivor: Game Changer, outed another returning contestant, gardener Zeke Smith, as the entire remaining players were deciding which person to throw off the Fiji island this week. "Why haven’t you told anyone here you’re transgender?" Varner asked Smith, implying that Smith had not been honest with fellow contestants, and therefore couldn't be trusted and should be expunged from the "tribe." Varner immediately faced censure from other members, with some shouting, "That's personal!" "Nobody has a right to out anybody!" and "You didn't have to do that!" Varner apologized, but The Daily Beast reporter Samantha Allen quoted a tweet from the anti-defamation group GLAAD, which described Wednesday's episode as "a gut-wrenching look at the consequences of outing a transgender person against his will." Just one problem: Smith was aware well before the broadcast that he would be outed nationally, and had even discussed the issue with Survivor host Jeff Probst. "I had a chat with Jeff Probst in which we agreed if, how, and when I’m gonna talk about this part of my life—it’s gonna be up to me, as opposed to being outed by a fellow contestant being the exception," Smith said on Thursday’s episode of The Talk in discussing the topic with Julie Chen. "But in the aftermath of being outed, I’ve been granted unprecedented autonomy in how I wanted to tell my story. We started having conversations all the way back in Fiji nine months ago about the care with which this episode was going to be handled. I came to Jeff and asked if I could write a personal essay about what happened and he immediately said yes. And I was really proud of how I responded. And I wanted the world to see how much I’d grown and I also thought by showing what happened, maybe it wouldn’t happen to someone else and something good could come of it." Moreover, "In a statement, GLAAD said that their Transgender Media Program 'worked with Zeke Smith and CBS for several months to ensure that when the episode aired Zeke would have the opportunity to speak for himself about his experience.'" So while it's unclear how upset Smith was about being outed as a trans man on national TV, he seems to be making the best of it—plus, despite the outing, he didn't get voted off the island. And speaking of GLAAD, producer Harvey Weinstein is about to get some major support from the group in his challenge to the MPAA regarding the rating of his latest release, 3 Generations, which the film rating group had wanted to give an "R" rating, which would prevent unaccompanied minors from viewing the film in theaters. The reason for the more censorious rating? The film stars Elle Fanning as a girl who's always felt she was born into the wrong body, and is in fact a boy. In other words, she's transgender, and since GLAAD supports transgender rights, it announced that it would write a letter to the MPAA supporting Weinstein's appeal for a PG-13 rating. Almost needless to say, the controversy attracted the attention of the pro-censorship Parents Television Council, which released a statement on its blog saying, "The most worn-out page in [Weinstein’s] playbook describes how to whine about an age rating from the MPAA. And with his new film, 3 Generations, he is back at it once again, suggesting that his film is too important to be rated accurately. Mr. Weinstein must think that if a standard is good, then a double standard is twice as good. ... There is abundant evidence pointing to inaccurate and inconsistent age ratings for entertainment media content. The various age rating systems are becoming muddled and more confusing not because of what parents want, but sadly because of what entertainment industry executives can get away with. If the MPAA chooses to create special age rating criteria for Harvey Weinstein, then it will simultaneously destroy whatever level of trust parents have placed in the system over the past 50 years." At press time, the blog post had only one comment, which said in part, "Thank the Lord for the Catholic News Service’s movie rating system." There's some good news for trans people this week, though. The Virginia Supreme Court has ruled in the case of Lafferty v. Fairfax County, upholding a lower court's ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed against the Fairfax County (VA) School Board, which charged that the Board had unlawfully added the terms "sexual orientation," "gender identity," and "gender expression" to its policy and student handbook. The plaintiffs in the case, a local schoolboy, his parents and Andrea Lafferty, head of the religious pro-censorship group Traditional Values Coalition, were found to have had no standing to bring the case in the first place. However, Liberty Counsel, the far-right legal organization which represents the plaintiffs, said it hopes to refile the suit because of "new developments in the application of this unlawful policy." (On the other hand, Trump's/Jefferson Beauregard Sessions II's Justice Department has dropped its lawsuit against North Carolina's anti-LGBT bill HB2—and apparently it wouldn't have mattered if the legislature had actually fixed it—which it really didn't. Details here.) Perhaps even better news, though, is the airing of a TV commercial for Dove baby soap, which features, among other moms, a trans woman and her companion caring for their baby. "We are both his biological parents," said the trans woman, Shea, while rocking a baby. "You get people that are like, 'What do you mean you're the mom?' We’re like, 'Yep! We’re both gonna be moms.'" This time, it's the American Family Association, through its right-wing "news organ" NewsBusters, that's thrown the hissy fit. "This isn’t the first time Dove has pushed progressive commercial content," wrote NewsBusters' Sarah Stites. "For its 2015 Father’s Day ad, the beauty brand included a gay couple among its lineup of new fathers. Within the LGBT sphere, several companies have included gay and lesbian couples to promote everything from Chobani yogurt to Wells Fargo financial services. But now, Dove included, brands are moving toward transgenderism and gender fluidity in ads. This latest Dove campaign joins a large number of transgender-themed ads within the beauty sphere. Makeup brands L’Oreal, Milk and Covergirl have featured transgender or gender-fluid models, while other brands have tackled political issues head on. In late March, Vicks released a widely hyped ad called “Generations of Care,” which featured the true story of Gayatri, a young Indian girl, and her adoptive transgender mother." Pictured: Shea.

 
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