By Kate Doak.
If anyone thought that sexism wasn’t rife within politics and the media, the events of the last few days should cure them. Between homophobic comments, ACORN rants and penis jokes by some attendees of the recent CPAC summit, not to mention a proverbial tennis match between Keith Olbermann and Ann Coulter over transgender individuals, there’s more than enough ammunition floating around that shows the influence that issues like sex and sexuality have on society today.
Now Ann Coulter and Keith Olbermann have a long history of despising each other’s guts, to the point where a Bullwhip, Chair and Pistol would probably be useful if they ever met face to face and were forced to openly talk about their differences. Like two competing lightening rods, both of these individuals are polarised to their respective ideals in a way that will never change.
As a young Trans-woman, I’ve heard my fair share of transgender-orientated jokes and rants from both conservatives and liberals. For some weird reason, we tend to be regular targets of ridicule for Conservatives, some feminists and parts of the gay community alike. Coincidently as I’m writing this, I’m receiving extremely cold stares from a gay guy who used to reside in my University Dorm and officially complained about my Transition last year. Transphobia can come from anyone, regardless of politics, location or sexuality.
Recently Ann Coulter launched an attack on MSNBC, pretty much calling Keith Olbermann a Mama’s Boy, Richard Wolffe a creepy androgynous “he-she”, and Rachel Maddow a dude. In a strange twist for a Journalism student, words cannot describe the disgust that I’m experiencing typing these comments out. They are examples of Transphobia in their most vile and blatant form. To the best of my knowledge, neither Maddow or Wolffe have commented publicly on Coulter’s remarks. Olbermann on the other hand has decided to trade barbs with Coulter over this, resorting to referencing Ann’s well known nickname, “Mann Coulter”.
Over the years Olbermann has proved to be a very useful ally for the LGBT movement and the Transgender community in general. Coulter on the other hand, has a vindictive streak within her personality, regularly showing that she’s willing to stamp on the weakest in society if it furthers her own social and political agenda. However annoying, offensive and disgusting it may be, hearing Transphobic remarks from Ann isn’t very surprising. Hearing Keith use Transgender people as a punchline against Ann Coulter however, is.
Quoting Olbermann: (video in link)
“All I have to say about Ann Coulter is this. If this guy wants to live his life as a woman I’m going to back his choice up 100 percent. Coultergeist, today’s not worst person in the world.”
Now I know that I’ll catch a lot of flack for this, but Olbermann crossed a line in saying that. Just because Coulter targeted MSNBC with Transphobic remarks, doesn’t give Olbermann the moral right to respond in kind, no matter how justified or satisfying such a return volley might be. At all times a media personality must take into consideration the ideals and values of their audience, while acting responsibly. With this particular story, I don’t think that Keith and his writers did that, as there are plenty of other punchlines that he could have used that wouldn’t have ridiculed one of the smallest and quietest minorities in the world. Both Keith and Ann’s respective tirades do nothing but promote an environment where transgender people are threatened with violence on a daily basis. The horrific murders of people like Angie Zapata, Gwen Araujo and Brandon Teena are testament to that.
The latest round of Olbermann and Coulter’s “Love-fest” also showcases the low priority that organisations such as the Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have for the Transgender community at this time. Since this story broke, there hasn’t been a single press release or comment from any of these organisations about either Olbermann’s or Coulter’s comments. This is extremely surprising given the fact that Coulter called CNN’s Anderson Cooper gay and Olbermann a girl, at the Conservative Political Action Conference for 2010 over the weekend. If it wasn’t for columnists such as Tommy Christopher and the people at Queerty, it is highly probable that the punchline of these comments would have gone un-noticed.
Strangely enough, this isn’t the first time that these organisations have ignored issues concerning the Transgender community for political gain. Soon after The Task Force’s Creating Change 2010 summit earlier this month, I asked the Human Rights Campaign’s Diversity Officer Allyson Robinson via Twitter what her organisation’s policies are towards Transgender people in the military and why there weren’t Transgender provisions within the Bill to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’. After having to apply considerable pressure, I was then informed that the Transgender community is covered by a “Medical Policy” and that I should talk to “Knights Out” about it. For those of you who don’t know, that’s Washington-speak for “You are too controversial for us to consider helping with this Bill. Go away and be someone else’s problem”. This chain of thought is typical of what the Transgender community has been experiencing for quite a while, where HRC will only advocate for Transgender rights if it is politically advantageous for them to do so.
Ironically, as Transphobic as Coulter’s and Olbermann’s comments are, they aren’t nearly as offensive as the refusal of some LGBT rights organisations to stand up to them.
Kate Doak is a Postgraduate student at the University of New England, Australia. Over the past several years, Kate’s changed genders once, academic fields twice and has developed a deep passion for radio broadcasting. When not posting for Tommy Christopher’s Daily Dose, she can be found at www.tunefm.net or on Twitter.