THE BLOG

Will TransAmerica Aid or Exploit the Lives of Trans People?

10/18/2013 06:25 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

I was having brunch with a friend this past weekend. As we walked off our meals, we talked about a few upcoming events bound to impact transgender people (and, just as importantly, public perception of transgender people). The conversation eventually turned to the upcoming transgender-centric reality show TransAmerica, currently in its casting phase.

Described as a "docu-soap reality series" that will "[push] the envelope ... to redefine sex in the city with a transgender twist," the casting call expresses an interest in "dynamic and fashionable trans women," referring to them as a "divine sisterhood." Additionally, Doron Ofir Casting, the agency behind TransAmerica, is most famous for also handling the casting of RuPaul's Drag Race, a show about (typically cisgender men who enjoy performing as) drag queens. Given the "dynamic and fashionable" line in the casting call, I have to wonder whether the TransAmerica casting will reflect the actual trans women I know or will be something more along the lines of a flamboyant, over-the-top, Drag Race-esque monstrosity.

And given the fact that the show's creators would work with such an agency, I really have to question their motives. In my opinion, RuPaul is one of the most transphobic men in the world. When asked about the difference between a drag queen and a trans woman, RuPaul answered, "About $25,000 and a good surgeon." I think the blog planetransgender responded to this statement best:

Matting of makeup and hitching your penis between your legs for a occasional night of fun at others expense doesn't make you trans, it just makes you an obnoxious man in a dress. That's all. Being in drag for a few hours doesn't give you the right or even the life experience to speak for trans people."

RuPaul is not transgender. He's a cisgender, gay man. Nevertheless, the world looks to him as some sort of trans icon. When he says "tranny" and tells those of us who might be offended by that term to "fuck off," he's damaging the lives of actual transgender people. His cavalier use of that hateful term gives others the impression that they can use it when describing trans people or drag queens. He exploits trans people for personal financial gain.

Something about this casting call tells me that the casting agency isn't exactly looking for anyone I'd be able to even remotely relate to. As I write this, I'm wearing a pair of jeans, a navy-blue, long-sleeve T-shirt, and a pair of beat-up Tom's flats. You'll never see me with big, fake eyelashes, nor will you see me teetering around in stilettos. I'm guessing that if you play the "Trans Documentary Drinking Game" while watching this show, you'll end up wasted.

Maybe it's not too late. Maybe the show's producers can shift to a casting company that has a less tainted past when it comes to trans sensitivity. Maybe the show's producers will realize that their show has the same name as a 2005 movie starring Felicity Huffman. (There's nothing wrong with using the same title, but seriously, couldn't they be a little more creative?)

When the show premieres, you'll likely find me here, banging my head against a wall as I watch my people exploited, lumped into one big, over-the-top mess. There's a chance I'll be completely wrong about this, but something tells me that that's not going to be the case.