Like many trans and allied journalists and bloggers, I've been pretty vocal in expressing my disgust at seeing that horribly transphobic "RuPaul's Drag Race Season 76" "comedy" video that HuffPost Gay Voices posted last week. I had Noah Michelson, Executive Editor of Gay Voices, on my radio show to discuss the issue, and frankly, I wasn't entirely satisfied with his answers.
Noah took the position that the Gay Voices editorial staff had only just recently come to understand why so many trans people and allies were offended by the video, much in the same way that Logo TV claimed that they had been "newly sensitized" to the offense taken by trans women to words considered to be slurs that have been used on RuPaul's Drag Race.
The fact that the Gay Voices staffer who originally posted the video called it "hilarious" in the description, and the fact that apparently not a single member of the Gay Voices editorial team realized that posting this video would be highly problematic for a significant portion of their readership, concerns me greatly. It indicates to me that there's a clear lack of depth and breadth of perspective regarding trans people and issues on the Gay Voices editorial staff. That's a problem, because it leads to hurtful and reputation-tarnishing episodes like this one.
It's also a pretty easy problem to fix. Gay Voices has no shortage of experienced and skilled trans writers and editors among its bloggers. Hire one or a few of us to broaden the team's perspective. Hey, I'd take that job, and you can be sure a video like that one would never cross my desk without being red-flagged.
Having said all that, I also have to disagree with Mitch Kellaway's decision to stop blogging on Gay Voices. I'm sure he feels that it's the right decision for him personally, and I respect his choice and his reasoning.
Where Mr. Kellaway and I part company is on what our response should be to the posting of this terrible video and what it says about the editorial decision-making at Gay Voices. Rather than remove myself from the conversation by withdrawing as a blogger, I believe the opposite is called for.
It's my belief that this problem is rooted in a lack of sufficient community perspective among the Gay Voices editorial staff. I firmly believe that the video's anti-transgender bigotry and the mock violence that it directs at Parker Molloy in particular, and at trans women who are media makers and activists in general, should have immediately sent up red flags for the Gay Voices editorial staff. Clearly improvement is needed, but that requires that The Huffington Post step up and make it happen.
Simply saying, as Noah Michelson did on my show, that they know better now and won't let anything similar happen again isn't enough. I can see absolutely no reason that the largest, most visited blog site in the entire world can't take on a few more staffers to ensure a well-rounded LGBT editorial perspective.
The posting of this horrible video didn't have to happen, and it's much less likely that it would have happened if Gay Voices had had someone on staff who accurately reflects the views of the majority of their trans and allied readership and could have taken a look at it before posting.
Indeed, this whole debacle, which underscores a serious overall lack of trans inclusion and perspectives among paid staffers and freelancers in American commercial LGBT media in general, should serve as an object lesson in why trans people need to be not only part of the conversation but part of the administration and staffs of commercial LGBT media outlets.
Trans people and perspectives need to be included on editorial teams, as staffers, as columnists, and as paid freelancers at places like HuffPost and other commercial LGBT-inclusive media. If we're good enough to keep publishing for free for years, we should also be considered good enough to put on staff.
That's the way to really solve this problem: There must be more of an effort made to put trans people on staff at HuffPost in particular, and in commercial LGBT media in general. It's an issue that Noah Michelson really didn't want to address when I asked him about it on my show, but it's also the issue that strikes most directly at the heart of the problem, and it's clearly the cause of this horrid video being deemed suitable for publication.
So yes, I'm staying. I'm not going anywhere. I'll keep speaking out, even when it involves criticizing my own editor, whom I respect greatly and consider a friend, and a site I've proudly contributed to for over two years now.
And yes, I meant it. I'd take that job if it were offered to me, and not just because I need the work. I'd also take that job because I'd be playing a clearly essential part in helping to ensure that Gay Voices becomes and remains the fully welcoming and inclusive space for all LGBT people that it should be.
But most importantly, I'd take that job because it's one that can't credibly be filled by yet another cis gay or lesbian staffer. Sometimes, you just can't settle for anything less than the genuine article.