Slog Music

Music, Nightlife,
and Drinks

Friday, March 26, 2010

State Attorney General Rob McKenna Is Not Transgender

Posted by on Fri, Mar 26, 2010 at 12:11 PM

I gotta say, I don't get the joke, Savage. The joke—that Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna is transgender—is a culture-jamming brainfuck foisted on the world by Savage years ago. It's probably the longest-running inside joke about a local elected official around here, even though, in the history of jokes, it has a pretty glaring flaw: It ain't that funny. Yes, it can be funny to call a person the thing they hate, assuming McKenna hates transgender people. But that's it?

"I just don't quite understand—I've heard Dan make this joke many times over the years, I don't know what the basis is," said Josh Friedes when I called him yesterday. He's the executive director of Equal Rights Washington, he ran the campaign to get Ref-71 passed, and he knows a lot more about this stuff than I do. "It's terrible to make stereotypes about people based on their appearance, and it's also very problematic when we assume that because a person looks a certain way or has certain characteristics they are gay or transgender. That's exactly what we are fighting against."

A bunch of other bloggers have weighed in—with outrage and outrage and outrage—as have commenters on Slog. You're not wrong, guys. Transgender people are exposed to crazy levels of physical violence simply because of how they appear. Less than a month ago in Turkey, a transgender woman was stabbed 17 times and had her throat slit in her apartment. Six months ago, a transgender woman was stabbed to death in broad daylight in Washington, DC, just one month after a transgender woman was stabbed to death in her Hollywood apartment. In November 2008, a transgender woman was shot and killed at a house party in Syracuse, NY. In July 2008, a transgender woman was beaten to death with a fire extinguisher in Greeley, Colorado. And so on: "A report by Transgender Europe estimated that nearly 200 trangender people have been murdered between January 2008 and June 2009."

"I think Savage has done incredible things for the LBGT [lesbian, bi, gay, and transgender] community," Friedes said. "I think he's spoken truth to power. I think he's held LGBT organizations accountable when others have not. There's no question he has an incredible following and can rally the forces. But I think every human being I have met has blind spots, and this may be his."

Maaaaybe. But for all the heat he's getting on this one joke, he sure has written a lot over the years in support of trans people (three recent examples: here, here, here). A lot of commenters are focused on whether Savage is transphobic. I know the guy. He's not transphobic. There's no way his intent was ever to attack transgender people. He's just obsessed with cracking open the stupidity of labels, preconceived notions, etc. Here is a guy who began his career by saying: I'm gonna have straight people ask me for advice and call me a faggot, and I'm going to give them the best advice I can. (Every letter to Savage Love began, "Hey faggot.") People used to be outraged over it, thinking that gave license to use faggot to people who genuinely hate faggots.

For Savage to call the most powerful Republican in the state transgender—when he doesn't think being transgender is a bad thing, just like he doesn't think being a faggot is a bad thing—is a joke on the person who thinks being transgender is a bad thing. Like many Republicans and most Tea Partiers. (Tea Partiers shouted "Nigger!" and "Faggot!" at congressmen just this week.) Savage fucking around with labels jams the machine for stupid scumbags for whom those labels do mean something and mean something bad. Calling McKenna transgender is like a Rorschach test.

Problem is, of course, the whole reason transgender men and women face so much violence is simply because they appear to be transgender. And Savage's very, very dry joke—coupled with the fact that it's not really funny (seriously, what's the funny part?)—obscures the legitimate, not-a-joke reasons that McKenna sucks. Think of the hundreds of thousands of people in Washington State who don't have health care and how McKenna is doing all he can to keep them from getting it, people whose taxes pay for McKenna's health care.

"In a society where understanding of LGBT people is uneven, people have to pay a huge amount of attention to how things may be perceived by people who are not yet supportive of LGBT civil rights," Friedes said. "I think Dan's comments give license to people making fun of transgender people."

Given what transgender people are up against out there, I'm with Friedes on this one.


Comments (94) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
very bad homo 1
I defend Dan a lot when people think he's wrong, but he's on his own for this one.
Posted by very bad homo on March 26, 2010 at 12:15 PM · Report this
make him step down and get Jerry Large to run the paper
Posted by Skit on March 26, 2010 at 12:23 PM · Report this
Ness 3
I think the joke was taken too far, but I don't think it's quite as awful as everyone is making it out to be. For the people who are saying Dan is transphobic... has anyone READ Dan's writing? He's pretty open to most things (minus beastiality and incest... but that's fair).

The joke wasn't funny (I took it for serious until I saw all the comments), but hey, I don't think he needs to be crucified because of it. Dan's not a bigot. That's like saying if someone says "that's gay" they are automatically homophobic. It was a joke, albeit a bad one, but give the guy a break. If he does it again, then we can sick the pitbulls on him.
Posted by Ness on March 26, 2010 at 12:25 PM · Report this
Julie in Eugene 4
I definitely did not think that calling McKenna transgendered was "transphobic." But it was a dick-ish thing thing to do to McKenna, just because you disagree with his stance on a political issue. I think the lawsuit is ridiculous, but call him out on that, don't make up something about their personal life, even as a joke.
Posted by Julie in Eugene on March 26, 2010 at 12:27 PM · Report this
Soupytwist 5
I don't really get it either, but my personal experience with trans people and the reactions of non-trans people to them tells me that I'm in the minority who don't notice or care if someone is trans.

And then I wonder if that's a bad thing - should I notice or care? Am I somehow denying their identity by not recognizing that they are trans? I support LGBTQ equality without reservation, and I want to be an ally, but I feel like I'm doing it wrong.
Posted by Soupytwist on March 26, 2010 at 12:29 PM · Report this
It is funny because it is true.

Comedy gold = Man mistaken for woman. This is an extention of the same idea.

Of course, I also believe that poop jokes are comedy gold.
Posted by Trinidad Colorado on March 26, 2010 at 12:30 PM · Report this
I think the big difference between this "joke" and the "hey faggot" thing is that when he invites people to call him a faggot, he IS a homo, a gay, a faggot.

But just like it's not appropriate for me as a whitey to make jokes about black people, it's not appropriate for Savage as a non-trans person to crack jokes about transfolk, no matter his intent. The road to hell, after all...

Then again, Savage has never let common decency get in his way before, so why would he let this slow him down? We can only hope the mainstream media stops going to him as the spokesgay.
Posted by erinld on March 26, 2010 at 12:30 PM · Report this
Dan may not be trans-phobic, but he's likely trans-ignorant.
Here are his own words:

"I've never known a single adult gay man who decided to run off and become a woman. The only men I've known who changed their gender as adults were heterosexually identified men who now identify as lesbians." (Sept 21, 2006 Savage Love).

I've read similar statements by him on the Slog over the years. If he really doesn't know grown men that were gay (or believed they were) and in their adulthood went thru a process to transition to female, then he ought to spend more time with the Trans community. I am gay, not trans, but have met plenty of individuals out there to directly refute his assertion.
Posted by TJ on March 26, 2010 at 12:30 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 9
OK, so he's not transgendered. He's just a transvestite, people, get over it.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on March 26, 2010 at 12:33 PM · Report this
danindowntown 10
Frizzelle vs. Savage SLOG cat fight? Delicious.
Posted by danindowntown on March 26, 2010 at 12:36 PM · Report this
w7ngman 11
"If he does it again, then we can sick the pitbulls on him."

He's been repeating the same lame joke for years.
Posted by w7ngman on March 26, 2010 at 12:37 PM · Report this
wow Dan...really? :-(
Posted by MT3 on March 26, 2010 at 12:38 PM · Report this
michaelp 13
When I first saw the joke years ago, I thought it was hilarious. Something along the lines of us having the first Trans statewide elected official, and how it was a Republican, or something like that.

The current incarnation is kind of lame, and makes it difficult to take Mr. Savage's take on the douchebaggery of Mr. McKenna seriously.

This is a serious issue, and in this particular instance, constantly calling McKenna transgendered does more harm than good to Savage's argument, IMO.
Posted by michaelp on March 26, 2010 at 12:41 PM · Report this
Fnarf 14
I don't think it's all that offensive, and what offense is in it is intended -- against McKenna, not trans people. But the old saw holds true -- if you have to explain a joke, it's not a good joke.
Posted by Fnarf on March 26, 2010 at 12:42 PM · Report this
DOUG. 15
It's not "a joke on the person who thinks being transgender is a bad thing." It's a joke on a man who kind of looks like a woman.

It would be funnier if he'd called Ken Hutcherson transgendered. Taking this shot at McKenna is just grade school stupidity.
Posted by DOUG. on March 26, 2010 at 12:45 PM · Report this
nice mental gymnastics there Christopher to semi-excuse your boss from something totally inexcusable. savage is a bully, and bullies love nothing more than an effeminate looking man to mock. it is ironic that savage is gay and would still do this, but then there's no hatred like self-hatred, eh?
Posted by ian on March 26, 2010 at 12:47 PM · Report this
Christopher Frizzelle you cannot say whether or not Dan is transphobic. This act of falsely outing someone as transgender is a transphobic. Trans folk get to define what constitutes transphobia, as it is the fear and oppression we face. Thank you for speaking out against the idiocy of Dan's article, but please do not speak for the trans community.
Posted by notyours on March 26, 2010 at 12:48 PM · Report this
rob! 18
Monkeywrenching that raises the right kind of awareness or sympathy and moves you toward your goal, is good. Doesn't, bad. Done.
Posted by rob! on March 26, 2010 at 12:50 PM · Report this
You're right, Christopher. Dan needs a new target. Perhaps he should make more fun of tall, lanky, hipster "newspaper" editors who use Rogaine, fuck their underlings, and find ways to work themselves into everything they write.
Posted by No one in particular on March 26, 2010 at 12:51 PM · Report this
@ 12. Hey MT3. Sexy photo. Is it wrong to flirt via slog comments??
Posted by LikeItIs on March 26, 2010 at 12:54 PM · Report this
very bad homo 21
Maybe Dan is an FTM.
Posted by very bad homo on March 26, 2010 at 12:54 PM · Report this
mkyorai 22
Wow. Slog troll angry.
Posted by mkyorai on March 26, 2010 at 12:56 PM · Report this
I think Frizzle hits it right on the head when he asks "what is the funny part?" Sometimes I say something I think is funny and no one gets it and maybe someone gets offended. I so I don't repeat it.

Dan keeps repeating this thing about McKenna which only makes Dan look bad. What's up with that?
Posted by dwight moody on March 26, 2010 at 12:59 PM · Report this
Mahtli69 24
"I don't get the joke, Savage"

It's, more or less, the same joke that makes this website funny or not funny:

Posted by Mahtli69 on March 26, 2010 at 1:00 PM · Report this
hj 25
Speaking of R-71, does anyone know which AG is going to bat for the gay community regarding the release of petition signatures? Anyone?
Posted by hj on March 26, 2010 at 1:00 PM · Report this
linda with a y 26
I was not any more offended by this than him saying he is squigged out by women and pussy. No vaginas for him, no way, no how, not ever. He makes jokes out of almost everything he writes about. That's him, that's how he rolls and if you've read him long enough you should know that.

Pretty soon I would have to be offended by Blonde jokes (because I am one) or someone that has a problem with women named Linda. Noone is going to like or agree with everyone. Time to move on.
Posted by linda with a y on March 26, 2010 at 1:01 PM · Report this
Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In 27
Wow! I finally agree w/ Cristopher Frizzelle! Will wonders never cease?

As he points out, the big problem w/ this kerfuffle is that it distracts from the real topic, that Rob McKenna is doing the bidding of his Republican Overlords & not the people of Washington. His statement that the lawsuit isn't politically motivated is laughable on its surface. His actions demonstrate beyond all doubt that the only virtue Republicans value is Party Loyalty. Anything else is to be downplayed, denigrated, manipulated or ignored.
Posted by Some Old Nobodaddy Logged In on March 26, 2010 at 1:01 PM · Report this
Christopher, you don't get to say whether or not Dan is transphobic. Just because you know the guy doesn't mean you have the ability to excuse him of transphobic behavior. Falsely outing someone as transgender as a way to make a dig at someone is absolutely transphobic. The fact that this has been going on for years is mindblowingly frustrating.

And lets not forget that this is not the first time Dan has made offensive comments about FTM people. Remember his whole "guys with pies" spiel? He is transphobic.
Posted by elijahjack on March 26, 2010 at 1:05 PM · Report this
Denis Diderot 29
I have one word for this blog-post: Logorrhoea.…
Posted by Denis Diderot on March 26, 2010 at 1:07 PM · Report this
singing cynic 30
Here's the real pressing question... What does Dan think about Transform Me, the makeover show that comes on VH1 after RuPaul's Drag Race? (I personally adored Transamerican Lovestory more, but it's pretty darn cute.)
Posted by singing cynic on March 26, 2010 at 1:11 PM · Report this
I want to be work at a place where I can announce to thousands of people that my boss' joke wasn't funny; and then not get fired.

I love you, Slog.
Posted by beej_shan on March 26, 2010 at 1:15 PM · Report this
Loveschild 32
People acting as if dan hasn't been making a living by defaming people. It just dawned on them.
Posted by Loveschild on March 26, 2010 at 1:22 PM · Report this
leek 33
I'm glad this post is here, even if I agree with a couple of the above posters that Frizzelle can't speak for the trans community. It's good to see an official acknowledgment from a member of the Stranger staff that they're on the side of those of us who didn't find the joke funny or appropriate.
Posted by leek on March 26, 2010 at 1:33 PM · Report this
@ 24, I have to say that site made me chuckle, 'cause they do! Surprised Paul McCartney's picture wasn't up there.

@26--That's him, that's how he rolls and if you've read him long enough you should know that.

Agreed. I think it's not much of a joke and Dan certainly has worn out its welcome this time around, but no one hits the target every time. It's hard to be clever when one is pissed off, so I am letting this one slide. BTW, I'm the mom of a young transman and Dan has given me so much hope and clear thinking on a huge variety of troubling issues that I am very happy to let this go.
Posted by Beth on March 26, 2010 at 1:33 PM · Report this
Jason Eckelman 35
@ 32 - just shut up
Posted by Jason Eckelman on March 26, 2010 at 1:34 PM · Report this
Matt from Denver 36
Frizzelle, why do you feel the need to basically restoke slog fires once they've died out? There's this, there's your multiple critical mass posts, there's been other stuff I've put out of my mind.

People accuse slog writers of intentionally trolling; if so, this is the clearest example.
Posted by Matt from Denver on March 26, 2010 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Mrs Jarvie 37
I think that the best course of action is for Dan to never make the joke again. And, to not make a big deal about never making the joke again. Just let it go away.
Posted by Mrs Jarvie on March 26, 2010 at 1:38 PM · Report this
Go fuck yourself Loveschild. You'd know defamation.

I'd just like Dan to explain what he thought he was trying to do. It's liable to not impress his critics, but at least he won't appear to defensive and secretive like he is the victim.

This post makes a difference. You hear the problem. And maybe the good news is that some people have become even slightly enlightened. Maybe even Dan himself...if only he would not be so passive aggressive by avoiding the fart in the elevator.
Posted by patrick66 on March 26, 2010 at 1:41 PM · Report this
merry 39
@ 26 - Personally I'm offended by people who insist on writing the words 'no one' as the non-word 'noone'.

Noone is the guy who sang for Herman's Hermits. :-)

Signed, Grumpy Grammarian
Posted by merry on March 26, 2010 at 1:53 PM · Report this
T 40
I get what Dan was going for (as unfunny as it is), but as far as I'm aware, McKenna has never done anything to directly antagonize or threaten the trans community. I seriously doubt he'd be considered a friend of the community, but slapping this "joke" onto an issue that really has nothing to do with trans issues is just grasping at straws. It's a weak debate tactic that distracts from the real issue. You know, the kind of thing right wingers are pulling all the time.

It boils down to "our AG doesn't care about uninsured Washingtonians" versus "haha, look at how effeminate he looks!" One is a valuable piece of discourse, the other is childish nonsense.
Posted by T on March 26, 2010 at 1:55 PM · Report this
Baconcat 41
Oh god, the parsing never stops. He a dick, that's it. Talking out of his ass with a dose of ignorance and a heaping helping of ego.

You can find problems with pretty much anything Dan says if you try hard enough (or if he makes it far too easy, QED). A lot of his comments have been seen as tainted with a bit of misogyny, there are more than a few that are homophobic on their face, some are kinda racist and a lot of it is strange misandry. It's not that he's fundamentally -phobic, it's quite simply that he's got a gigantic ego and will fire off whatever sounds witty and satirical at the moment. And sometimes it misfires. Grandly. And Dan knows that. That's how he makes his money.

Sure, we can go on and on about how certain target groups need a bit more of a delicate touch, but oftentimes that delicate touch turns into this deep dig into a lot of personal lives and that can be a lot worse on the whole for some folks, some who prefer privacy, others who don't need to "come out" and so on. More than that, the implication that Dan's transphobic remarks give permission to actual transphobes is petty and patently ridiculous. Anyone who is legitimately and dangerously transphobic is NOT going to come around and say "oh, well, I wasn't going to slash your tires until I heard Dan Savage, noted homosexual commentator, making fun of trans lives," it just doesn't happen. Self-censoring and being PC in an echo chamber such as Slog isn't going to do much to stem the tide in the outside world and it rarely exacerbates the problem. How frequently does Dan Savage get negative press whenever Pete LaBarbera posts some out-of-context Savage Love quote?

It feels grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrEAT to advocate on behalf of others, but sometimes it's best that everyone just agree that "he a dick" and move on instead of white knighting your way through an argument. Reading more and more and more into this is like playing telephone.
Posted by Baconcat on March 26, 2010 at 1:55 PM · Report this
Here is why this isn't funny, Dan. Calling someone "gay" or "faggot" when they are horribly anti-gay is kinda funny or transgressive, because as you point out, they are quite likely to be a closeted, self-hating gay person, as we've seen play out time and time again.

However, describing this guy as trans (in great detail, not just as an aside) isn't funny at all. There's absolutely nothing about his actions or personality that appears anti-trans (more than the usual obvious person in power, at least). Nothing that leads one to thing of him as a "self-hating closeted trans person."

Dan, I find you generally very funny and worth listening to. But it's hard to see how this is anything more than you making fun of someone because their appearance is less "masculine" (to you?). It's just not funny. It's not subversive. It doesn't make sense. And it does nothing to disabuse us in the trans community of the notion that "mainstream" gay culture is ready to take a stand with the trans community when it counts (*cough* see Joe from HRC *cough*).
Posted by really, dan? on March 26, 2010 at 1:59 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 43
Are you sure?

Are you really really sure?

S/he might be ...
Posted by Will in Seattle on March 26, 2010 at 2:02 PM · Report this
heh. Jokes on me. I totally believed it all.
Posted by subwlf on March 26, 2010 at 2:20 PM · Report this
starsandgarters 45
My protest against it is that I never realized it was a joke until this week. That's just spreading misinformation, and that's what I resent. If your joke is so dry it doesn't even read as a joke, you need better material.
Posted by starsandgarters on March 26, 2010 at 2:24 PM · Report this
gfish 46
@4: Wait, it can only be a dickish move to McKenna if you think being trans (or being seen as trans) is somehow a negative thing. Which would make it transphobic. Otherwise it's just a weird misunderstanding/failed joke.
Posted by gfish on March 26, 2010 at 2:29 PM · Report this
Mahtli69 47
@34 - That site has a few years' worth of contributions. McCartney is definitely in there.
Posted by Mahtli69 on March 26, 2010 at 2:37 PM · Report this
It's funny. Get over it people.
Posted by pacnwjay on March 26, 2010 at 2:38 PM · Report this
Oh come on - cut our guy some slack here. If it made us all have this conversation, a debate among mostly progressives, mind you, didn't a good learning outcome happen. Continue the controversial stuff, D.
Posted by floofy on March 26, 2010 at 2:52 PM · Report this
Julie in Eugene 50
@46. No. The "joke" is that McKenna is feminine-looking. If I were a politician, and someone wrote a really funny blog post about how I looked like a man, I would take offense, even though being a man isn't a bad thing. Being a women who looks like a man is a bad thing, though, at least according to our society's definition of beauty.

The fact is, that if you go up to a random man or woman on the street and say "you look like a woman/man", that's an insult (e.g., people who say Ann Coulter looks like a man mean it to be an insult). Maybe Dan meant to start a broader conversation about gender appearance/norms, but it really just comes across as a mean-spirited personal insult. I think it was a case of "I don't like your politics, so I'm going to take a swipe at your appearance."
Posted by Julie in Eugene on March 26, 2010 at 2:55 PM · Report this
linda with a y 51
Bad on me, just be Happy ok Grumpy

Oh, I guess I mean be Happy Merry

Um, don't be Grumpy cause I'm Dopey!
Posted by linda with a y on March 26, 2010 at 2:55 PM · Report this
igub 52
But, of course, it's absolutely hysterical when the LGBT community refers to Ann Coulter as a man. Where's the funny part in that? I don't like Ann Coulter and think my schizophrenic sister-in-law, even when not medicated, expresses more coherent thoughts than Ann. But, I'll never understand the humor in calling her a man.
Posted by igub on March 26, 2010 at 3:09 PM · Report this
Bauhaus I 53
Good point, Christopher, but as you said, anyone who knows Dan (or is familiar with his work) knows there was know ill-will meant. I took it as tantamount to calling a homophobe Mary or saying, "Get her!"

Posted by Bauhaus I on March 26, 2010 at 3:11 PM · Report this
merry 54
@ 51 - Aw, linda with a y, you're not Dopey! (I know him, and he's a booger!)

I'm probably just Grumpy because I'm Sleepy - crap, there go those multiple personalities again!

Posted by merry on March 26, 2010 at 3:14 PM · Report this
I have to admit this -- not having followed Dan's commentary on McKenna over the years, when I read Dan's Slog post about McKenna being TG the other day, I actually believed it. But part of the reason I believed it is that I looked at it and thought, "No, that can't be right. Surely I'd have heard if that were true." But then, just as quickly, thought, "But why would Dan Savage, of all people, make a joke out of being transgendered?" It's either genuinely offensive -- that Dan thinks saying that someone is TG is something they should react to -- or it's pointless. It'd be like accusing McKenna of being Jewish; either you think that's something he would be ashamed of, or it's a non-joke. Absent some specific allegation that McKenna is transphobic or homophobic or something, I just don't see the point.
Posted by Judah on March 26, 2010 at 3:36 PM · Report this

Does transgender mean someone who has sex on light rail?
Posted by Kwame Scuzzulo on March 26, 2010 at 3:48 PM · Report this
josh 57
Was Dan Savage unavailable for comment on this story?
Posted by josh on March 26, 2010 at 4:14 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 58
I heard that Rob McKenna snuck into crossdresser's houses and ate all the chocolate bunny ears.
Posted by Will in Seattle on March 26, 2010 at 4:26 PM · Report this
gfish 59
@50: But those "jokes" have an unavoidable transphobic component. Their entire basis is in reinforcing heteronormativity. Why is it bad not to look your sex? Because that makes you less of a person. Hey, guess who else doesn't always look their sex? I guess they're not entirely people either!

It absolutely is a mean-spirited personal insult, but it's one that really ties into a lot of the ugliness in our culture surrounding gender expression. It has no redeeming value whatsoever. It's simply not something a responsible, sex-positive, progressive person should ever say.
Posted by gfish on March 26, 2010 at 4:29 PM · Report this
I think it's funny.
Posted by Samanthal on March 26, 2010 at 4:32 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 61
Of course he was unavailable for comment, josh. You didn't really think Frizelle would have the cojones to post this if Dan would be around to read it, did you?
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on March 26, 2010 at 4:33 PM · Report this
I'm a ye olde timey gay activist and actually didn't get that it was a joke at first. I'm a massive fan of gallows humor and dark jokes (my drag name is Nambla the Clown). But the attempt at humor in this case was just lame. I love Dan's quirky take on stuff, but this definitely crossed a taste line. I wouldn't advocate for torches and pitchforks for this blunder. I'm sure there's been a ton of disappointment from his peers, which is worse. The good thing about Mr. Savage is that I think (hope) that he has the capacity to take this in and learn from it. I hope.
Posted by Ggreg on March 26, 2010 at 4:53 PM · Report this
Julie in Eugene 63
gfish - I do get it... It shouldn't be an insult if someone says I look mannish or if I say that a man looks feminine. But for most people, it is (unless that's the look one is going for). I don't think it's an insult because it makes you "less of a person" -- it's more like saying, "you do not meet the norms of beauty as set out by our society" (or, "you're ugly", for short). Some people don't give a shit -- either they're actively going for a non-gender normal look, or they just don't care whether people think they fit traditional beauty standards. But most do, particularly most, er, straight-laced people, as I assume McKenna is.

I just don't see Dan's comment as transphobic -- I see it more as trying to mock McKenna's appearance for looking somewhat feminine. It's not bad to be a woman, or to be trans, but it is bad if someone says "you look different than the typical man".
Posted by Julie in Eugene on March 26, 2010 at 5:04 PM · Report this
kk in seattle 64
Funny? No. Tasteless? Of course. Now go read your Hunter S. Thompson (or William Burroughs).
Posted by kk in seattle on March 26, 2010 at 5:07 PM · Report this
@55 - Exactly what I was thinking...

I am not sure if I am offended or just annoyed as a FTM myself. Overall though I am just confused as the "joke" wasn't "funny" in the slightest.
Posted by KoleBigEars on March 26, 2010 at 5:26 PM · Report this
@10 FTW
Posted by NJMatt on March 26, 2010 at 5:45 PM · Report this
Ness 67
It wasn't funny...
But I think he meant it as something that would piss McKenna off. Us sloggers are typically open-minded, and we wouldn't typically dislike someone just because they're trans.
For McKenna on the other hand, being called trans would be calling him something he doesn't like/understand/care enough about to educate him self on.

It'd be like calling Dan a straight Christian Republican on the Focus On The Family site. Not funny, not ironic, not really anything other than a bad attempt at making Dan feel bad about himself.
Posted by Ness on March 26, 2010 at 7:52 PM · Report this
TheRain 68
Isn't the whole point of Dan's original post to point out the discrimination that transgendered people like Rob McKenna face?
Posted by TheRain on March 26, 2010 at 8:47 PM · Report this
"Bullying behavior may include name calling, verbal or written abuse, exclusion from activities, exclusion from social situations, physical abuse, or coercion. Bullies may behave this way to be perceived as popular or tough or to get attention. They may bully out of jealousy or be acting out because they themselves are bullied."

This is Dan Savage in a nutshell. He's a bully. He could state his position by arguing his point, but always, ALWAYS, instead chooses mockery, intimidation, slander and bullying, and he revels in the entire process. Don't expect anything more - he never left his childhood issues behind those oh-so-many-decades-ago.
Posted by Dan Savage is a Bully on March 26, 2010 at 9:08 PM · Report this
raindrop 70
The make takeaway on this whole thing is that an online newspaper editor packaged a falsehood as a news story and gave new clue to the readers that it was a joke. The Stranger is not The Onion, and it the day is not April 1. When something appears to be a fact, but cannot be corroborated – the reader is left perplexed. This chips away at the integrity the publication has with its readers.
Posted by raindrop on March 26, 2010 at 9:19 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 71
Whoa, wait a minute. "Integrity?" This is Slog, remember?
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on March 26, 2010 at 9:27 PM · Report this
Pmasp 72
I can't believe Christopher Frizzelle used the n word :(
Posted by Pmasp on March 26, 2010 at 9:29 PM · Report this
This is news to me. I don't live in Seattle and haven't been following this blog for more than a year. Soooo...I haven't been in on the now feels kind of fucked up! Stupid me! I actually thought what I was reading here was true. I guess I can no longer make that assumption. I thought integrity and credibility meant something on this blog. I read it every day....guess I should have read the comments, but I'm not that interested in your local politics...and it does seem somewhat demeaning to the the transgendered people out there...just sayin'...peace.
Posted by Robin in PA on March 26, 2010 at 9:37 PM · Report this

The more that I think about're using the term in a derogatory manner....not cool. This is someone you don't like, correct?

I really admire your chutzpah, but this is seriously fucked up!
Posted by Robin in PA on March 26, 2010 at 9:46 PM · Report this
raindrop 75
Correction for @70: should be "... gave no clue to the readers..."
Posted by raindrop on March 26, 2010 at 10:13 PM · Report this
raindrop 76
@71: Actually, Slog does have some integrity. Despite the hyperbole, GOP bashing, pontificating, and Obama worship, there is at least a cherry in the sundae each day – primarily in local political coverage.
Posted by raindrop on March 26, 2010 at 10:23 PM · Report this
noirony 77
When he began the joke about McKenna years ago, I remember thinking that it was either true or not true and that in either case it is relevant as part of a critique of McKenna for being GOP but sliding by with Democratic voters as a fiscally conservative moderate. In other words, the joke can be roughly translated as "moderate schmoderate," since as the GOP continues to show its intolerance, the moderate position is more and more untenable. There never seemed anything mean-spirited vis-a-vis transgendered people, but more of a double-folded over joke that a Republican that appears moderate will have trouble "passing," when core issues (such as trans- or homo-phobia) force the "moderate" to ally with an immoderate party, or else get out of that party. And not that being trans is wrong, but that the political middle is illusory. Or something. And then when no one got the joke I think it just turned into the kind of repeat and repeat and repeat and it's funny because of repetition, spam spam spam spam and etc.
Posted by noirony on March 26, 2010 at 11:03 PM · Report this
How strange. When I read it way back when I just assumed it was true. It never occurred to me that Dan would make a joke about it or intend it as a slam. Slam a Republican who has horrible political views? Sure. But by calling him transgendered? Uch. No.
Posted by kr on March 27, 2010 at 12:42 AM · Report this
Until I read this post, I thought Rob McKenna was, in fact, transgender, because I never hear anything about him except from Slog. (I don't live in Washington.) The fact that Dan always says it as if it was true made me think it was. I read this post, checked McKenna's wikipedia article and, lo and behold, he's a cis man! I feel positively flabbergasted.
Posted by I have always been... east coaster on March 27, 2010 at 9:58 AM · Report this
roddy 80
Dan Savage is a humorist, and a really good one. And to the extent that his humor exposes the human condition from the perspective of gays, lesbians, transgendered and others seeking safe sexual expression, his work is deeply valued. By virtue of his humor he's a civil rights leader, but not the other way around. And in the context of Rob McKenna having to explain to some old biddy Republican that he's not actually transgender, there is some limited humor in that. Viewed from a larger field I've learned that there are some aspects of the prank that are not so funny. I was mortified to find that a Democratic friend, a innocently credulous friend, was misled by all the discussion and actually thought that Rob was, in fact, transgender, and felt that she should support him, despite the fact that he's a Republican. And then I have some friends who are, in fact, transgender, and don't see the humor in it for reasons described above.

Humor can be a weapon. Some humor, like some weapons, can cause collateral damage--this is why we don't see Bugs Bunny on TV anymore. Viewed from a wider angle, some things are suddenly not funny when they were funny from a narrower field. I don't blame Dan for being a humorist, and I think humorists should be given a lot of slack when their humor sometimes, and in Dan's case rarely, overshoots the mark. That said, this prank makes me uncomfortable and Chris and Josh are right to call it out.

P.S. Speaking of inappropriate things, some of us guiltily enjoyed the prank of the bubbles in the fountain at 10th & Roy in a narrow sense, but for the superintendent who has the job of cleaning the soapy mess and has to waste clean water to wash it all into Puget Sound, it's not so funny.
Posted by roddy on March 27, 2010 at 11:25 AM · Report this
First, it's not technically a joke, but a smart, ironic reference.

I always laugh- not because McKenna's a big meanie getting made fun of, but because the idea that the GOP would run a trans candidate for any office, much less the state AG, is absurd. That's what makes the reference funny. The reference also digs a little at the MSM, which often notes Barney Frank's sexuality while reporting on completely unrelated matters. Framing McKenna's election as an historic victory for the LGBT community is ironic political satire at its best.
Posted by Farts Weird on March 27, 2010 at 11:49 AM · Report this
Dan has basically said that at this point any virulently anti-gay politician might as well shut up and come out of the closet. He's taken the old joke about McKenna and given it a new application. Anti-trans means you probably ARE trans.
Posted by can'trememberpassword on March 27, 2010 at 11:57 AM · Report this
slomopomo 83
He's no fun--he fell right over.
Posted by slomopomo on March 27, 2010 at 1:00 PM · Report this
81 Kind of nailed why it's funny. But that doesn't address the alleged harm to the trans community. The opposing sides here are progressive satirical humor and the needs/benefits to the trans community.

To which, trans community, many of us are tempted to say: your cause has our sympathy, but the insult is benign, and the benefit to political discourse outweighs the perceived harm.
The joke will *almost exclusively* fall on the ears of those who already sympathize with you. "Almost" meaning, the remainder is a handful of powerless, insignificant people. The rest of us laugh because we detest McKenna and what creates his ilk, not because we think condescending to trans is ok. In other words the satire concerns McKenna's entourage's attitudes about "others", not trans.
The salient complaint is, I guess, "not okay to use trans as a medium of mockery if you ain't", in a public forum. That's what most of us here are really arguing about. And *that* boils down to whether you think the trans cause supersedes the common need to make Republicans everywhere appear as Vaticanly hypocritical as they really are.
Posted by Montdidier on March 27, 2010 at 4:21 PM · Report this
It's a joke?
Posted by idaho on March 27, 2010 at 5:30 PM · Report this
Wow! As as trans person i have say that montdider @ #84 has no idea about the lives of trans people and probably little sympathy for judging by the condescending tone of the post. Let me tackle this:

"To which, trans community, many of us are tempted to say: your cause has our sympathy, but the insult is benign, and the benefit to political discourse outweighs the perceived harm."

Didn't you just read the post above about all of the trans people who've gotten killed over the last two years? What about all of my trans friends who are cronically unemployed and near homeless because of anti-trans bias? This insult isn't benign, it enables anti-trans hate and adds absolutely nothing to political discourse except for one insubstantial pretty insult among the thousands on the internet. it adds nothing to knowledge or the critique of McKenna's veiwpoints. In fact, the "joke" was passed off so serious that a quick google search will show you that other news sources, trusting Dan to tell the truth (and not outright lies) have reported that McKenna is trans as fact.

"he joke will *almost exclusively* fall on the ears of those who already sympathize with you. "

Not all straight liberals, gays or general libertines support trans people (Dan's main audience), some of the biggest haters of trans people come these groups of people. I know this by experience.

""Almost" meaning, the remainder is a handful of powerless, insignificant people."

No sorry, they aren't powerless. They vote and they lobby legislatures. And the legislatures decides whether i will have equal protections or even an official identification that matches my identity and deisisions affecting my trans-related medical treatments.

If you think that they are powerless, go look up all of the political battles over discrimination bills, all of the people fired by bigots for being trans, the trans kids thrown out by their parents for coming out or the people injured and killed for being trans. At best, most people are clueless and prejudiced against trans people, at worst there are a good number of people out there who can not stand to see us breathing.

"In other words the satire concerns McKenna's entourage's attitudes about "others", not trans. "

Savage could've done that a million different ways than to make trans people a punchline to his cheap shot. Answer me this: Why has Dan continiously been insensitive about trans issues, has been told that he has been insensitve and then has made no effort to improve his behavior? And exhorting charity money for a trans kid in exchange for an apology is not making amends.

"And *that* boils down to whether you think the trans cause supersedes the common need to make Republicans everywhere appear as Vaticanly hypocritical as they really are."

This is a false dichotomy, there are a million way to hit Republicans and without using trans people as a punch line. i think the true question is this: is your desire to continue your insulting behavior through sluring an entire group of people to make petty political jokes going to be more important than your empathy and solidarity (which you yourself claim) with trans people.

If you're going to continue to defend this comment like this, as a trans person I recommend that you quit representing yourself as an ally or sympathizer with trans people, because you're not. That's the bottom line.

Dan's post has serious hurt the credibility of The Stranger through representing an outright lie as fact and has shown great disregard to the welfare of transgender people.
Posted by Darkwave on March 27, 2010 at 6:05 PM · Report this
Dan Savage is a hypocrite.
Posted by the H word you were looking for on March 27, 2010 at 6:41 PM · Report this
"Not all straight liberals, gays or general libertines support trans people (Dan's main audience), some of the biggest haters of trans people come these groups of people. I know this by experience."

Yup. Janice Raymond, Jim Fouratt, the dumbass older gay man who wrote a long screed on Bilerico about how Transgender was Wrong and Anti-Gay, Barney Frank's bathroom panic, Alix Olson, Mary Daly, Catherine Crouch's movie about the Evil Trans Dystopian Future, Israel Luna's deathsploitation film about "trannies."

Not all LGB people are supportive or even normally ignorant. There was an anti-trans backlash in the gay community, and there still is a lot of reactionary crap out there.

Thanks, Chris, for posting this. I appreciate it.
Posted by piny on March 27, 2010 at 7:29 PM · Report this
Are we sure Rob McKenna isn't a closeted trans-man? And has he ever responded to Dan's "accusation", er, joke? I could see Dan using this to constantly poke Rob to get a reaction out of him. Huh -- never knew it was a joke though. I guess I can stop being proud of Washington electing the first openly female-to-male tranny. *sigh* I wonder who I told???
Posted by idaho on March 28, 2010 at 11:12 AM · Report this
Basehead 90
Whites, blacks, christians, jews, muslims, straights and pretty much every group of people are killed on a daily basis for their appearance, beliefs, etc.
Posted by Basehead on March 28, 2010 at 2:06 PM · Report this
Basehead 91
Jokes about tranny hookers are always funny, sluts with nuts, chicks with dicks, tranny chasers, saying Cher's looks like Charlie Weis, all that shit is funny.
Posted by Basehead on March 28, 2010 at 2:09 PM · Report this
86, there's one thing we really disagree about here, and what I'd suspect "the joke" is cognizant of: Who's the audience? It's exactly the people who are already vastly more sympathetic to the trans cause than the rest of the country.
In saying the transphobic faction isn't "insignificant and powerless", you missed the point: the people who are angrily transphobic, except for a vanishingly small minority, don't even know of the Stranger's and Dan Savage's existence, let alone read or agree with its points.
Those views are our common enemies. They're what stands between us and single-payer health care, which would undoubtedly help all transgendered.
The audience of the joke, i.e. the progressive faction of Seattle and the country, isn't hardly the responsible party for the injustices you face. Our common enemy is. The existence of a Republican-leaning oligarchy that buys campaign fuel for McKenna by lying to his voters, is the obstacle between me and you having health care, a healthy planet, and better lives.
A joke about the AG being transgendered *because he's a hypocrite, not because being transgendered is being mocked* serves that latter cause.
Posted by Montdidier on March 28, 2010 at 2:26 PM · Report this
Jubilation T. Cornball 93
I think I'm gonna spark up and listen to Kraftwerk's "Trans Gender Express." Hey, who wants to robot???
Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball on March 29, 2010 at 3:57 PM · Report this
Why is it that no one is objecting to the idea that trans men either are, or "look like" women? Categorically, trans men are NOT women. And they do not "look like women". The fact is this turd of a rumor Dan Savage floated absolutely depends upon the idea that the reason it's "IRONIC" (read: smarmy) to state McKenna is trans is because there's something about his appearance Dan Savage finds unappealing. As a gay man who happens to trans I know all about cis gay men's weirdness about trans men. Dan is nothing new.
Posted by jaychicago on April 6, 2010 at 10:36 AM · Report this

Add a comment


Want great deals and a chance to win tickets to the best shows in Seattle? Join The Stranger Presents email list!

All contents © Index Newspapers, LLC
1535 11th Ave (Third Floor), Seattle, WA 98122
Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use | Takedown Policy