Oddee Tries to Make a Sideshow out of Trans People

by | January 21, 2012
filed under LGBT, Pop Culture

I logged into Facebook yesterday and saw a link re-post by one of my favourite blogs, Neatorama. The link they were sharing was to a story called “10 Handsome Men (Who Were Born Female)” (they rate it NSFW). Being that Gender Focus tries to cover trans rights issues as much as possible, I clicked on the link, thinking I would find an empowering piece that would help give some examples of semi-famous trans people who are living in their chosen gender.

Then I saw the site that was hosting the article: Oddee. Oddee’s “About” page tells you almost all you need to know:

Oddee™ is an entertainment blog on oddities, attracting well over two million unique visitors each month. Focused on the odd, bizarre and strange things of our world, its daily articles and sections explore subjects from Science to Advertising and Technology; over 15 million pages are read at Oddee™ every month.

The idea to profile some prominent trans people isn’t a problem, and it’s great that Oddee pointed out that they’re all successful individuals. But for a site to do it whose purpose is cataloging the “odd, bizarre and strange things of our world” is offensive and out-of-touch. Trans people are people, not “strange things”. The thing I question is whether this type of article helps cis people gain any understanding and acceptance of what it means to be trans.

Instead of educating, Oddee presented these individuals in ways both fetishizing and objectifying (many of the men pictured are topless and the companion article “10 Gorgeous Women (Who Were Born Male)” is rated 18+). I don’t think it would be acceptable to present an article on cis women or people of a certain visible minority group on this site, along side such articles as “10 People Caught Doing Their Business in Public” and “10 Inappropriate Santas”. Putting trans people in this category implies they’re a kind of sideshow, that somehow their trans identity makes them weirdly interesting. Listing their “birth names” can also be seen as invalidating their chosen identities. At least Oddee uses the correct pronouns (chosen gender, not birth gender).

At least one Neatorama Facebook commenter agreed with me:

Do we really need to continue fetishizing an already marginalized group of people? These men are trans and might not have a female identity that remains and, regardless, telling their “birth names” and other private info is really just privileged people gawking. Furthermore, it’s doing the trans community no justice by featuring men (not all, granted, but a lot of these men) who are misogynistic, classist, and shockingly ignorant in many other ways. Please reconsider.

Unfortunately others took it as an opportunity to take shots at their perceptions of Chaz Bono’s attractiveness.

I’d love to hear from any trans readers on this. Do you think the kind of article Oddee featured can be empowering in some ways? If not, what would you like to see Oddee do to fix the situation?

-Jarrah


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  • http://www.oddee.com Gracie Murano

    When I first saw Oddee’s post about FTM I was so amazed because I never imagine there were so many of them. So many confident people, living the lives they chose to live. I’m not ignorant but I was certainly living in the dark about this issue and was happy to see there was a whole trans world that I hadn’t even hard about.
    If you found the article offensive, let me tell you, there is no way to discuss these type of sensitive matter with less illustrated (on the subject) people without sounding a little discriminatory. This list was created with the intention to call attention to the subject and to let people know there is a whole different world outside theirs houses and their computer that maybe they weren’t even aware of. This was a short Top10 list, it would be impossible to discuss such important matters in such a small pace. I’m not the author of the post, but I can say this list was created to say: Hi, we exist. And then open new spaces of discussion.

    Also, in Oddee we feature the amazing and outstanding things of our world, not only the strange, and odd, but anything that is less common and unique. Although we do have lists such as “10 People Caught Doing Their Business in Public” and “10 Inappropriate Santas”, we also have lists like 7 Youngest Self-Made Billionaires, 10 Most Outstanding Teens, 8 of World’s Most Inspirational People.

    About telling their births names, as the Editor of Oddee, I can say that we gave a lot of thought on the issue, and we decided to do so to give credibility to the article by telling the real story, all the transformation these people had to go to become who they wanted to be and we only used information available on the web. Some of the people featured in this article wrote to us, sent us the picture they wanted to be posted (most of them were in underwear) and the ones who asked to have their birth names removed had such petition attended.

    Like I said, it’s really hard to write about such a sensitive subject in an entertainment blog, but we did that with a lot of respect and admiration and not as a freak such as some may say.

    Greetings,
    Gracie Murano
    gracie@oddee.com

  • http://www.oddee.com Gracie Murano

    Also, as a reader and not an editor, I think that haven chosen such ‘beautiful’ people with amazing bodies and amazing looks is as good way to affect a lot of discriminatory people. Discrimination is a really sensitive subject for me. If we managed to have one or two discriminatory men or women saying: “oh, they look so much like a ‘real’ man or woman”, I think we did a great job in showing people that the world is not black and white, it has a whole wonderful colored world full of diversity and that should be celebrated.

    • jarrahpenguin

      Hi Gracie. First I want to give big thanks to you for taking the time to respond and clarify the intent of your article and the mandate of your site. Although I still have some issues with the way the post was presented I believe Oddee’s intent was good and that it probably was positive for some readers to see. I also really appreciate that some of those featured in the article sent in the picture they wanted to see and that you honoured their requests to have birth names removed if they asked.

      A couple concerns I still have:

      - Although as a fellow blog editor I understand space constraints and that it can be very difficult to cover all angles of an issue, I think it’s unfortunate you felt “there is no way to discuss these type of sensitive matter with less illustrated (on the subject) people without sounding a little discriminatory”.
      - I don’t think birth names are required to give trans people credibility, but I do appreciate your willingness to remove birth names if the person in question objected.
      - I guess I don’t agree that visually passing as a cis man or woman is necessarily a way to evaluate a trans person’s success in life. If it did help some transphobic people think twice, that’s great, but there is more to the trans population than how much someone has chosen to physically transition. I understand space constraints but I’d love to see a follow-up article that would address some of these concerns.

      I understand we all have different readerships and different philosophies on blog editing. Mine are to make the intent of each post clear; to explicitly question transphobic, sexist, or homophobic readers’ assumptions; and to trust readers who disagree or are confused to raise the issues in the comments. So again I very much appreciate you taking the time to clarify some points, especially about your blog’s mandate.

  • k8 Johnson

    I have been reading Oddee since 2007, and have always enjoyed it, except for any articles regarding clowns, as I suffer from Coulrophobia. (NOT a joke.) When I saw the MTF and FTM lists, I was amazed, and impressed…the photos were beautiful, and represented an often misunderstood part of our society tastefully; it also made it very clear (without saying it in so many words) that the often cruel stereotypes were wrong, and that people with gender dysphoria are everywhere, and you MIGHT NOT KNOW. In other words, these two lists may force people (who are against it and/or have distorted or uninformed views regarding transsexual/transgender people) to see that these folks are everywhere, and the ignorant/bigoted can’t just identify them with their eyes, that there isn’t a universal “look” or behavior that gives their true identity away. In my opinion, that can be beneficial. I’m disappointed that there are still so many people who are ignorant and/or prejudiced regarding transgender/transsexual folks…it’s been almost 100 years since the very first gender reassignment in 19221. The article Oddee published has assisted people to shift their views- some whether hey like it or not, and frankly, in my opinion, that’s a really good thing. No matter how the website describes itself, the message is still the same. Slamming the article in question because of who wrote it is ridiculous- especially in view of what the website normally produces each day. Simply going through the articles they have published would show ANYONE that they also publish many different kinds of lists. Hell, even going by the three adjectives this writer pointed out from Oddee’s “bio”— “odd, bizarre, and strange things”, that stuck in her craw reveals a limited view of the site and the understanding of the articles…”odd” does NOT equal bad. Odd DOES equal “different from what is usual or expected, strange.” The article’s focus IS different from what is usual and expected, because the article was illuminating how standard (sadly) stereotypes do NOT apply, and that MTF/FTM people are also successful in their own ways, just like many other people. The names DO give credibility- YOU may be fully aware of the message, but many people are not- putting yourself in that mindset, you would understand how the names give credibility because it provides yet another source of information to a skeptic mind, further reinforcing the information. Now, I’ll get off of my soapbox…