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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