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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ann Coulter and I

The Bay Area Reporter
by Gwendolyn Ann Smith

There is something that Ann Coulter and I have in common.

No, I am not outing Coulter as transgender. I do not know if she is, and, frankly – given some of the things I've heard come out of her mouth and by her hand – I rather would hope that she is not a transwoman.

That said, there are plenty of people who relish the thought of Coulter being transgender. If one spends any amount of time looking over what passes for political discourse on the Internet – as just one example – one will find that any debate as to the merits of Coulter's often wildly right-wing stance quickly dissolves into innuendoes about her birth gender. There are even a couple of sites populating the byways of the Web that focus exclusively on Coulter's gender.

This isn't just found on the Internet: Stephanie Miller, the host of radio's The Stephanie Miller show, has on numerous occasions labeled Coulter as a transsexual. Indeed, many of the more progressive liberal outlets seem to be more than willing to perpetuate that Ann Coulter is, well, more like "Man Coulter."

Of course, Coulter is but one example. For roughly the last five years, I've seen photos of George W. Bush floating about. That is, images of his face, digitally grafted onto various female bodies. When I think back to the late 1980s, I also recall President Bush's mother, Barbara Bush, lampooned in a similar fashion as Coulter.

Similar representations have ended up in state politics: this was most notable in California during the recent special election, where a line of anti-Schwarzenegger memorabilia included a bobblehead of the California governor as a "sissy" in a pink dress cradling an M-16, as well as Governor Girlie Man branded lipstick and nail polish.

Such exchanges fall on both sides of the political spectrum, too, with the attorney general under President Clinton, Janet Reno, regularly portrayed as some form of transgender person.

The thing is, I expect that sort of stuff from the right wing. I've seen more than a few attacks on transgender people from conservatives over the years, and even debated transgender issues with Bill O'Reilly in his so-called no spin zone. Attacks on transgender people – as well as gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and others – from the right are as plentiful as salt water in the ocean.

When I see it comes out of the left I find myself far more bothered.

It is not the right that tells me it is supportive on my rights: it is the left. These are the people who have been entrusted to fight for our employment rights and protections, among other needs. Yet it is members of the left who are engaging in this sort of childish behavior, and are indirectly harming transgender people in the process.

Maybe I'm the one who is being oversensitive here. Perhaps this is nothing more than a little "harmless fun." Certainly, few are setting out to directly insult transgender people when they make jokes about Coulter. Nevertheless, that remains the end result.

Over the last few years, a lot of noise has been made about the use of the word "gay" as a schoolyard slur, and how it sets a belief that being gay equates with being inferior or bad. I would contend that using transgender identity as a slur in the same fashion as illustrated with Coulter serves transgender people at least as bad as "That's so gay!" serves homosexuals.

I'm sure if you asked most who have used "gay" as such a pejorative, you would find few who attributed much thought to it. Yet it remains a pejorative in spite of intent.

If one takes a look at all of this, one will note two things: when Coulter, Barbara Bush, or Reno's gender is called into question, it usually has to do with their appearance, their assertiveness, or a combination of both. When George W. Bush or Schwarzenegger face the same, it is usually being aimed directly at their masculinity.

To put it bluntly, people are saying that the former are ugly and unladylike, and that the latter are not "man enough." This is exactly what any number of transgender people face in the world today, largely from those who choose to deny our identities.

Back in the days before I transitioned, particularly back in middle and high school, there were many times when I was accused of not being man enough. While they clearly had a point or two, their intent – usually demonstrated in schoolyard pummeling – was clearly an attempt to put me down for my assumed shortcomings.

While that doesn't happen very often, I have had to face those who have chosen to make light of my appearance or a lack of so-called stereotypical femininity since the beginning of my transition. In some of those instances – while I did not face the direct violence of my school days – there was clearly an air of anger directed at me due to my own variance from "gender norms."

None of this had to do with my political affiliation (or lack thereof), unlike the others listed above. This doesn't change the fact that I faced much the same derision – and the same attacks against their gender – as they have.

This is, of course, how Ann Coulter and I are alike: we both receive the same slurs.

Gwen Smith is no fan of Ann Coulter or any of her ilk. You can find her online at www.gwensmith.com.

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