In a sign of the times, a tranny boi is taking on the gay boys in one magâ€™s annual contest.
Thereâ€™s something about â€śAlexander O.,â€ť one of the contestants for â€śCoverboy of the Yearâ€ť in the D.C. gay mag Metroweekly. The other ten finalists in the popular annual contest gab about the typical mix of fashion, pop culture and boy craziness that weâ€™ve come to expect of the 20-something twinks featured weekly in the publicationâ€™s â€śCoverboy Confidentialâ€ť profile.
But Alexanderâ€™s bio reads a bit more, well, lesbian. His favorite TV show is â€śThe L Word.â€ť If he could have dinner with three people, alive or dead, he would pick Angelina Jolie, Katherine Moennig and Judy Dlugacz.
Itâ€™s safe to say that 99 percent of gay men donâ€™t know Katherine Moennig is the actress who plays the sexy, butch character of Shane on said Showtime series, and the remaining 1 percent couldnâ€™t pronounce Dlugacz, much less know sheâ€™s the founder of lesbian Olivia Cruises.
And then there is the matter of Alexanderâ€™s girlfriend, Melissa, who he describes as â€śhot,â€ť â€śsmart, sexy - sheâ€™s everything.â€ť
The editors of Metroweekly - which began years ago as Michaelâ€™s Weekly, a typical gay bar rag and now identifies as â€śWashington D.C.â€™s GLBT News Magazineâ€ť - never come right out and explain how a lesbian became a â€śCoverboy,â€ť but we find a clue in Alexanderâ€™s willingness to talk about transgender issues.
â€śI just want to be more visible and spread awareness,â€ť says Alexander. â€śItâ€™s OK to be transgendered - or not.â€ť
Inclusive words, to be sure, but Alexanderâ€™s campaign to be Coverboy of the Year is sure to rub some the wrong way. Heâ€™s already been introduced at a banquet of transgender activists, who were urged to support him, and a number of trans email lists are drumming up votes as well.
It rubbed me the wrong way for the sake of â€śAdam D.,â€ť another Coverboy finalist and, I should disclose, a friend and former tenant of my Washington, D.C., apartment. To be honest, I teased Adam endlessly when he posed for MW, not to mention when his three picks for that fantasy dinner were James Dean, Enrique Iglesias and Jeremy Bloom. But at least I know who they are!
If Alexanderâ€™s trans campaign should succeed, as I suspect it will, it wouldnâ€™t be the first time that trans activists have ruffled GLB feathers. For years, male-to-female trans women have tried to attend the female-only Michigan Womynâ€™s Festival, leading organizers to adopt a controversial â€śwomyn born as womynâ€ť admissions policy.
Lesbian journalist Jennifer Vanasco has written about how the popularity of gender-bending among young lesbians has all but eliminated femmes from the under-30 crowd. â€śYoung women who once called themselves butch now call themselves tranny bois, and these tranny bois are mostly dating each other,â€ť Vanasco, a self-identified femme, wrote in a provocative column from a couple of years ago.
Some of those who champion gender bending claim it will once and forever explode gender stereotypes, but itâ€™s not immediately clear just how. Are â€śtranny boisâ€ť really bending genders when they donâ€™t feel comfortable self-identifying as women in touch with their masculine side? Or is it reaffirming gender stereotypes to say that being butch means being a man?
If Alexander is indeed someone who would have identified as a â€śtomboyâ€ť or a butch lesbian a few years back, does being a â€śtranny boiâ€ť really make him a gay twink, too?
Whatâ€™s most striking about Alexander isnâ€™t necessarily what he may or may not be packing below - heâ€™s happy to do a striptease on request, by the way, according to his bio. Itâ€™s that Alexander, who comes off as completely endearing whatever gender he identifies with, is more lesbian or even straight male than he is gay boy - spiky hair and tank top aside.
Weâ€™ve all seen how changing cultural conventions can irritate, even as they generate greater tolerance and acceptance. Tranny teens have run for homecoming queen, and Bill Oâ€™Reilly practically foamed at the mouth earlier this month when a pair of happy lesbians were voted â€ścutest coupleâ€ť for their high school yearbook.
But breaking down mainstream conventions is different than pressuring one minority group to include another as one of its own. Some of those tensions came to light during the divisive debate over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and whether to go forward with â€śsexual orientationâ€ť protections if the votes werenâ€™t there for â€śgender identityâ€ť as well.
Some of us were upset at the idea that GLB people arenâ€™t deserving of equal rights, or even our own organizations, because of the â€śLGBTâ€ť groupthink that has taken over the movement.
Those who wanted to scrap Barney Frankâ€™s gay-only ENDA, on the other hand, argued that gays are necessarily gender non-conformists. Some even broadened the definition of â€śtransgenderâ€ť far beyond transsexuals and cross-dressers to include anyone who doesnâ€™t fit masculine and feminine gender stereotypes.
But by saying â€śweâ€™re all transgender,â€ť in effect, the word itself becomes too watered-down to be useful as a descriptor. There are important differences between sexual orientation and gender identity, and blurring the lines doesnâ€™t do anyone a favor, after a point.
Is a butch lesbian who identifies as a tranny boi no different than a gay twink, despite his passion for â€śThe L Wordâ€ť and Angelina Jolie? If Alexander wins Metroweeklyâ€™s Coverboy of the Year, will he â€śraise awarenessâ€ť of transgender issues, or just raise a few hackles about how political correctness can rob the fun out of even the silliest of beauty contests.
Stay tuned. Voting on Metroweekly.com finishes Thanksgiving weekend.
Chris Crain is former editor of the Washington Blade and five other gay publications and now edits GayNewsWatch.com. He can be reached via his blog at at www.citizencrain.com