November 20, 2007
Who's the fairest twink of them all?
Posted by: Chris
UPDATE: I've updated this post, and backed away some from some of my provocative prose here, in a later post worth checking out.
There’s something about “Alexander O.,” one of the contestants for “Coverboy of the Year” 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 we’ve come to expect of the 20-something twinks featured weekly in the publication’s “Coverboy Confidential” profile.
But Alexander’s bio reads a bit more, well, lesbian. His favorite TV show is “The L Word.” If he could have dinner with three people, alive or dead, he would pick Angelina Jolie, Katherine Moennig and Judy Dlugacz.
It’s safe to say that 99 percent of gay men don’t know Katherine Moennig is the actress who plays the sexy, butch character of Shane on said Showtime series, and the remaining 1 percent couldn’t pronounce Dlugacz, much less know she’s the founder of lesbian Olivia Cruises.
And then there is the matter of Alexander’s girlfriend, Melissa, who he describes as “hot,” “smart, sexy — she’s everything.”
The editors of Metroweekly — which began years ago as Michael’s Weekly, a typical gay bar rag and now identifies as “Washington D.C.’s GLBT News Magazine” — never come right out and explain how a lesbian became a “Coverboy,” but we find a clue in Alexander’s willingness to talk about transgender issues.
“I just want to be more visible and spread awareness,” says Alexander. “It’s OK to be transgendered — or not.”
Inclusive words, to be sure, but Alexander’s campaign to be Coverboy of the Year is sure to rub some the wrong way. He’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 “Adam D.,” 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 Adam is smart and incredibly sweet and has his sh*t together, and at least I know who his threesome is!
If Alexander’s underground campaign should succeed, as I suspect it will, it wouldn’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 Womyn’s Festival, leading organizers to adopt a controversial “women born women” 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.
“Young women who once called themselves butch now call themselves tranny bois, and these tranny bois are mostly dating each other” 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 it’s not immediately clear just how. Are “tranny bois” really bending genders when they don’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 “tomboy” or a butch lesbian a few years back, does being a “tranny boi” really make him a gay twink, too?
What’s most striking about Alexander isn’t necessarily what he may or may not be packing below — he’s happy to do a striptease on request, by the way, according to his bio. It’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.
We’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 O’Reilly practically foamed at the mouth earlier this month when a pair of happy lesbians were voted “cutest couple” 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 “sexual orientation” protections if the votes weren’t there for “gender identity” as well.
Some of us were upset at the idea that GLB people aren’t deserving of equal rights, or even our own organizations, because of the “LGBT” groupthink that has taken over the movement.
Those who wanted to scrap Barney Frank’s gay-only ENDA, on the other hand, argued that gays are necessarily gender non-conformists. Some even broadened the definition of “transgender” far beyond transsexuals and cross-dressers to include anyone who doesn’t fit masculine and feminine gender stereotypes.
But by saying “we’re all transgender,” 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 doesn’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 “The L Word” and Angelina Jolie? If Alexander wins Metroweekly’s Coverboy of the Year, will he “raise awareness” 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 this weekend.
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