Jason Tseng

21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York

Filed By Jason Tseng | March 14, 2010 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: Cynthia Nixon, GLAAD, Joy Behar

I got the amazing opportunity to cover the 21st Annual GLAAD Awards in New York City. It was my first time at a glitzy awards ceremony or covering a red carpet (even though the carpet was technically more of a cerulean... but who's counting). I got to talk to some great celebrities attending the event including Michael Urie (Ugly Betty), Gerald McCullough (CSI), Reichen Lehmkuhl, Sarah Paulson, Cynthia Nixon, Bryan Batt, Will Philllips, and my personal fave: Sigourney Weaver, who's touching film Prayers for Bobby won a GLAAD award that night.

Some choice moments from the night included young Will Phillips (the 10 year old boy who took a stand and refused the pledge of allegiance on the basis that LGBT Americans are not in fact equal under the law) gave a surprisingly eloquent and rhetorically complex speech, and finished the whole thing off in a manner completely his own: "To quote a great statesman, 'Live Long, and Prosper." That boy is made of win.

Sarah Bernhard and Sarah Paulson brought down the house with the longest, most inappropriate, crass, opening to an award I've ever seen. Alan Cumming was his usual effervescent self, performing a mash-up of pop hits from this year (Glee Songs, Ke$ha, Lady Gaga, etc.) but with GLAAD inspired lyrics. Despite Cummings' Tony-award winning presence, girl needed some back up dancers to make the thing a little less community college talent show. "Tonight's gonna be a GLAAD night... Tonight's gonna be a GLAAD, GLAAD night" ugh... Black Eyed Peas are bad enough, but do you really have to butcher their song too?

Joy Behar's acceptance speech for Excellence in Media was touching, hilarious, and heartfelt. She thanked the gay community for supporting her at her lowest points when she started as a stand up comedienne in downtown New York City scene, and for following her the entire way along her career.

And finally, I must say that Cynthia Nixon was a tremendous choice for the Vito Russo award. Every year it seems like the GLAAD awards go to random celebrities who have exceptionally tangential relationships to queer activism (I mean, Jennifer Aniston... really? Jennifer effin' Aniston?). But Cynthia Nixon has been a fierce advocate for our community's rights across the nation, speaking in Florida on its gay adoption ban, in Washington D.C. at the National Equality March, and in her home state of New York on marriage equality. Brava.

Major props to Bil for giving me this awesome opportunity, and my partner in crime, toughstuff from BelowtheBelt.org, who backed me up with video support!

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While I know GLAAD doesn't really care, I have issues with Joy Behar getting an award for "LGBT". She's actually been quite oinky about trans people on The View.

Take a look at this video where The View hosts discuss trans terminology: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4nqfoGWYp54
and how far from being an "ally" Joy is.

If she's pro gay, then give her a pro-gay award. Don't pretend she's some ally of the trans community because she's not. Come to think of it, let's not pretend these awards have anything to do with the trans community... they're about fundraising with well-to-do gay and lesbian mover and shakers. The only reason Candis Cayne is hosting them in LA is because she's big with gay men and still does drag shtick for a largely gay audience.

Roz Kaveney | March 16, 2010 6:10 AM

The only reason Candis Cayne is hosting them in LA is because she's big with gay men and still does drag shtick for a largely gay audience.

I'm a bit unhappy with the vague implication that trans women with a showbiz, campy background are DOING IT WRONG by comparison with those with academic and activist backgrounds. After all the crap most of us have been through, it would be a shame if we started policing each other's gender exrpession...

And I particularly don't like the idea that any of us are tailoring our gender expression to suit various dodgy allies. That way lies paranoia and division. Those of us who came out as lesbians in the trans community back in the 80s and were getting crap both with in the lesbian community for being trans and in the trans community for being dykes know how this one goes...

Roz, as a trans woman I have a complete right to say I'm more comfortable with some forms of expression than others. That doesn't mean I'm oppressing anyone. And I suspect if you're honest with yourself you are too. I don't like the smearing of drag and trans women's identities, tranny-face, or people who make money off of sexualizing transness. Needless to say, we all have to eat and I don't criticize people doing what they need to for survival.

I respect Candis for what she's accomplished, but I do have issues with the way she plays to gay male attitudes about trans women = drag. The audience for her live shows is very much the all white, power elite of gay men. She's making lots of money doing her shtick for them which she's perfectly entitled to do. And I'm perfectly entitled to say I don't respect her for it nor am I happy to have her somehow representing me.

There's the stuff you're entitled to do, and there's the stuff people are entitled to ask questions about your doing. It is all too easy for those of us who have become activists, who have perfectly raised consciousnesses (TM), to over-invest in wanting a particular image for the community. Sometimes it is just divisive and patronizing and alienating, and the sort of thing that potentially stops parts of the community feeling represented by activists. At other timea, it becomes an expression of class or ethnic privilege.

Growing up as I did in the 1960s, the sex worker/drag queen part of the trans community was the bit of it that I found, and through whom I took my first steps towards transition. Large parts of society still live, for all practical purposes, in the 1960s or 70s about this stuff. Their path ended up not being a path I took, but I am not going to dis the women who looked after me in my teens, or women whose choices are not mine because their situation is not mine.

If we are going to criticize each other, we should do so without rushing to the assumption that, say, Candis' work is all about playing to a gay male audience. Making assumptions that an artist is being venal in her choices is deeply insulting - I haven't been happy with all of Candis' work, but at least I assume it is her work rather than her cheap compromises. Show respect - which does not mean saying stuff is OK if you think it is not.

My issue doesn't have to do with drag, it has to do with her being a trans woman and repackaging herself as a drag queen for the entertainment of men who often lump trans women and drag queens as one in the same... as subsets of gay men. If you're talking about class or ethnic privilege then don't use her as an example. She performs for well-heeled white gay men. Basically, the same group which supports the HRC and has big issues with gender variant people or trans people of color. Btw, Candis is from an upper middle class family which was supportive of her transition (and good for them) she isn't in any way a street queen.

I don't equate her with queens of color who come into their trans identities through drag and I don't think anyone else should either. Who makes up her live audience and fan base is a matter of fact, not opinion. That she recently starred in a Nip/Tuck episode which sexualized and pathologized trans people and literally presented a trans woman as a confused gay man doesn't make me respect her choices any more.

I have tremendous compassion for trans women who, due to their identities, self-medication or transitions, are marginalized from their families or communities and end up in sex work, porn or doing performances I might normally not find especially enlightening of trans women's existence. But that's not Candis' situation at all.