Tobi Hill-Meyer

True Blood a Metaphor for Trans Folks?

Filed By Tobi Hill-Meyer | September 22, 2010 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Marriage Equality, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: relationships, Trans-cis relationships, transgender, transsexual, True Blood, vampires

Vampire-Human relationships in True Blood are set up as a metaphor for same-sex relationships. They are hated by the right wing Christians, legally persecuted, and at one point they sneak in a reference to vampire-human marriages being legalized in Vermont. However, the relationship dynamics are built on difference and the societal oppression is based on one person who is hated for being "unnatural" and other person who is hated for loving them. There's even a population of humans called 'fangbangers' that exoticize and seek out vampires as the ultimate lovers. That's a lot more like trans-cis relationships. Watch this video I put together and judge for yourself

While there's a lot of gay, lesbian, and bisexual characters on TV, we don't get a lot of trans representation. When we do, it's often been less than ideal representation. Slowly trans characters have moved from crime show psychos to crime show victims to hospital show victims and finally for sensationalism on drama and reality tv shows -- and that's a major improvement! But as far as an ongoing representation of a major trans character in a healthy, supportive, and affirming relationship, well I can't find anything like that. But at least when I watch True Blood I can pretend. It fits so well I have to wonder if it was the intention.

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OMG, I'm not the only one that was seeing that parallel :)

Regan DuCasse | September 22, 2010 12:57 PM

I see that sometimes the vampire phobia in the True Blood story and apparent discrimination will try to make analogies to racial and other forms of historical inequities against minorities.

But it is not a good analogy, compared to the aspects of trans or homophobia.

The reason?
Vampires KILL indiscriminately, and seductively. They are superhuman in strength, which they overpower and rend their victims. They ATTACK and violently, they don't care if their victims are children or good and decent people.
And most of all, vampires are FICTIONAL.

The only thing that transfolks and vampires have in common, is that they cannot have children after their transformation.
Transfolks aren't dead.
Vampires are.

The socio political structure of discrimination against transfolks, has no valid rationale on the basis of public health and safety. The LGBT are not organized around committing violence on someone, or feeding themselves on the blood of innocents.
In other words, the fear of vampires is valid because they are dangerous to living things.
Rational people would and should fear creatures that can violently tear your throat out, and who enjoy doing it.

Only irrational people would fear gay or transpeople who not only do no such thing, but aren't doing anything by trying to live in the same peace as everyone else. It makes no sense to fear those who are compassionate towards you and are given the opportunity the same as anyone else.

The socio political implications on TB, have a faction of vampires that don't want to drink human blood, hence the substitute that the show is named after.
I have my trans friends who I loved, and not a one looked at me as if I was lunch.

Transfolks are not fictional, and neither are their lives and wishes and needs.
Nor is the damage to their lives from bigotry fictional either.

If anything, perhaps "Never Let Me Go" is closest to the real analogy.

LGBT's are set up to serve and support others lives and needs at the expense of LGBT. There is no independence, freedom and expectations of that community beyond a short life, and false compassion to justify their confinement, and isolation. The human sacrifice of the LGBT to the arrogant ideology of straight people, regards the lives of the LGBT as forfeit for a higher purpose.
Which IS the fiction that straight are superior.

And there IS no discernible benefit that justifies this that can be witnessed by those the most affected by it.
Even the procreation argument to justify marriage discrimination, treats those who don't want or can't have children as dead weight who have no contribution to make.
Something else that is monumentally offensive and without merit.

Just my 25 cents.

Never seen True Blood (no HBO), but Being Human is like this for me. In one episode they even explicitly state that being a werewolf or vampire is like being lgbt. Loneliness, feeling like you're always on the outside looking in, just wanting to belong...

...tearing people apart and drinking their blood.

Oops, I guess that doesn't fit. Unless you're with the Families Values Counsel, or one of those other watchdog groups, who like to push the idea that we really are monsters destructive to society.

I love my vampires and werewolves. But I think they're a pretty poor metaphor for being trans or gay.

My partner and I have only seen a couple episodes so far. We'll be checking out from ep. 1 soon.

However, from what I've seen, the impression I get is that it's intended to be a metaphor for LGBT, racial bias and more. Which is probably as it should be, as it invites a more universal understanding of what we're up against.

So, probably trans-informed, but not trans-specific.

Hah, yes, vampires have supernatural powers and kill people -- just like the mutants from x-men, I might add.

X-men has given queer youth something to identify with. The difference, isolation, and prejudice that mutants face is something that a lot of queer youth have identified with. In the x-men movie they even tossed in a teen coming out as a mutant and his mom saying "Have you tried not being a mutant?" But it was never meant to be an exact parallel. It purposely proposes the question of what would happen if the oppressed population had super powers, and thus gives us a moment of identifying with the hero who has the power to do something about their oppression, accomplish great feats, save the world, and begin to change people's prejudices -- but never everyone's. It also provides the antagonists with an understandable rationale for their prejudice which can do some degree be argued on rational grounds (unlike homophobia and transphobia).

And similarly, while there are some mutants who are bad guys and want to subjugate humans, the x-men fight for justice, even though some of them are tempted to join the mutant-supremacists. I imagine the vampires in True Blood can be seen on similar terms. Certainly there will always be elements of a metaphor that don't fit. But even though vampires kill people, Jessica hasn't.

Ultimately, though, it's the relationship between Jessica and Hoyt that is most representative of trans experience. Outside of that, if the metaphor breaks down or is taken in a different direction, it makes that no less meaningful.

My boyfriend and I are big fans of the show and we both see the Hoyt/Jessica relationship as very much a metaphor for a trans/cis relationship.

Well, I guess that would explain why the local expert psychiatrist on trans issues discourage them by telling they will become "creatures of the night".

More seriously, I have also felt for a while that vampires offered a good analogy to transness, not only because of the reject/exotisation that is often portrayed (not only in True Blood), but also because of the transformation part, or actually the adjusting after transformation (e.g. in the case of Jessica, the fact that she initially finds it pretty cool but must lose contact with her parents because of what she has become).

Does anybody remember the TV show "The Education of Max Bickford"? The first episode had his best friend return after her transition (they never referred to any particular surgery). She was an out transwoman professor (played by Helen Shaver). She had a good presence until she was quickly written out of the show. Probably because of outside pressure.

I've never seen the show but we went to the local Blockbuster that was closing and we picked up the first season on DVD to check out based on Tobi's recommendation that there might be something there we'd like. :)

*slaps head*
now I know why I liked Jessica/Hoyt so much.

Homosexuals-as-vampires has a long tradition in literature, there have been studies showing that it was probably meant as a conscious metaphor by the founders of the genre.
The producer of True Blood (who is gay) said that he sees the metaphor in the books, but that it would be boring to read it in such a one dimensional way. There are several outsider metaphors going on in that show which is amazing.

I will love TB even more now. Thanks Tobi :-)