Editors' Note: Guest blogger Diana O'Brien is a transgender advocate, writer, and licensed esthetician and electrologist in Wilton Manors, Fl. She current writes a guest column for the South Florida Gay News.
Update at the end of the post. Both GLAAD and the show's producers have responded.
As I wrote yesterday, earlier this week, the season three premiere of SyFy's "Lost Girl" was trans phobic. So far, calls for action to media watchdog group GLAAD, which has touted the show, have gone unanswered.
The LGBT community often looks to GLAAD to address incidents of defamation like this in the media. GLAAD - the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation - holds itself out as a watchdog, as they say on their website, "Because words and images matter."
Indeed, they claim this mantle:
GLAAD as a Watchdog
GLAAD creates change. We hold the media accountable for the words and images they produce. When media is used as a platform to defame and stereotype LGBT people, GLAAD takes action. We leverage 25 years of media relationships and countless hours of media advocacy to send important messages against homophobia and discrimination.
GLAAD has yet to respond publicly to this outrageous defamation of transgender people. To this point, there has been no public acknowledgement of the defamation. There has been no public acknowledgement of the outcry. There has been no public accountability for the defamation or the damage it can cause. There have only been private assurances that GLAAD is aware of the outrage of the transgender community and others, and that "they are on it," working behind the scenes.
Public defamation cannot be corrected by private admonition. When GLAAD and other organizations handle things quietly, their failure to respond publicly is rightly perceived as acquiescence. Every day of silence is an endorsement of the defamation.
Having defamation like this swept under the rug is far too high a price for a seat at the table. If GLAAD thinks that not rocking NBC's boat over something as awful as this is the fair price of being able to give an executive, producer, director, or writer a call to say "pretty please, don't do that again," then GLAAD is no longer able to fulfill it's mission.
It is false to assume that meaningful progress cannot be made after calling out an offending media portrayal. GLAAD owes its existence and relevance to the fact that they have brought media outlets like NBC to the table by calling them out. They have successfully used public outrage as leverage to affect change, while calmly discussing the issues with media representatives.
This kind of defamation has to stop. As I wrote before, the media needs to take responsibility for its continued promotion of transphobic stereotypes and justification of trans panic violence. NBC Universal and the SyFy Channel need to be held accountable and take corrective action. GLAAD needs to be held accountable for its lack of public action as well. The lives and well-being of many marginalized people depend on it.
UPDATE: GLAAD reached out to the show's producers who've released the following statement.
Whether or not you consider the prison warden to be a transgender character is open to interpretation given that the character is a mythological shapeshifter, but there's no mistaking the scene that takes place out at the end of the episode. The warden being "discovered" and then viciously attacked is a scenario tragically based in reality, but here is played out for the enjoyment of the audience. It's also evocative of the offensive claim that transgender women are "tricking" their way into female-only spaces for perverted or criminal purposes which was recently put forth in a defamatory editorial in The Observer that became the subject of heated online debate. That piece inspired so much outrage from the LGBT and feminist communities that The Observer actually pulled the piece offline altogether.
GLAAD spoke with the show's producers today after finding the episode offensive. Prodigy Pictures, Inc. have released the following statement:
We want to let you know that the Lost Girl writers base all episodic characters off of researched folklore, and that the character of The Warden in the premiere of Season 3 is a character based off the mythological shapeshifter known as the Liderc. The Warden was only intended to represent this mythic being. We did not intend this character to be seen as a transgender person, we apologize if the character was seen as such. We do hope that you accept that no comparison or discrimination toward the transgender community was intended by the depiction of this mythological character.
Lost Girl prides itself on being open and accepting to everyone, and are enthusiastic supporters of the GLBT community. We want to encourage a society in which everyone can feel comfortable to express and be who they are without judgment. Equality and a world without labels is important to all of us at the series. We strive to create three dimensional characters, who empower all viewers regardless of sexuality or gender.
The Producers of LOST GIRL