Today I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my favorite Onion articles of all time, from way back in 1996: Area Homosexual Saves Four From Fire.
I’ve been thinking about this fantastically tongue-in-cheek headline because of another headline that’s not kidding at all, not even in the slightest: Texting Trolley Driver Is Transgendered Male.
Note: I’m about 99% sure that headline was missing the last word when I first saw it earlier in the day. Unfortunately I didn’t take a screenshot then, so you’ll have to take my word for it. From a screeshot taken a minute ago, though, you can see that the original headline persists as the result of a Google news search:
The reactions to this are… well, varied. (First of all, for your own sanity, please do refrain from reading the comments on local news articles, particularly the Herald’s. Unless you’re one of those brave souls who wades in to say something sensible–in which case I applaud you, and you deserve a cupcake.)
A fellow improviser sent me a link to the Boston.com article, which contains this paragraph:
Quinn’s driving records also show that he changed his gender classification from female to male last month. According to the official, he previously went by the name Georgia Quinn.
Her response: “Not so sure what this has to do with the T crash.”
And, finally, a friend mentioned the piece of “news” as something interesting she’d read. She didn’t read it as offensive at all–just par for the course investigative journalism, where Quinn’s gender identity is just “another piece of dirt to dig up.”
1. If I crash a subway car, my gender identity has nothing to do with it.
The fact that this driving was apparently texting certainly has something to do with it. His driving record probably has something to do with it. The hiring practices of the MBTA, which currently allow drivers as young as 18–an age when many states won’t even let you rent a car–to drive trolleys, may or may not have anything to do with it. His gender? Nope.
2. Gender identity and transition status are not “dirt.”
I understand that not everyone feels that way. Some people, apparently, find things like name changes and transition totally fascinating and titillating. But let’s be clear: those people are assholes.
3. This is utterly consistent with the narrative of deception.
Everywhere you look, trans folks are subjected to their lives and bodies being used as “evidence” that they’re out to fool someone. Violence against trans people–particularly trans women, and especially trans women of color–is overwhelmingly attributed to the notion of a “trans panic” defense–that aggressors could not help but react emotionally and violently to the “revelation” that a trans person “deceived” them.
In this particular case, the driver’s name change–a perfectly legal and understandable change–is being linked to things like his driving record (oh, sorry, his “checkered driving history”) as more fodder to impugn his character.
This is so many kinds of not okay. I don’t feel like giving any more of the stories any more traffic, but there are plenty to be found, and they all seem to be scrambling to include the information that Quinn may have been hired as part of the MBTA’s diversity initiative.
UPDATE: Everyone should read the statement released by the <a href=http://www.masstpc.org/?p=405″>MTPC</a>. Aside from being awesome, it also makes clear that Quinn’s hiring was not the result of any claim he made that would have qualified him for a diversity hire; he entered the lottery like everyone else, and the MBTA doesn’t hire on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.