Beautiful/Anonymous: Trans-related episodes

I’ve been binge-listening to Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, a podcast hosted by comedian Chris Gethard.  The premise is so super basic:  He “tweets” out the phone number when he is in the studio, and whoever ends up getting through talks with Chris, anonymously, for exactly one hour.  Sometimes it’s just chit chat, sometimes the caller has an agenda and they want to make the most of this platform.  Sometimes it’s funny, but more often, it’s sad, intense, and heartfelt.  I’ve heard the experiences of someone in an abusive relationship, someone who escaped from a cult, someone who was a heroin addict, someone who was in an inappropriate relationship with their teacher, and so much more – including two episodes in which the caller is a trans-person.

What Not To Ask A Trans Person (Episode #54)  In this episode, Chris deviated from the formula a bit – every so often, instead of taking a random call, he’ll ask people to leave a “pitch” as a phone message, and he will reach out to one of those people.  In this case, the caller is a 28 year-old transman who is engaged to a transwoman… and, unfortunately, that’s about all we get to know about him as a person.  The majority of the call is Trans-101 stuff – we are STILL only at this basic level with the general population.  Chris puts his foot in his mouth a couple of times (he makes it clear this will be inevitable.)  At one point he uses the word “transgender” as a verb, when he meant to say “transition.”  Also, this exchange was super cringe-worthy:

Caller:  “Even people who are not in any way transphobic, most people don’t know a lot about the experience being trans or the trans community, so they tend to be very curious.  And this is fine, except that often it ends up that often trans people end up being … put in a position of having to answer all their questions, sometimes very invasive questions … like, what your genitals look like.”
Chris:  [Talks super eloquently about mental health in the trans community, transphobia, and other vulnerabilities.  Then says] “I do like that the first one you did mention was people asking you about your genitals.  That’s gotta get real old real fast.  That being said, on behalf of everybody who is wondering, I wonder what your, what your eh, your your…” and then he trailed off.  DUDE.  The caller handled it really well, making it super clear that that’s not a question that you ask people.

Later on:
Chris:  “Are there any stories… Is there any real life shit you can put out there and just make it eye opening of like, ‘yeah, this shit is real.’  You know?”
Caller:  “You know, like, I think … the biggest thing is like, maybe stop murdering trans people.”  He said this so casually that I laughed out loud.

One other thing that the caller pointed out that I’d never really thought about before was when talking about the high percentage of trans people who have attempted suicide – I always saw that as some concrete indicator of how outcasted the population is, how brutal society has been toward trans people.  But for someone who is apt to brush that off and think that trans people are just mentally ill to begin with, that person will just cement it in their mind further that of course trans people want to kill themselves.  They’re crazy.  That’s demoralizing to think about.

Coming Out, With Katie Couric (Episode #77)  This one also deviated from the normal format in that it was the second episode ever where Chris had a co-host.  (The first one was episode #37 with Hannibal Buress.)  Apparently Katie Couric reached out to him, really wanting to come on his show!  The only thing I’d heard about her, any time lately, was that she botched an interview with transgender model Carmen Carrera in January 2014, asking things such as, “Your private parts are different now, aren’t they?”  And then later, Laverne Cox stepped up, came on her show, and told it like it is, namely, (and yep, I’m reiterating this from just a few paragraphs ago) That’s not a question that you ask people!

Since then, I’d basically villified Katie Couric in my head, just assuming she’s too mainstream and out of touch.  But, as she tells it, she had the opportunity to just edit all that garbage out, and she decided it was important to leave it in as a teachable moment, and admit her mistakes.  And then!  She went on to produce, along with National Geographic, a whole documentary called Gender Revolution, which came out in February of 2017.  I had no idea.

So when the random caller for this particular episode happened to be a trans-woman (and she had no idea Katie Couric was there with Chris when she called), it feels serendipitous.  And it’s a lot more interesting and personal than the other episode I’m highlighting, largely because it feels more meandering and off-the-cuff.  Chris, again, is a little off (he isn’t usually, haha!) and Katie Couric is super thoughtful and poised.  I kinda like her after this, even.  The caller is at the very beginning of her journey, as a 20 year-old junior in college, studying math and economics.  She has only told 6 people so far, and she’s just dabbled in painting her nails, little things like that.  She’s been on estrogen for two weeks.  She’s not yet comfortable seeking out support from other trans people, experimenting with clothing in private, anything along those lines.

It’s super interesting to hear from someone who is just starting to feel out her gender identity, as opposed to many of the voices from the trans community who seemingly have a lot of it figured out / are much further along in their journey.

Highly recommend these episodes!

6 Comments on “Beautiful/Anonymous: Trans-related episodes”

  1. andywinder says:

    Aw heck yeah, I love that podcast! Glad to hear there are other trans B/A fans out there 🙂 Out off curiosity, do you have any other podcast recommendations? I listen to a lot at work and am looking for new ones


    • janitorqueer says:

      Oh yeah I definitely have some podcast recommendations! I’ve been on a kick learning about cults lately. One is simply called “Cults” and also there’s a 10 part series, “Heaven’s Gate,” (the cult with the mass suicice in 1997.) I also like “Mortified” a lot – people reading from their teenage diaries before a live studio audience. If you like fictional ones, “Homecoming” is really good.

      How about you – do you have any podcasts to recommend to me? Also, what kind of job do you have where you get to listen all day?!

      Liked by 1 person

      • andywinder says:

        Oh, I’ve heard about Heaven’s Gate–that sounds like a heavy but also interesting podcast, I’ll have to check it out. And I’ve never heard of Mortified but really want to check it out now 🙂

        As for Podcast recommendations, here are a few that come to mind: And That’s Why We Drink (really funny paranormal/murder mystery podcast), Science VS (explains social issues in science like the opioid crisis, anti-vaxxers, etc), Making Gay History (interviews with important figures in queer history), My Brother My Brther and me (classic comedy “advice” podcast), The Moth (storytelling in front of a live audience), and Modern Love (stories about love in all its forms).

        And I’m a freelance writer so I work from home 🙂 Which is nice in that I listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts during more mindless jobs. You’re a janitor? What brought you to that line of work?


      • janitorqueer says:

        I’ll definitely check some of those podcasts out!

        I went to school for writing, photo, and film, and during summer breaks, I worked on a paint crew for the K-12 school district I went through. When I graduated, I didn’t have a career plan, so I just asked the buildings and grounds manager if he had other work for me, and he replied, “Do you like cleaning?” And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since, while making a hobby out of my bachelors degree interests…

        How about you? How did you get into freelance writing? What are some of your favorite assignments / things you work on?

        Liked by 2 people

      • andywinder says:

        Oh way nice! That sounds like a really fulfilling job. What kind of art do you do as a hobby?

        And I’ve been doing freelance since I was about 15 in the hopes of making it a full time career and then, like, five years later, it happened! Some of my favorite assignments are the editing ones I do for wikiHow, which usually involves either editing old articles or structuring/writing new ones based on reader needs. I also get to write LGBTQ lifestyle pieces for websites sometimes, which is fun 🙂


      • janitorqueer says:

        Wow, that’s super impressive that you made freelance work happen like that! Do you find that it’s consistent, or does it depend, month-to-month what kind of jobs you get?

        In terms or art / hobbies – I do a weekly radio show in my home town, which is a total blast. I’ve connected with some other DJs – one of which is involved in collage art, so I’ve started to get into that too. I just sent a collage through the mail today – it’s going to be a part of an art opening in Edinburgh, Scotland. Super psyched about that!

        My favorite medium though, is and always has been writing. I’ve connected with other writers through this blog. I’m going to be contributing to a zine that just lauched – Mx. Zine. And, I have a piece in an upcoming anthology that is being published by Columbia University Press – will be coming out in Feb. of 2019.

        What about you? What kind of hobbies / extras are you interested in??


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