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!


How To Be a Girl, episodes I through VI

I wanna recommend a podcast!  It’s called How To Be A Girl.  A while back ago, I had been following a blog, gendermom, on wordpress.  It’s written by Marlo Mack (pseudonym), about life with her (now) 8 year-old transgender daughter, M.  I really love reading/hearing from the perspective of parents, especially parents of young trans-kids.  And this one in particular has a lot of input from the daughter.  They are in it together.

In the summer of 2014, she branched out and also started producing a podcast.  At first I was reluctant to check it out.  I guess because although I was listening to some podcasts at that time, I preferred reading and connecting through blogs.  But then one of the episodes was featured on a podcast I was already a big fan of, Here Be Monsters, and I made a mental note to go check out the rest of the episodes.  It’s taken a while, but here I am to say it’s great, haha.  I listened through episodes 1-6 twice now…

The first three establish some backstory and facts (I’m not going to give too much away!).  At this point, M is 6, and she has the support of her mom and dad (who are divorced) and other family members and friends.  Hardly anyone knows that she is trans (better to be more cautious at first and see how things might play out).  She had been saying she is a girl, basically as early as she could talk, and although it took a long time to convince her parents, they are fully on board now.  She likes the color pink, my little ponies, stuff like that…

Episode 4 is called Tom Boy Trans Girl, and it’s about, how girly do you have to be to be considered a girl?  There are plenty of tomboys out there…  M gradually shifts to liking blue over pink and getting into Pokemon and ninjas.  Marlo Mack is afraid the being-a-girl thing was just a phase.  M sums everything up super succinctly.

Episode 5 is about finding love.  Marlo Mack has to navigate through transphobia from potential dating partners, and she talks about how she handles it.  M also tells a love story.

Episode 6  is super cute.  It is a straight-up interview, Marlo Mack asking M a bunch of questions.  The perspective of this 6-year-old is really amazing and surprising.  Well, she’s been through a lot, so I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising!

Some talk about the other episodes, coming soon!

My spouse and I have been talking about the idea of working on a podcast together.  We have a local community of radio people we can plug into / in with, and I already do a weekly music show.  This would be totally different though, and would involve a steep learning curve.  We got some books out of the library (always a good place to start!), and I’ve been trying to pull apart, think about the elements that go into the podcasts I do listen to:  the way the sound editing overlaps, the hooks to keep you listening, stuff like that.  We’ll see.  I think it would be a lot of work, but could be really rewarding.