“Being the First Sucks”

Jim Burroway

January 6th, 2010

Amanda Simpson, credited with being the first openly transgender presidential appointee, said that to ABC News. “I’d rather not be the first, but someone has to be first, or among the first,” she continued. “[There will be] questions like: Is this a token? Are you here to do a job or just to fill a quota or appease other people?”

Well, one thing I know in my own personal dealings with Amanda, you know, back when she was a nobody like the rest of us back here in Tucson, is that she is certainly no token. She was well-recongized in the community for her many accomplishments. And to add to that, by all accounts her professional accomplishments were well respected by her previous employer, a major missile contractor, where her job was to make sure missiles flew and where tokenism doesn’t. But yes, it sucks to be the first, and along with that having to see yourself on late night television like this:

GLAAD and HRC have both condemned the skit, and for good reason. Transgender “panic” has too often been excused as justification for brutally beating and murdering countless numbers of people. One high-profile case was that of Angie Zapata. Her killer, Allen Andrade, said he was provoked into beating her to death with a fire extinguisher because Angie smiled at him. Late night comedians aren’t the first people we turn to for serious reflection, but this is a very serious problem and, all too tragically, it’s not a joking matter.

In related good news however, the Obama administration’s Office of Personnel Management has added gender identity among the classes protected by federal Equal Employment Opportunity policies.


January 6th, 2010

I understand the sensitivity to this issue but the job of a comedian like Letterman is to make social commentary through mockery, and that’s what this skit did: an exaggerated hysterical reaction followed by Letterman’s droll comment to Paul, “Would you talk to him later?” The obvious message was that being hysterical about a transgender person is ridiculous.


January 7th, 2010

I am a huge fan of satire and social commentary with a zing. I think had Jon Stewart done this, I’d have a different reaction entirely.

However, I didn’t get the satire here.

Maybe it’s b/c I don’t watch much Letterman- if that’s his style, ok.

But if it was lost on me, then lots of others didn’t “get it” either.


January 7th, 2010

Yes, it does. Transpeople typically deal with several instances of being the first transperson. With almost all my friends and family, I’m the first transperson they’ve met. First at church, at my job, etc.

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