More controversy over Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives

By: Joe Thompson
4.15.2010

The new independent film Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives has caused a lot of waves in the past few weeks. First GLAAD got in on the act by saying, "The film, its title and its marketing misrepresent the lives of transgender women and use grotesque, exploitative depictions of violence against transgender women in ways that make light of the horrific brutality they all too often face."

Shortly after that Willam Belli, one of the stars of the film who does drag himself, commented, “GLAAD has flat out lies on their website. They knew about this movie a while ago. They weren't ‘just alerted.’” This was coupled by The Tribeca Film Festival (where the movie premiered), whose rep said, “The filmmakers provided a copy of this film to GLAAD in February, and for weeks the organization had been supportive to the filmmakers. In fact, GLAAD representatives advised the film’s producer, director and cast on how to describe the film to its core constituency.”

And now? Transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox weighs in via The Advocate.

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Cox offered a guest commentary on The Advocate's website where she looks at quotes from the film's director and juxtaposes that with her own life experience as a trans woman.

She references a recent interview where director Israel Luna defends his revenge fantasy this way:

“It pisses me off ... I don’t understand why, whenever there’s a gay bashing, the gay community has to play all nicey-nice. We’re just like them. If they hit us, then we’re gonna want to hit them back.” He goes on to say that he didn’t want to write about a male gay-bashing victim. “That’s a story we’ve seen all too often ... I wanted to do something more modern and I thought ‘Whose story do you never see on the news these days? It’s not gay men — it’s transgenders.’”

Cox then refutes that statement by saying:

Luna’s comments suggest to me that he wasn’t moved, driven, or inspired on a deep level to tell a story about the lives of transgender people. He was merely looking for a fresh angle to tell a story that’s really about his own desire as a gay man to seek revenge against bashers… Many times in our society we don’t intend to be transphobic, homophobic, racist, or sexist. However, because we haven’t interrogated our own location, our subconscious motivations, and the extent to which we’ve all internalized transphobic, sexist thinking, we might find ourselves having a transphobic or sexist moment.

She then argues:

Since Mr. Luna wasn’t really interested in telling a story about trans women but rather in spicing up a revenge narrative against gay bashing by using “trannies” as surrogates for gay men, it was easy for him to view his trans characters — always and only — through the lens of camp. Characters are truly made human and three-dimensional when, through the trajectory of the narrative, the audience is allowed to gaze into a human soul and understand its complexities. This is the glorious potential of representing disenfranchised groups in film and the media — that we can have moments where we truly begin to see someone whose humanity has been denied through repeated violence, discrimination, and prejudice. Mr. Luna’s choice to portray the trans characters as only camp falls short of that potential. The representation works to keep them on the surface and to keep the audience at arms length.

Trans For those uninformed, Cox has a show on VH-1 called TRANSform Me, which we’ve written about and admittedly love. However, part of that love comes from the camp sensibility in the show. But there are plenty of people on YouTube and in forums who don’t like the show because they think that the camp factor equates these women to drag queens, or that it misrepresents trans women, or that it's made for straight people and not the LGBTQ community.

Once again, we're presenting a topic that's bigger than this simple poll can provide—especially when it comes to the topic of transgender people and their place within the gay community. So go ahead... discuss.

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