Monday, April 27, 2015

Transphobia Is No Joke, or F Off Vince Russo

Sorry Vince, but you don't get a pass for transphobia
Photo via Pyro and Ballyhoo Facebook page
The end to Extreme Rules wasn't the only thing that set Twitter ablaze last night. Former WWE/WCW/TNA writer and booker Vince Russo made a joke about Bruce Jenner's recent announcement that he is in the process of transitioning into life as a woman. It was an innocuous-seeming joke, but it's still not one I want to give press to. No matter how innocuous your joke is, if it's punching down at an oppressed party, it's not a joke you should be telling at all, especially in regarding trans people.

Transphobia seems to be one of the last bigotries that is acceptable in society, along with fat-shaming and some other stragglers, and by far, it is the most toxic. Not a week goes by without another tale of a trans person committing suicide because of depression brought on by bullying or othering by society, or a trans person being assaulted, raped, or killed simply for who they are. Jokes may seem harmless, sure. But when someone makes a joke and it's not called out, then it's a tacit admission that trans people are not full members of society and deserve their derision. The snowball then rolls dangerously down the hill until it ends tragically.

Of course, when called on his awful "joke," Russo doubled down by taking the thin-skinned comic's route and screaming to anyone who called him on it that it was "just a joke." He would also block anyone who had a criticism of said joke. It's a sad unfolding of events to say the least, but then again, this was the man who helped foster a toxic atmosphere during the Attitude Era, where transphobia was the norm of the day along with other garden variety bigotries. Neither Chyna nor Nicole Bass were portrayed without mentions of their "masculine" physiques, even after the former posed in Playboy.

Sure, picking on Russo may be the lowest-hanging fruit in wrestling, but just because it's easy to take him to task doesn't mean it shouldn't be done. No matter what, he's a man of fame with a platform that a lot of people hear. He's influential, just like Jim Ross or Patton Oswalt or any famous person with a bully pulpit and people who listen to him or her. If sitting back and allowing them to continue the othering of a group of people who have absolutely nothing wrong with them continues to happen, then who else might be emboldened to come out and make similar or worse claims?

Trans people are people and deserve the same rights and acceptance that any other person in this world currently has. That means fighting alongside them for said rights and acceptance, whether it's someone in high esteem or otherwise great social standing slandering them or if it's just some fuckboy faux-Christian ex-wrestling writer doing it.