Last week, G Philly broke the news that, for the first time ever, a trans man won the title of Mr. Gay Philadelphia; as a matter of fact, we weren’t the only ones that picked up the story. Lou Cutler, the newly-crowned winner, was interviewed by The Advocate about his groundbreaking victory. I published a story on Mr. Cutler’s background as an acupuncturist and his belief that alternative medicine can heal. In other words, we were celebrating Lou as a whole person. Then, the gender police showed up. We first started noticing it in the “comments” section on G Philly that readers were leaving really uneducated and disturbing remarks about what it means to be a gay trans man:
“[sic] I do not get it ? = a trans gay man ? is he into guys or girls ? so he was a female who is sexually attracted to men who was a gay man trapped in a womans body ? is this a joke to make homosexuals look stupid ?”
“[sic] If he likes men he’s gay and deserves the title; if he likes women he is straight and can’t be Mr. Gay America. Correct?? Straight people are not crowned winners in gay pageants. Does he like men or women”
“[sic] guess anyone these days can claim the title”
(To answer the above question: yes, Mr. Cutler is gay. Yes, he’s into guys. Yes, you can be transgender and gay. Sexual orientation and gender identity are two separate things, people.) Then came the emails. I received several messages from cisgender gay men asking me to do a follow-up interview with Mr. Cutler, asking him if he had a penis. Aren’t these the same people who went batshit crazy when Katie Couric asked Laverne Cox about her genitalia during an interview? Sadly, our obsession with transgendered individuals’ bodies is a soberingly clear indication that we have yet to fully understand the extremely complex and fluid notions of sexuality and gender identity in our society. When I think about Lou’s overwhelmingly positive media exposure over the last week, I can’t help but equate some of the negative comments to a recent incident with Laverne Cox. Ms. Cox was the first transgender woman to ever grace the cover of Time. This alone was a historic milestone…that was, until syndicated columnist Kevin D. Williamson, mostly known for his work in the conservative publication The National Review, wrote a scathing commentary on Ms. Cox’s gender titled “Laverne Cox is Not a Woman.” In the article, Williamson purposely misgendered Cox, writing snarky passages like this one:
“Cox, a fine actor, has become a spokesman — no doubt he would object to the term — for trans people, whose characteristics may include a wide variety of self-conceptions and physical traits. Katie Couric famously asked him about whether he had undergone surgical alteration, and he rejected the question as invasive, though what counts as invasive when you are being interviewed by Katie Couric about features of your sexual identity is open to interpretation.”
As if this type of rhetoric is bad enough for a conservative publication, what made matters worse was that The Chicago Sun-Times picked up the commentary. They’ve since apologized and retracted the editorial; nevertheless, the damage was done. All of this makes pretty clear that a good number of individuals need a lesson, not in transgender 101, but in civility 101. A person’s physical body and genitalia is between them, their medical providers, and their sexual partners. In other words, it is none of our damn business if someone has a penis. But, back to Mr. Gay Philadelphia: Lou Cutler is a gay man, period. And, given the picture below, I might add that he’s a hot gay man at that. End of story.