Who Gives if Mr. Gay Philadelphia Has a Penis?

Cutler Banner 2 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. Cutler Underwear

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  • https://twitter.com/Lvng1Tor Lvng1Tor

    Mr. Gay Philly is HOT, educated and goal oriented.(if he’s single and has good credit I’m sending flowers and moving back to Philly)…He’s also male and gay…what’s not to like?

  • anananana

    Acknowledging and defending against bigoted comments only serves to validate them- doesn’t this article do more harm then good? Mr. Cutler owes no public explanation re: his gender identity/expression (or anything else, really).

    • Antony

      Who exactly is asking for Mr. Cutler to provide an explanation?

      • anananana

        The article implies one is needed: “To answer the above question: yes, Mr. Cutler is gay…”

  • Brian Martenis

    Hilarious! Cutler IS Mr. Gay Philadelphia. It’s a contest … Not a debate. Go bore someone else.

  • Julie Chovanes

    Yay Lou! Trans people rock!

  • Salvatore Patrone

    Alternative therapies and acupuncture? It’s so funny that someone who has relied on real science and medicine to realize their identity would truck in such nonsense. I wonder which homeopathic hormones Mr. Cutler uses?

    • Meiko

      Alternative therapies don’t work for all medical issues. If you have a broken bone or a gaping wound you obviously wouldn’t go for acupuncture. Same goes for someone in need of aligning their body with gender transition.

      • W. J. G.

        “Alternative” therapies don’t work in ANY medical issues. That’s the name given, as Tim Minchin said, to things which have been proven not to work, or not been proven to work. When it’s proven to work, it’s not called “alternative medicine,” it’s called “medicine.”

  • Lynn G. Atkins

    Contrats Lou!!

  • Philly Lez

    This brings up a very specific topic. As stated in the the article “sexual orientation and gender identity are two separate things”….so that begs the question: should there be a T with the LGB? Are they two separate movements?

  • gskorich

    congrats indeed but those of us who prefer our gay men with a penis should not have to defend this. as you say, genitalia is between them , their doctor and sexual partners but how do we as gay men let them know we prefer a penis.

  • Trans Activist Elder

    I congratulate Mr. Lou Cutler on his personal victory as Mr. Gay Philadelphia. As a trans person myself I do not choose to pander to the issue of whether any of us have a penis or not. That is simply predictable transphobic drivel. Instead, I write as a long-time activist to add historical context to this seemingly unprecedented account of “trailblazing” stardom.

    I first met Mr. Cutler in his Sociology class at Rutgers University in 2004. I was a graduate student on the same campus and the first openly transitioning trans man at Rutgers. Mr. Cutler was not the first on campus as he claims in the Philadelphia Gay News (July 26th, 2014). In addition to speaking on campus I was petitioning the University Senate to add transgender anti-discrimination clause in order to protect students like Mr. Cutler. After meeting Mr. Cutler in his class, I also provided him personal support in the early stages of his transition.

    I frame my response as an issue of historical erasure. This means Mr. Cutler’s “trailblazing” victory requires placement in a larger historical context. It is on the shoulders of those who came before him that Mr. Cutler can stand so high in his newly found visibility. Yet visibility alone does not make social change happen. Particularly the kind of visibility that reinforces a cult-of-body-beautiful that such contests promote and that permeates gay culture. These contests privilege those who fit normative ideals of what is considered beautiful. Obviously Mr. Cutler measured up. But of all people Mr. Cutler should know, coming from the trans community where individuals struggle against impossible body-norm standards, that winning a contest such as this does not make for real social change. If anything, it will make it harder for those of us who cannot measure up to these impossible

    If Mr. Cutler wishes to help “his community”–as of now he represents only himself (not me or anyone else in trans communities)–then he will “humble” himself further and take on social issues in collective participation. Perhaps start an organization that educates gay men on the violence perpetuated against gay, queer and bi trans men in gay male communities. I was an activist in Philadelphia for 18 years and know many gay trans men who came before and feared for their lives such that they could not come out into the spotlight and gain media notoriety like Mr. Cutler. They
    would often experience violence from dates (and lovers) targeted against them for being trans—supposedly perpetrating “fraud” for being differently bodied. Violence against gay and queer trans men is real. Addressing it will not change just because one gay trans man gains media notoriety for conforming to stereotypical gay male standards of beauty. Perhaps if Mr. Cutler had used his contest platform to raise awareness of violence against gay trans men in non-trans gay communities his instant “fame” would have been well utilized.

    To end, I mention, for historical purposes, the real trailblazing gay trans man also named Lou. Lou Sullivan. He was an openly gay trans man in the 1980s in San Francisco. He fought the medical establishment to allow gay trans men the right to transition—up until that point anyone assigned female at birth who was attracted to men was denied access trans-affirming healthcare. Lou also founded the world’s largest organization for trans men and gender nonconforming people assigned female at birth: FTM International. Lou Sullivan died of AIDS like so many other gay men of his era even though he was often denied the right to live as a gay man during his lifetime. If Mr. Cutler is to be considered a “trailblazer” it should be done with the humility and political awareness that acknowledges those who came before him; those individuals made his meteoric media-driven rise to stardom possible. He might also consider that individual visibility produces a cult of personality whereas
    working collectively, thus exhibiting true humility, would go farther in changing the world.