Tag: activist

Silence of the Lambs show Clarice casts transgender activist Jen Richards

Trans actor Jen Richards in front of a blue background at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival

Jen Richards of ‘Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen’ attends the IMDb Studio at Acura Festival Village on location at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival on 27 January 2020 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb)

CBS’ Silence of the Lambs adaptation Clarice has cast transgender actor, writer and activist Jen Richards to play a character who will discuss the “complicated legacy” of Buffalo Bill. 

Richards will portray a transgender woman who talks with the titular character about Buffalo Bill, a serial killer who appeared in the 1991 Silence of the Lambs film. 

The producers of the Silence of the Lambs TV adaptation said Richards was first recommended by GLAAD’s director of transgender representation Nick Adams to consult on the show, but now she will also appear on the screen.

During a virtual premiere event for Clarice on Monday (1 February), Richards said her character intersects with Clarice and explains Buffalo Bill’s legacy.

“All I can say is that the character intersects with Clarice’s storyline in a way that her trans-ness isn’t central to her storyline, but her identity as a transgender woman prompts her to discuss with Clarice the complicated legacy of Buffalo Bill,” Richards said.

She initially thought she would help the writers and producers “craft the character and make sure some younger, prettier trans actress had a good experience on set”. But then she ended up cast in the role itself. 

Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs.
Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs. (Orion)

Silence of the Lambs‘ Buffalo Bill left a scar on the trans community

Richards said she was interested in creating discussions about Buffalo Bill, who was played by Ted Levine in the film, specifically because of how he had been a negative representation for the transgender community. 

Jame Gumb, known as “Buffalo Bill”, is a serial killer who murders overweight women and skins them so he can make a “woman suit” for himself. Both the film and novel of the same name depict Gumb as having signs of gender dysphoria. Gumb wants to become a woman and created a “woman suit” for himself to complete his “transformation”. 

Though, it’s never explicit in the novel or book that Gumb is transgender. 

“Right prior to my coming out as trans, I started to delicately tell a few friends and colleagues I was thinking about transitioning,” Richards said. “Kind of treading water to see if I could do it successfully, and one looked at me and said, ‘Do you mean like Buffalo Bill?’”

Richards said she was “crestfallen” that this woman had “no other image to counter” what trans-ness was, just this “incredibly monstrous person who literally steals the female form and tries to embody it”.

“It was really complicated to try and overcome that first perception of other people,” she said.

Not reducing trans character into a stereotype

Richards said she was thrilled that Clarice’s writing team wanted to “address the complicated, horrible legacy in a way that didn’t reduce it to that one issue” and feature a “trans character that was part of the story but didn’t reduce it to a stereotype”.

The series takes place a year after FBI agent Clarice Starling, played by Rebecca Breeds, caught Buffalo Bill. Starling then has to deal with the trauma in the wake of the complicated case and encountering cannibal Hannibal Lector. 

Clarice also stars Kal Penn, Nick Shadow, Lucca de Oliveira and Michael Cudlitz. It will debut on 11 February.

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In Memoriam: Monica Roberts, Transgender Activist and Mentor

In Memoriam: Monica Roberts, Transgender Activist and Mentor

The LGBTQ community has lost a light this week. Monica Roberts, a groundbreaking transgender journalist and blogger, died in Houston at age 58. She started her blog, TransGriot, shortly after I began this one. I had the honor of meeting her at several conferences, and was always struck by her strength, knowledge, and commitment to lifting up trans youth.

Monica Roberts - photo courtesy National LGBTQ Task Force

Monica Roberts. Photo courtesy National LGBTQ Task Force

In addition to reporting on transgender news generally at her blog, Monica focused on tracking and identifying transgender victims of murder, many of whom were reported by the mainstream media under their previous, not chosen, names. She showed the injustice in their deaths—but also showed us stories of transgender lives, part of her mission “to become the griot of our community,” as she said at her blog. A “griot” is a West African storyteller and oral historian. She asserted:

I will introduce you to and talk about your African descended trans brothers and trans sisters across the Diaspora, reclaim and document our chocolate flavored trans history, speak truth to power, comment on the things that impact our trans community from an Afrocentric perspective and enlighten you about the general things that go on around me and in the communities that I am a member of.

Her writing appeared at the Bilerico Project, where we both wrote for some time, Ebony.com, The Huffington Post and the Advocate. This past January, she was given the 2020 Susan J. Hyde Award for Longevity In The Movement from the National LGBTQ Task Force. Her many other honors include the International Foundation For Gender Education’s Trinity Award, the transgender community’s highest meritorious service award; the Virginia Prince Transgender Pioneer Award; the Robert Coles Call of Service Award; the Barbara Jordan Breaking Barriers Award; and a GLAAD Media Award for her blog. She was a founder of the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition and was the political director of its board from 1999 to 2002. She also served on the board of Louisville, Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign and its political action committee, C-FAIR. She advocated for transgender rights in her local community of Houston; at the state level in Texas and Kentucky, and at the federal level.

Critically, too, she embraced her position as a mentor and role model for the rising generation of transgender children and youth, and would regularly tweet messages to her “trans kids,” like this one from March: “To my trans kids. Just wanted to let you know that your Aunt Moni and your trans elders love you and will always fight for you.” And in July, she tweeted, “Hey trans kids! Just your reminder that Aunt Moni loves you! Don’t be afraid to dream big dreams and work to make them come true. Your trans elders will continue the fight to make the world better for you when you hit our age.”

In a poignant 2017 blog post titled, “My Sisters, I Want You To Grow Old,” she wrote of the anti-trans violence that has taken so many young lives:

My sisters, I want you to know what it’s like to be my age, Tracie Jada O’Brien’s, Justina Williams’, Gloria Allen’s or Miss Major’s age. I would love to see some of y’all with gray hair. or how fab you will look when you hit 35, 40 or 50. I want to see how your fab trans lives evolve, I can’t be a mentor to you if I don’t have you around to pass down your history and some of my life experiences to as was done for me by my trans elders.

I want my Black trans sisters to be able to age gracefully, have and experience the amazing lives I know they are capable of having.

I want to see you grow old. Is that too much to ask for, society?

We do not yet know the cause of Monica’s death, but what I do know is that while she proudly bore the mantle of a trans elder, 58 was still far too young for her to be taken from us. I wish that she, too, had had the chance to grow much older. As a White, cisgender woman, I can only imagine the incalculable loss being felt right now by the Black and transgender communities of which she was part. My heart is with them today—and I hope my actions as an ally for transgender people will be with them in the days to come. Yet as Monica wrote publicly at her Facebook page, she was also “trying to do my small part to make the world better for everybody.” Her loss is a loss for all of us. May the light of her memory continue to shine.

For more about Monica and her work, see:

Warsaw police detain 48 LGBT+ protesters trying to block arrest of activist

Warsaw police detain 48 LGBT+ protesters trying to block arrest

Police officers remove LGBT+ activists from blocking the road to a police vehicle transporting detained queer-rights activist Margo in Warsaw, Poland. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

A blanket of blue-uniformed police officers swept over the LGBT+ protesters, many crouched on the floor, in Warsaw, Poland, Friday (August 7) as hundreds packed the streets to demonstrate against the arrest of an activist.

Around 48 queer demonstrators were detained during the scuffle, the Warsaw Police Department said according to Reuters, as crowds bellowed “Shame, disgrace!” and surrounded a police vehicle in the centre of the capital.

Protesters tried vehemently to block the arrest of an activist accused of draping LGBT+ Pride flags over statues in Warsaw as well as damaging a Pro-Right to Life Foundation campaigner’s car.

LGBT+ activists sit to block a police vehicle transporting detained gay-right activist Margo in Warsaw. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Members of the anti-homophobia group Stop Bzdurom have flung flags across Warsaw in retalation against the ruling Law and Justice Party’s thumping win last year.

Tensions intensified further in July when the Andrzej Duda – who, much like the governing party, campaigning by stoking public fear and scepticism of LGBT+ people – won a second term.

Police violently arrest 48 LGBT+ activists attempted to block arrest of activist.

According to protesters on-the-ground, at around 4pm, courts upheld the prosecution’s complaint levelled against Stop Bzdurom member Margo and moved for her two-monthslong arrest.

Hauled up in a local activist group’s headquarters, supporters quickly thronged the roads outside in an effort to stonewall her from police. She and protesters later shifted to Krakowskie Przedmieście Street where Margo, speaking through a megaphone, declared the protest as an unofficial Pride parade.

At 7pm, Margo was captured by police. Protesters demanded her release and blockaded the police car with one activist standing on top of it. Some chanted. Others unfurled flags to hurl onto nearby monuments.

Soon after, as some demonstrators began to leave, a police car, they claimed, drove into the crowd. Police swarmed and began arresting activists.

Justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro denounced the demonstration. He said: “Tomorrow this knife that was used to cut the car and tyres (of the pro-life campaigner) will be used to stab people just because we don’t like their opinions.”

The squashed protest captures the deepening divisions cracking Poland after the win of Duda, a close ally of Poland premier Mateusz Morawiecki, who netted a narrow win on a campaign that compared LGBT+ “ideology” to communism.

Intersex activist opens up about medical mistreatment

Pidgeon Pagonis intersex

Intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonis has shared their heartbreaking story of how they learned about their medical history.

In a Twitter thread shared earlier this week, Pagonis – who has reclaimed the word “hermaphrodite” – said that they had recently discovered new information about their body that they hadn’t previously known.

When they were 18-years-old, Pagonis discovered that their medical records identified them as “male pseudo-hermaphrodite 46 XY”.

“I discovered then that I had been diagnosed with partial androgen insensitivity syndrome (PAIS),” Pagonis said.

They went on to have three “unnecessary cosmetic surgeries” performed on them in an effort to make them look more typically female.

Intersex activist Pidgeon Pagonis was incorrectly diagnosed with PAIS.

Recently, Pagonis started seeing a new endocrinologist, and they asked to see all of Pagonis’s medical records.

The endocrinologist read all of Pagonis’s medical records and consulted with other experts in his field and ultimately came to the conclusion that their diagnosis of PAIS was incorrect.

Pagonis was given a genetic test, and last month, their endocrinologist’s suspicions were confirmed.

“Turns out, I don’t have PAIS,” Pagonis wrote. “I actually have something else known as NR-5A1.”

Pagonis noted that intersex people with PAIS are thought to be unable to utilise androgens, which is why they are given oestrogen.

This is infuriating. Doctors working with intersex kids and young adults are incompetent and owe us reparations.

“Doing what they [the doctors] did to me was f**ked up enough, but now realising that they didn’t even have the diagnosis right – and that I can utilise androgens – is f**king infuriating beyond belief.”

They said they now feel “robbed” and criticised the many “good” doctors who failed to correctly diagnose them over the course of many years.

“This is what really breaks my heart, they never ever stopped to consider the fact that me having oestrogen levels below 30 (which is what post-menopausal cis women typically have) throughout my twenties and early thirties was not OK or healthy.”

The activist has a condition that causes loss of bone mass as a result of their medical mistreatment.

This failure occurred despite the fact that doctors were checking Pagonis’s hormones every six months.

The result, the activist said, is that they have osteopenia – the loss of bone mass – since their mid twenties.

“Our bodies need certain levels of either [oestrogen] or [testosterone] to build healthy bones; and somehow for 15 years no doctor ever connected my post-menopausal [oestrogen] levels with my damn near osteoporosis bone scan results.”

Pagonis added: “This is infuriating. Doctors working with intersex kids and young adults are incompetent and owe us reparations.

“It’s past time we roll up to their homes, in their quaint suburban gated communities, and let their neighbours know what type of bulls**t these ‘well respected’ paediatric urology surgeons and endocrinologists be on.”